Print Collectors: An Interview with Simon Tran-Drouin

by Denis on April 11, 2011

Simon Tran-Drouin (Quebec City, Canada)

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Simon Tran-Drouin, a fellow Canadian, all around nice guy and, as you’ll read, one who is generous with his thoughts on the topic of collecting prints.

BACKGROUND

von Scaramouche: Do you remember what visual art work first caught your attention / imagination and what was it about the work that captivated you?
Simon Tran-Drouin: As far as I can recall, I was probably around 6 years old, the first illustrated work that caught my attention was that giant atlas book on cardboard. The various illustrations depicting the richness and diversity of many resources all over the planet condensed on one big map was doing it for me.

vS: As a young person, did you collect other things?. Did anybody else in your immediate entourage collect art?
Simon: As a kid, I collected hockey cards for a while, but I never really was passionate about it. I’m definitely a loner in my entourage as far as art collecting.

vS: Have you studied visual arts in college / university? Do you practice any artistic discipline?
Simon:Not at all. I feel like I have a good eye to analyze and criticize, but I can’t execute anything.

vS: How and when did you become aware of the world of limited edition prints? What drew you in?
Simon:It was at a rock concert in 2007 in Montreal. I had no clue at that moment some bands were hiring artists to make gig and tour posters. I still feel like if I didn’t ask that girl to show me what she had rolled in her hands that night (and also convincing her to sell me her extra copy), I would still be clueless. What really caught my attention was the different look and feel of the poster as opposed to every other glossy poster I had ever saw before. This couldn’t be the product of an industrial printing process. The fact it was signed and numbered also added to the mystery. I was looking at my first screenprint. The Internet came into play from there..

ACQUIRING & SELLING PRINTS

vS: To what extent will you research an artist and his works before making a purchase? Will the ‘buzz / hype’ related to a release influence your decision to buy a print?
Simon: I try to follow the ‘’buy it if you like it’’ rule, but sometimes it appears that other art enthusiasts see something that my eye is missing. Sure, I’ve bought stuff that other collectors have recommended or ‘’hyped’, especially if we’ve shared an history of similar tastes.

vS: When seeking to purchase a print on the secondary market, what information is important to ask the seller about the print itself and/or packaging?
Simon:Condition is critical. Damage does significantly alter the value of a print. That’s just how the market works. Packaging is critical for a print to arrive in its original condition and buying from a reputed seller/collector within the community usually is a good starting point to make sure your purchase will arrive safely and as described. I usually don’t care for the edition number of a particular print, so I never ask that information to a seller.

vS: Will you first seek to trade prints when looking to acquire a print? Do you like trading as a means to acquire prints? If so, in a given year, approximately what percentage of your acquisitions are done via trade?
Simon: Trading with other collectors is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, it remains a small percentage of my acquisitions. Well, that is considering the majority of my acquisitions are made directly from the artists, but I’d say it probably represents an important % of my aftermarket acquisitions. Maybe 50%? I’d rather trade to acquire something I want off the aftermarket than pay big bucks for it, but it’s not always easy to find the perfect match. I’ve done successful 3 way deals in the past when it seemed like the only way to please everyone.

vS: In building your collection, approximately what percentage of your purchases are done on the secondary market vs primary market?
Simon: Hard to say. As I said, I mainly purchase directly from the artists, simply because I stay informed about what comes up. At this stage, I know myself well enough to usually know right off the bat if I want something or not. I also know how to prepare myself to put all the chances on my side to get a poster in demand. If the demand is enormous, I might swing and miss on the original drop and also there’s always the possibility of falling in love with a long sold out piece after the fact.. I’d say 80% primary vs 20% for secondary market.

vS: In the cases where there is a lot of anticipated demand for a print release (the demand is greater than the offer), what is in your opinion the better way for the seller to proceed in selling his prints to the buyers? First come, first serve? Draws? Other?
Simon:First come first serve. No doubt. Fighting to get one of these is definitely a part of the fun in collecting limited editions and it shouldn’t be neglected imo. It also seems fair for everyone.

vS: When considering the purchase of a print, does the printing technique matter to you? If so, can you explain?
Simon: Screenprinting is such a great technique, I can’t say enough about it. It requires some incredible craftmanship by the printers. It’s an art in itself and the main focus of my collection. I don’t own any letterpress, though I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to acquire one. Giclees are interesting to reproduce complex paintings. Audrey Kawasaki, Tara Mcpherson, Josh Keyes and Esao Andrews are fine examples of artists using them. You can feel the texture and the brush strokes in some cases. A screenprint would hardly rendered their painted work with that kind of precision.

vS: Do you generally agree with the statement “if a print is not going to find itself on a wall, then it’s not worth keeping”?
Simon: Though I see where that statement comes from, I disagree with it. There’s no right or wrong in a collecting approach imo. I mean it’s all for the love of the art created, so from there, I say enjoy it the way you want. Some collectors have so many prints they would have enough to cover every parcel of every wall/floor/ceiling of their house and still have some left for the file. Some others like to honor each of their purchase by framing and displaying the piece on their wall. I guess I stand somewhere in between. Everyone is different. I for one usually go through the process of picturing myself framing the print I want to purchase. It makes more sense that way even though it is kind of a naive process.

COLLECTION

vS: Is there a main focus / direction to your print collection?
Simon: Besides screenprinting as the technique, the present might be my only other focus. I like to see the artists and the scene evolve. My collection evolves with it, with them. I mainly purchase prints that were done during the course of the year.

vS: What style of artwork are you attracted to / seek to add to your collection?
Simon: I guess I find the female form to be one of the most beautiful thing there is to look at. Sounds natural right? It surely lends itself beautifully to various artistic interpretations and I can find it treated with many different styles throughout my collection.

vS: Tell us about a print that you are proud to have in your collection?
Simon: I’m really proud of my Malleus MEI 06. Still a favorite from the collection. I bought it directly from the Italian crew for 100 Euros at the time, which was by far the most I had ever spent on a print. It was their second to last from the run of 111 and sold out a couple of days after my purchase. There’s something hypnotizing about the beauty and serenity of the illustration. The translucent ink ignites when hit by the light and radiates all over the image. The golden metallic hair is also something to be obsessed about. It’s pure class and holds a timeless feel. Everything seems perfect about it. The fact it got rare and expensive to come by surely adds something special to the story.

vS: What print is currently at the top of your most wanted list? Why?
Simon: From the moment it got revealed to the public, Tyler Stout’s Kill Bill became the print that I absolutely needed to add to my collection. Everything about this poster seems to be a good reason to want it on your wall. Obviously, it’s for Kill Bill, but then the artistry. The sense of composition, his linework and rendition of faces, all totally blows my mind. Everything feels accurate and precise, ultra-rich yet balanced. It’s like shooting your eyes with an adrenaline shot. Release context is pretty cool too. Reportedly commissioned by Quentin Tarantino for the first theatrical representation of the movie in the US as ‘’The Whole Bloody Affair’’ with himself in attendance, on his birthday.

vS: Do you have specific requirements when you have a print framed? Do you have tips to share about what one should look for in a professional framer?
Simon: Ideally, a framer should be able to frame your print so that you’d be able to take it out 10 years later in the exact same condition, but it comes with a cost. UV glass and archival materials are a good start.

GENERAL

vS: What in your opinion would make collecting prints easier and / or even more enjoyable than it is now?
Simon: I enjoy it so much, I can’t think of anything really. However, being Canadian, I’m totally outside of the big market and where everything takes place. I’d love to have the chance to meet other collectors and attend poster events.

vS: What are the most valuable online / offline ressources that you use to keep up with art & print related news / happenings?
Simon: Expressobeans.com is the bomb.

Merci Simon!

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by Denis on April 11, 2011

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