The Case for Convergent Media. A Term for Digital Artists.

A true masterpiece does not tell everything.

― Albert Camus

The art business is full of jargon and terminology that can easily lead to confusion. Prints is an example. Artists, marketers, journalists, buyers, and others loosely use the term “prints” to describe various 2D media. The range includes open edition posters, digital fine art reproductions (aka giclees), and limited edition graphics such as serigraphs, stone lithographs, and more.

Digital Art and Digital Printing Changed Many Things

I’ve been in art marketing for decades. In 2007, I saw the need for another fine art term. I called it “convergent media.” By then, the words “digital artists,” “digital painting,” and “digital art” were in everyday use.

I recognized digital artists were using complex, multiple steps to create and print 2D art. They were making digitized art and outputting electronic files for digital printing on various substrates. I coined the term “convergent media” to appropriately describe their iterative process and set it apart from another relatively new art term, “giclee.”

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The Rise and Fall of Giclee As An Art Term

By 2007, “giclee” was in widespread use. At the advent of the digital fine art printing era, there was controversy as artists began making expensive, limited-edition digital reproductions using inkjet printing technology.

Giclee was used to help overcome stigmas about digital art prints for several reasons. Artists making the earliest digital prints did not use conservation-grade papers, methods, and inks. It was an alternative to “computer prints,” which many consumers took negatively.

Jack Duganne, a digital fine art printing pioneer, coined the term “giclee” to add mystique and elegance in describing digital fine art reproductions. Giclee did add fuel to the tremendous growth of fine art prints produced on inkjet printers. High-end, fine art print publishers, were using “giclee” to market digital prints made by scanning and reproducing original fine art as the source material for the print.

The Need for a New Term Was Evident to Me

A growing number of artists and painters were creating unique images using digital tools. Their art was not a reproduction of a painting, which is what most in the industry thought of as giclees. These digital artists needed a new term specific to their work. And not a marketing term, as was the case with giclees. (It’s become passe due to marketers appropriating it to advertise such things as “giclee lampshades” and “giclee duvets.”) The title of my How to Price Digital Fine Art Prints book purposely left out giclee.

Unlike most giclee prints that started as scans of original art, digital artists create art that began as a digital file. The finished product was 2-dimensional art printed with many substrate options, including paper, canvas, metal, wood, and more. Digital artists struggle now as then with what to call their creations. I offer a solution.

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Allow Me to Introduce You to Convergent Media

My suggestion is “Convergent Media.” It borrows from the established art term “mixed-media.” Like mixed media, the final iteration requires a mix of products, objects, and inputs to make the final artwork.

I believe the term is beneficial for digital artists, photographers, and painters. It describes and paints a mental image of the process. A Convergent Media artwork runs through a gamut of stages that converge to create a digital fine art print. Thus, the name.

Convergent Media Steps

The similarity to the many processes in creating mixed media inspired me to coin the term “Convergent Media.”

The first step is image capture. It begins with either a digital photograph or image creation using a Wacom tablet or comparable tablet. The second is manipulating the image file using Painter, Photoshop, Illustrator, or similar software, sometimes using several image software programs. The third is calibrating the image’s colors on the monitor to match the digital printer output. Fourth is digitally printing the image onto various substrates, including paper, canvas, vinyl, metal, wood, and more. The final steps are enhancing and preserving the art with additional hand embellishments and treatments for conservation and artistic effect.

Convergent Media Stands Up Better Than Giclee

Digital artists and photographers who also use advanced Photoshop or similar image manipulation software, digital painting, and other methods to complete an artwork are prime candidates to use Convergent Media.

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I see “giclee” as a marketing term, whereas “Convergent Media” is explicitly descriptive. Mixed media artists tell a story with a simple explanation of blending techniques and processes to make the finished artwork. A mixed-media artist will give the details to a point and let it go at that. For instance, there could be torn paper, cloth, paint, wax, items from nature, and so forth that went into constructing the piece.

But, the exact steps in rendering are not a subject of conversation. Just as a mixed-media artist doesn’t give trite detail such as, “I used a No. 2 lead pencil to outline on a gessoed canvas.” I don’t believe a convergent media artist needs to give all the details and step-by-step image creation to satisfy a buyer. They are subjectively and emotionally buying the finished vision of the artist’s imagination and creativity, not their computer skills.

How to Use Convergent Media

“Convergent Media Artist” is an accurate, honest description of a person using current technologies and techniques to create art. Convergent Media distinguishes from using giclee and expands on the term, digital art.

I agree that “Convergent Media” begs a brief explanation, as does mixed media, but it does not blur the meaning as giclee does. I think it enhances without detraction; it embodies what’s available now and in the future for cutting-edge artists to incorporate into their body of work.

Here is a suggestion for how to use convergent media to describe your art. Please modify and use freely.

I express my artistic vision through an intricate multi-step process. Publishing my art prints requires expertly merging a variety of digital and traditional art making skills with innovative technology. The process is known as “Convergent Media” and these exquisite prints are only possilble through it.

— Barney Davey

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  1. Hello Barney,
    Thank you so much for doing the podcast with Jason from Xanadu Gallery. Please don’t worry about “agreeing too much” – you and he are a great team and I learned so much (a full page of notes to prove it). I love your phrases – “word of mouth trumps social media” , “norm of reciprocity” and “strafrangers”! (much more to be said about that! as I think we are all becoming aware of the internet twilight zone of connectedness.
    A year or two ago I wrote to you and suggested you put your name at the very top of your emails and I was so pleased to see it appear. I know we don’t know each other, but you sure feel real to me! So, I am going to take the liberty of making another suggestion/request. At the beginning of the podcast you asked “what do people listen to as they work in the studio”. Most said “music”. Had I been listening live, I would have responded “audiobooks” – I own a copy of How to Profit from the Art Print Market. it is wonderful, but you have no idea how much I would love to listen to it on my kindle!
    Thank you again for a thoroughly enjoyable and informative podcast – I do hope you will be doing more.
    Best wishes, Anne

  2. Dear Anne, Thank you for your kind, insightful comments. I think you offer great suggestions. Jason and I will be doing more podcasts. We thought of weekly at first, but the reality of his schedule and mine make that not realistic. We are aiming for Feb 28 for the next one.

    I’m intrigued by the idea of audiobooks, and would love to narrate my own. It’s a matter of time and priority. Cheers, Barney

  3. Good Morning, Barney,
    (I used to start the day with the morning news on tv – now, first thing, the computer and I dive back into ArtPrintIssues – what an education! thank you!)

    Feb. 28th – I’ll be listening.

    And thank you for considering audiobooks as a possiblity. I know it would be a big activity commitment for you, but think of all your devoted fans standing at their easels struggling with the decision “I want to read/I want to paint . . . read/paint . . . read/paint . . . ” and how grateful they will be to have you on their Kindle keeping them company while they work.

    Have a wonderful week, Anne

  4. I like the term Convergent Media. I have joined a movement who are also moving away from the term Digital Art. The type of art is called Techspressionism. I still describe most of my work as a Digital Montage when I converge pieces of a digital drawing and other digital elements, and selections from other works into new compositions.

  5. Hi Barney,
    As a Digital Fine Artist, I much prefer "Digital Fine Art" or even "Digital Artistry" over "Convergent Media." The word Convergent doesn't feel intentional enough and Media doesn't have an artful connotation for me….sorry… So I vote for Digital Fine Art or Digital Artistry. I describe my art as "what my heart sees that my camera can't."

    1. Thanks for your comment and opinion. As with art, terms such as digital art or convergent media are subjective. You are following your instincts to go with what feels right for you. There is nothing wrong with that.

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