The fine art of giclée

Nobska Art owner Jeffrey Serusa taking a giclee print of one of his photographs from an Epson archival printer. — Photo by Lynn Christoffers

Jeffrey Serusa is an Islander with varied professions. He began a business before he was 20, drilling water, which he continues today. Around six years ago, revisiting an early passion, Mr. Serusa, whose smile signals his enthusiasm, embarked on his career as a photographer, and eventually opened the Seaworthy Gallery in Vineyard Haven. This year, he added yet another facet to his resume, having launched Nobska Art, a full service fine art printing company.

Giclée prints have gained popularity since their inception in the 1980s as technological handprint on art. These digital reproductions of artistic works offer art enthusiasts an affordable means to purchase art while maintaining high quality renditions of the artwork.

For the effusive Mr. Serusa, who has printed and framed his own photographs from the beginning of his artistic career, producing giclée prints was just, “another step along the way.” A natural with computers, the economic practicality of self-producing the prints seemed an obvious progression for the entrepreneurial gallery-owner and artist.

“Typically once a work is printed it’s gone,” Mr. Serusa says. “Giclée prints bring artists an entirely new revenue stream.”

He describes the art of the process. “Printing is marrying creativity with science,” Mr. Serusa says. “It can be very technical, but when you marry the two correctly, you get stunning results.”

To the unaccustomed eye, the creative aspect is the obvious one. In Mr. Serusa’s case, it is manifested in nautically-inspired photographs, many of which capture the essence of the Vineyard with a focus on the Island’s iconic images like the ferry and the tall ships. The technical aspects of the prints are more elusive. The process begins by scanning the artwork in complex and expensive equipment. After being scanned, the images are printed either on canvas or on German watercolor paper.

Mr. Serusa owns three printers of different sizes to create various sized prints and produces archieval work. A spectrophotometer allows him to calibrate the images to exact replication. He then has to profile the printers to generate an individual color profile for each piece of paper used on each of the printers.

“It’s a very technical and often exhausting process. You have to have all your ducks in a row,” Mr. Serusa notes. “But it’s a lot of fun.”

This year, an increase in staff has allowed Mr. Serusa to expand his clientele and produce giclée prints for other artists. He recently debuted his business with replications of Jack Ryan’s pen and ink drawings, available at Michael Hunter’s PIKNIK Fine Art & Apparel gallery in Oak Bluffs.

Mr. Hunter admires the fine reproductive quality the giclée prints achieve in Mr. Ryan’s intricate sketches of New York City buildings and streets. “It’s a great way to offer representational work to the masses,” Mr. Hunter says of the method. “I think it’s a wonderful process and I’m so happy that someone is working to perfect the craft on the Island.”

Giclée prints are reasonably priced both for consumer, and for the artist. While the cost of scanning and proofing each image is substantial (circulating upwards of $100 depending on the resolution), it is a one-time, up-front expense. After scanning, the cost of prints are reasonable, and depend only on the size of the print itself — an 8-by-10-inch image can cost as little as $16 to print.

The repute of digital artwork has changed with its technological development, and Mr. Serusa insists the quality of giclée prints, correctly produced, is exceptional. For an artist who has always favored film over digital photography, his words are convincing. “When you reprint images of paintings, perhaps the texture of the paint isn’t there, but in terms of color when you step back you won’t be able to tell the difference.”

In a limited edition series, and once the prints have all been purchased, the series is finished. Collectors can be assured they are purchasing artwork that is has both intrinsic and aesthetic value.

As Mr. Serusa attests, “My resume is my gallery.”

For more information, call Nobska Art, 508-560-1840.