By Olivia Cahoon
Digital printing gives artists and photographers full control of their production process by eliminating the need to outsource. To achieve the high-quality precision found in fine art photography, artists and galleries use a specific combination of hardware, ink, and media.
CUSP GALLERY is one fine art gallery well aware of digital printing’s benefits. Established in May 2017 in Provincetown, MA, it showcases limited edition fine art photographs that range from works of beauty to evocative nature.
Curtis Speer, artist/owner, CUSP GALLERY, started the business by selling artwork from his home in Portland, OR. He then moved across the country to set up shop. “I had the opportunity to open my brick-and-mortar gallery to exhibit my work for art collectors and potential clients,” comments Speer. “Not only was it a chance for them to see the individual works in person, but to also see how each piece coalesces to the next, giving them a truer sense of what my body of work is all about.”
Speer’s work is comprised of limited edition fine art photographs transposed onto high-end cotton/photo rag. Each piece is mounted, hand finished, and set into a custom-design wooden frame for clientele ranging from first-time art collectors to boutique hotels.
Above: With its HP DesignJet Z3200, cotton/photo rag material, and finishing, CUSP Gallery perfects a specific photography printing process.
Digital Leads The Way
Ten years ago, Speer started using digital printing technology to take his artwork to a new level. “I felt that while an artist needs real talent to understand the subject matter, lighting, composition, framing, and presentation of a stunning photograph, perhaps I could forge a new path, elevating my images from photography to fine art.”
Not long after, HP Inc. approached Speer and asked if he was interested in exhibiting his work at an HP-hosted national conference. At the time, Speer outsourced his printing to a photo lab in Portland, OR. He requested that the photo lab use a particular type of cotton rag, but was cautioned against it by the owner.
“I followed my intuition. I wanted something more for my photos than the typical printing method. I made the leap from something expected to something new, different, and more substantial,” explains Speer.
While the gallery benefitted from digital technology, it was limited by outsourcing. According to Speer, outsourcing meant it wasn’t just his vision poured into the work, but also added time, money, and waiting. To streamline his artistic process and production, he searched for a device to bring his work in house.
Today, CUSP GALLERY produces its fine art photography on an HP DesignJet Z3200. It is a 12-ink printer that delivers gallery-quality B&W and color prints lasting up to 200 years. It’s designed for a wide color gamut and easy color calibration and profiling with custom ICC profile generation and an embedded spectrophotometer. The device prints up to 44 inches wide and offers resolutions up to 2,400×1,200 optimized dpi.
Speer selected the HP DesignJet Z3200 at an HP convention in FL. After in-depth discussions about printer capabilities and production needs, a representative guided him to the printer. “To have my own printer and keep my production in house allows me to work much faster as well as produce exactly what I envision.”
The gallery pairs its printer with HP inks and continues to print on cotton/photo rag. “I continue to be impressed by the color gamut and the depth and richness of the print quality,” offers Speer.
The HP DesignJet Z3200 is particularly helpful in printing on cotton/photo rag material, which is known for absorbing ink. Due to its 12 ink cartridges, Speer says it prints precisely what is on the monitor and emulates a painterly finish without any manipulation to the original image. “I have yet to experience any variance from what I capture to what I produce and hang on the wall.”
Fine Art Photography
CUSP GALLERY’s photographs are both narrow and large format art pieces. In fact, many of the gallery’s collectors and clients that walk into the shop don’t realize they might be interested in large format work. “In Provincetown, people are surrounded by galleries that focus on smaller works. At CUSP GALLERY, I have the space to exhibit one or two wide format finished works for viewers to experience,” comments Speer.
He began producing photography by creating stylized still life images with objects in his garden. “I found myself spending hours in the basement orchestrating the image before I actually took the picture,” admits Speer. Soon after releasing the photography the gallery’s notoriety took off.
In response, Speer created more still life images, followed by architecture photography, which all began to sell. “From my first exhibition in 2010 to now, I strive for my work to challenge the viewer—is it a painting, a photograph, or maybe even both? I have always had a deep appreciation for art that created dialogue,” he says.
Speer finds advantages and disadvantages to all mediums in all art forms along with each unique creative process. “For me, one does not devalue the other.” For example, digital print technology allows CUSP GALLERY to get more immediate results. “I save time, money, and frustration in regards to the production process. The creative process has its own challenges.”
Every piece of artwork that CUSP GALLERY produces is digitally printed and ranges in style and technique. The subjects are shot with several Canon cameras, including the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, selected for consistency and image quality.
Rather than relying on Adobe Photoshop, the gallery primarily uses Adobe Lightroom for post-production. “I do not use Adobe Photoshop because the creator of the image can too easily stray from the core content. I want my viewers to experience my work precisely the way I captured it,” explains Speer.
CUSP GALLERY’s finishing process is also minimal. A light fixative is used to add a layer of UV protection that ensures the image’s durability, despite the ink and substrate being archival quality. The finishing process is conservative as Speer previously ran into challenges with other companies offering finishing products that compromise the printed piece’s integrity.
With its HP DesignJet Z3200, cotton/photo rag material, and finishing, CUSP GALLERY perfects a specific photography printing process. Despite this, the gallery still follows recent trends. Lately, Speer sees a lot of people experimenting with alternative printing methods like metal, aluminum, high-end canvas, and wood. “It is an interesting direction, but I stand by more classic techniques, envisioning my work possibly hanging in a museum someday,” he comments.
CUSP GALLERY hosts exhibitions for Speer’s fine art photography as well as guest artists’ work. Production for a curated exhibition typically takes 36 hours to complete, with each show consisting of approximately 21 fine art photographs in various sizes ranging from 12×12 up to 60×40 inches.
All fine art photographs are printed using the HP DesignJet Z3200, HP ink, cotton/photo rag material, and Adobe Lightroom software. The images are typically captured with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. As cotton rag makes for a vulnerable fine art piece, Speer seals it for protection.
Each fine art photograph is hand finished after it is mounted to a hard wood panel and set inside a custom solid wood frame.
The curated fine art photographs are displayed for exhibition and for sale. In ten years of Speer’s work, only three art pieces were returned for reproduction as the client’s housekeepers improperly cleaned them. Otherwise, the gallery has 100 percent satisfaction feedback.
With the use of digital printing technology, artists and galleries like CUSP GALLERY bring fine art production in house without compromising quality, time, or cost. Digital printing allows viewers to experience photography exactly as the photographer intended.
Feb2019, Digital Output