A one-stop outlet for art materials also offers printing and finishing services

The Digital Eye: Art Store and More

Henry Sarnoff has been selling art materials for a very long time. Since the early 1970s he has been in the business of providing the special materials and tools that artists use to create their visions. To obtain papers, oil and acrylic paints, canvases, and every other imaginable art supply, Henry has, over the years, developed a network of wholesalers and manufacturers from all over the world. On any given day dozens of artists browse through his shelves searching for the perfect tube of paint, the finest Kolinsky sable brush or the very best in stretched canvases. 

Sarnoff not only sells every conceivable item that a painter could want, he also carries a complete line of supplies for graphic designers, airbrush artists, water colorists, sculptors, drafts persons, printers, sign painters, and most recently—digital artists. 

The logo on the front door at Sarnoff Art and Writing.

Printer, Painter, Seller Guy

As a young man, Sarnoff worked with his brother as a sign painter and also did commercial, fine art and production screen printing. Henry got his start in the art materials business at Flax, a larges art supply houses based in Los Angeles. In the early ’90s, one of his customers, Kolibri Sudios (www.kolibriartstudio.com), a screen printing studio that produces serigraphs for fine artists, began to experiment with digital printing using the IRIS printer. 

The IRIS is a water-based inkjet drum printer that was originally used as a proofing device designed to interface with digital prepress systems to produce an accurate color proof that emulates what the exact image will look like before the job goes to press. Printers adapted the unit to produce fine art reproductions on various media, including paper, canvas, silk, linen and other textiles. Soon the unit emerged as the state of the art large-format output device for high-resolution fine art prints.  

A complete inventory of art materials is available for purchase from the store or from the website.

The quality of the IRIS was unsurpassed at the time, owing to its continuous flow ink system and its ability to produce continuous-tone dot-free output. Many printers, photographers, artists and engineers saw the merit in using this industrial proof printer as a way to produce high-resolution color-accurate reproductions. Henry worked closely with Kolibri and they helped him acquire a basic knowledge of digital printing. 

A Dream Fulfilled

In 1993, with the knowledge of art supplies obtained at Flax under his belt, Henry established his Sarnoff Art and Writing in Tucson, Ariz., a 500-square-foot art store front that he operated himself. Originally the store exclusively sold art supplies, but today it has grown into a full-service operation occupying 4,000 square feet of space and staffed by eight art professionals. Typically Sarnoff hires artists who can both speak the creative professional’s language and help art students find their voice.

Sarnoff had developed relationships with vendors throughout the world and was able to procure sometimes exotic art supplies that were unavailable anywhere else in Southern Arizona. A huge variety of traditional hand-laid papers from Italy and France and high-quality oils and acrylics are always in stock. 

Sarnoff also keeps the local sign industry well supplied with materials for creating hand-painted signage—a variety of squirrel-hair brushes and of course, 1 Shot.

He also carries a complete line of sign-painting supplies like squirrel hair brushes and 1 Shot paints. The Sarnoff website (http://sarnoffart.com/artist_supplies_tucson) has a catalog that lists the brands of supplies, all of which can be that can be purchased at the store or online.

Full-Throttle Printing

About three years ago he began getting a growing number of requests from his artist customers looking for reproductions of their fine art work. Sarnoff sensed that there could be a robust local market for this type of service. With his experience with Kolibri, he was poised to take the plunge and decided to set up a dedicated print shop as an extension of the art supply store. 

Henry Sarnoff and Jinou Naval pose with the Epson 11880, a 64 inch-wide printer that is at the heart of their print shop. 

Kolibri sent him their updated recommendations for printers as well as a laundry list of what he would need to set up a shop including price lists and other resources. Looking for the utmost quality, Henry went full throttle and purchased an Epson Stylus Pro 11880, a 64"-wide high-resolution large-format aqueous-based printer. 

The 11880 features Epson’s Micro Piezo TFP printhead, real-time automatic switching between matte and photo black inks, as well as automatic nozzle verification and cleaning. It uses eight colors, including a three-level black technology, to significantly boost the level of quality of professional color and black-and-white prints. The unit is capable of producing archival prints with accurate color fidelity and consistent gloss levels that are durable and scratch resistant. 

This printer is capable of handling virtually any type of artist’s media, in roll or cut-sheet, up to 64 inches wide, and that is where Sarnoff developed his unique market. His knowledge of substrates and printing enables him to output unique images to a wide variety of papers and canvas, a feature his artist clients really appreciate. 

Print technician Jinou Naval prepares a file for output. The shop has implemented a comprehensive color management program.

Over the past few years, the company has been implementing a color-management system that enhances their ability to match colors for even the finickiest artist clients. When Sarnoff first purchased the printer he hired Jinou Naval as his primary technician to supervise the printing aspect of his business. At the time, Jinou was working as a technical illustrator for Raytheon. He had an extensive background in the graphic arts industry and especially printing. 

An artist himself, Naval understands the intricacies of fine art print production and the high standards required for maximum quality output. Together, Sarnoff and Naval developed a system and an efficient workflow that assures accurate output and fast turnaround.

Stretched and Framed

In the store, next to the print shop, Sarnoff has added a custom stretching station where printed canvas can be mounted on heavy duty stretcher bars. The market for these reproduction painting-like canvases has really boomed especially in the commercial decor market, and much of Sarnoff’s output finds its way into the lobbies and conference rooms of commercial buildings and hotels. 

Sarnoff features substrates and accessories for digital printing as part of its inventory.

Realizing the importance of presentation, Sarnoff also has a custom frame shop with a huge inventory of molding and matte choices. Often the prints are sold as a complete package with stretching and/or framing included. Sarnoff also features digital print substrates and accessories as part of the store’s inventory, offering a wide variety of photographic, watercolor and artistic papers by Canson, Reeves, Epson, Arches and others.   

Successful Mix

It is unusual for an art supply store to take on the task of setting up a commercial digital print shop. Sarnoff Art and Writing has succeeded in this formidable endeavor for a number of reasons. 

First, Sarnoff sensed that an opportunity presented itself in the form of high demand by the same customers who purchased traditional fine art materials. To answer the demand he invested in in a state-of-the-art print technology and hired a competent technician with a unique background. To make this work they implemented a comprehensive color management program.

Finally, the firm offers support in the area of presentation. The result is that this art supply store has become a one-stop outlet for quality art materials and for superior printing and finishing.