When It Comes to Coating, It’s All About Attitude

“Urbanitis” is a non-digital image taken by photographer Josh Mitchell, who says it was achieved with “one crazy reflection.” Photo courtesy of Josh Mitchell


Commercial and fine art photographer Josh Mitchell isn’t afraid of experimenting. In fact, it’s a necessary ingredient in his artistic process. So when LexJet re-released its Sunset Gloss Coating and Sunset Satin Coating, it took some trial and error, but Springfield, Mo.-based Mitchell established a tried-and-true method for getting great results. The key? A fearless attitude.

“With the new chemistry change in the coatings in the fall of 2014, it’s not the same and has to be handled a little bit differently,” Mitchell says. “The goal is one coat. Particularly with the new coating, you want to put it on thicker and faster. You have to be fearless and have an attitude.”

When the next generation of Sunset coatings were released in November 2014, the non-yellowing, pH-neutral water-based acrylic coatings were reformulated to be NMP-free to comply with state and local safety and health regulations. Mitchell, a long-time LexJet customer, says he’s got a “good handle on the combination of LexJet materials and coatings,” since he’s conducted quite a bit of his own testing.

In a fine art application, Mitchell says he seeks to avoid a “plastic-y” look, which is why the single coat application is crucial. “Two coats would be so thick,” he says. “You want to do one coat and let it dry down to a semi-gloss feeling.”

While the coatings can be applied with a brush, roller, or spray, Mitchell’s application tool of choice is a foam roller. The coatings do not need to be diluted or mixed, so they can go right on and spread with the roller. “It goes on thick, and then I roll it out,” Mitchell says.

When coating a large canvas, Mitchell does one section at a time since “this new coating will start to set up fast … much faster than the old coating … you’ve got to keep moving.” While there may be appear to be a hazy finish with streaks when first applied, Mitchell says they’ll disappear to a nice, clear coating.

“You have to have an attitude. Walk up to the canvas and know it’s going to dry down and be OK. Now attack!” he says. “When you’re done, walk away and don’t look back.”

Mitchell’s experiments didn’t stop after the initial application. Once the coated canvases were dry, he set about trying to destroy them.

“The LexJet coating has passed any test I’ve thrown at it,” he says. “I’ve been in 100-degree heat with rolled-up coated canvases, and they do not melt. I’ve been in 0-degree weather, and they do not crack. I’ve submerged coated canvases under water, wrapped them around models, and put them under water for swimsuit-like ads and art. I’ve tried high-pressure garden hoses and sprayed the canvas. It holds up great.”

For those new to using the coatings, Mitchell says, “You cannot give up. I have found that the LexJet coatings will stand up to whatever creative abuse I can come up with. But I know when I’m on the road and I pull out that canvas and unroll it on a buyer’s table, it’s going to make a nice impression.”

“The Unfolding Moment” by Josh Mitchell. Photo courtesy of Josh Mitchell

Upscale and Inviting: Ben Ham’s New Charleston Gallery

Ben Ham Images

Ben Ham is a craftsman whose craftsmanship goes far beyond his excellence in landscape photography. When we spoke with him yesterday he was working with lumber for the finishing touches on his newly opened gallery in Charleston, S.C.

Ben Ham ImagesWe mentioned Ben Ham’s new gallery in a previous Where They Are Now post here at the LexJet blog. What we found when we caught up with him was a growing and dynamic business taking a big step with the new gallery space in Charleston.

Since that update, the Ben Ham Images gallery in Charleston is officially open. It’s a gallery built from scratch with Ham’s personal touch on everything inside the historic building on King Street, which is the epicenter of downtown Charleston.

For instance, due to the historic nature of the building, Ham wasn’t allowed to drill into the brick to hang his large framed prints. Ham’s solution was to build panels that float off the brick wall. supported on two mahogany columns that run to the ceiling.

Ben Ham Images Gallery in CharlestonHam’s goal was to create a space that’s both upscale and inviting. There’s a fine line between the two, says Ham, and walking that fine line will be crucial to the gallery’s success.

“I don’t want you to feel like you’re at a gallery where they buzz you in and you don’t belong unless you have deep pockets. I’m trying to be very careful so that it’s upscale while being accessible and inviting,” says Ham.

While Ham plans to have a grand opening of the gallery early next year, he’s offered some limited “sneak peek” preview events where some who attended asked about renting the space for charity events.

Ben Ham Images Gallery“I’m excited that people are seeing the space as a venue for charity events, but instead of renting out the space we’ll partner with them,” says Ham. “I’ve done a lot of work with charities over the years, and that’s been very good because you get great people in there and you get to give back. I’ve found that it’s best to work on something together that’s for everybody in the community.”

And, when Ham puts on event he spares no expense to ensure a memorable experience for all who attend. His theory is that how you put on event is a direct reflection on how much you value your work.

“We never pour cheap wine or use plastic cups, and we have it catered. You shouldn’t create a special event around art and try to do it on the cheap; you’re saying something about the work. I think the work is special, so I’m going to provide a special experience for coming out,” says Ham. “You should go all out, but artists are sometimes resistant to that. I’m an artist, but I’m also a businessman. It’s important to treat yourself that way, and that’s how you stay in business.”

Where They Are Now: Ben Ham is on the Move

Ben Ham Images
Ben Ham on location on one of his Colorado high country photo expeditions.

We profiled Ben Ham in the monthly eNewsletter, In Focus, about six years ago. At that time he was already well established as a fine art photographer of South Carolina’s low country, his beautiful black-and-white landscapes adorning galleries and high-end properties, including HGTV’s Green Home in 2008.

It was inevitable that Ham’s work would find a wider audience and that his photographic lens would widen to encompass other landscapes across the U.S. and even Europe. Ham is not only a consummate artist, but a savvy businessperson who obviously enjoys meeting new people and forging relationships in the art market.

“All through the economic downturn I didn’t change the way I was doing things because of the economy,” explains Ham. “Instead, I raised my prices and focused on branding and building that brand. It’s important to maintain the value of what you’re doing. When you drop your prices it lowers the value of your work and makes people wonder if you were gouging them before you brought the prices down.”

Ben Ham Production Studio
Ben Ham’s production facility, which has been upgraded in recent years to improve quality and efficiency.

Instead, Ham invested in more and better production equipment to improve the quality of his finished pieces. In other words, he wanted to ensure that his clientele would benefit from the full value of his expertise, concentrating on the details that make the difference between a framed print and a true piece of collectible fine art.

“I’ve built some real strategic relationships with vendors like LexJet, as well as frame and molding companies. We needed the production equipment to create a better product and do it more efficiently, like a double miter saw, pneumatic frame jointing equipment and a new Epson 9900,” explains Ham. “Now it’s all about building a team of people to help me do that; a good team in a work environment where everyone’s enjoying it, making money, and moving forward to build something big.”

Ben Ham Printing
Ben Ham’s studio includes a gallery in the front. Ham prints most of his work on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Ultra Smooth from LexJet, as well as LexJet Sunset Cotton Etching Paper.

Long a staple of high-end galleries in South Carolina and Vail, Colo., Ham’s framed pieces will find a home of their own in a gallery Ham is opening in downtown Charleston dedicated to his work. The renovation of the space on King Street is scheduled for completion in early November.

“We’ve always been represented by a great gallery in Charleston, but no one knows how to sell and represent our work better than we do. Now we have the space we need, which is important because my smallest piece is 3′ x 4′; you can’t get a lot of gallery wall space with pieces that size,” explains Ham. “I started looking for the space and it took me about a year to find it. Now, it will be a Ben Ham Images gallery with more than 30 pieces of mine showcased in there, plus more from the collection of what I do beyond Low Country photography, like Colorado and Italy. I expect this new gallery to triple our business.”

Ben Ham Gallery
Ben Ham’s gallery on King Street in Charleston is being remodeled and is scheduled to open in November.

Rated the number one city in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler readers, Ham’s location in Charleston will bring his work to a wide audience of tourists from across the U.S. and the world. Ham expects the gallery to be a real game changer for his business, with 2,300 feet of gallery space in a prime street-front location housed in an old and historic building. “It’s incredible what’s going on in Charleston, and we want to be in the center of it,” says Ham.

Katie Lindler, who was previously gallery director at Coleman Fine Art, will take over the reins at Ham’s Charleston gallery. “She really knows what she’s doing and I’m super-psyched to have her on board,” says Ham. “I have no doubts about what we can do in Charleston, and it’s template for what we’ll do in the future.”

Prints that Win: Curves of Iris

Award Winning Print by The Portrait StudioMichael and Tina Timmons, owners of The Portrait Gallery, Vassar, Mich., have been featured here before for Prints that Win, but for their printing expertise. Sterling photographers in their own right, they also know how to print for competition, and print winners.

This time around, Tina is being honored for her capture of an Iris from her garden called Curves of Iris. Michael had quadruple bypass surgery (!) last year following a heart attack. We’re pleased to report that he’s recovering nicely, and the Timmons are back to their frenetic pace.

“Needless to say, we were home a lot more than we normally are, so I had more chances to enjoy my flowers. This year I didn’t get to see them at all,” says Tina. “I shot every day through the Iris season, and picked my favorite to enter in competition.”

The result was this beautiful rendition, which won a LexJet Sunset Award at the Professional Photographers of Michigan print competition. Tina says that her typical method for capturing flowers is to use a tripod and a macro lens, followed by some enhancement with Nik filters and some additional cleanup in Photoshop.

“Sometimes we’ll add a reflector fill outdoors, or we’ll do subtractive lighting if the flower is in open sun. We’ll use those tactics to control what lighting is available in nature,” Tina explains. “The Iris has a poetic motion about it with the leaves and the way everything blends together. When I work with any flower I’m very cautious about what’s in the background so there’s nothing distracting, including other flowers.”

The standard print medium for competition and the couple’s interior décor work is LexJet Sunset Photo eSatin, printed on an Epson Stylus Pro 9880 wide-format inkjet printer, which is then laminated. Though Curves of Iris was printed in the usual way, it was printed for this competition on a Hahnemuhle watercolor paper to provide a more fine-art look to the image.

Beyond the Façade with Fabric Banner Applications for a Cityscape

Window Art with Fabric Banners

Jacksonville, Fla., recently hosted the One Spark Festival, billed as the world’s first “crowdfunded” festival. During the course of the five-day downtown festival, more than 480 creators and artists promoted their projects.

Window Banners printed on LexJet Poly Select Heavy
The windows of the empty buildings on this side of the street feature Douglas J. Eng’s fine art photography series City Reflections, printed on LexJet Poly Select Heavy.

The “crowd” voted for their favorites via smart phone, casting more than 50,000 votes. Jacksonville’s own Douglas J. Eng Photography won 2nd Place Overall and 2nd Place in the Art category for the studio’s renditions of Douglas J. Eng’s fine art photography splashed across downtown buildings.

These fine art photo splashes were installed in boarded-up window alcoves near Eng’s old studio. Eng has since moved to a new studio space, but always wanted to do something with those empty facades and the One Spark Festival provided the perfect opportunity. He wanted to “change the nature of the space.”

Printing LexJet Fabric on an Epson 9900 Inkjet printerTo accomplish this, Eng called Danny Chalmers for some direction on inkjet printing materials to use that would hold up for the festival and beyond and would work well with his Epson Stylus Pro 9900 aqueous inkjet printer.

“Danny has been very helpful. LexJet’s unique in that we have a rep that’s available to help us out when we need it. This project was a departure for me, since I mostly do fine art printing,” says Eng. “I recently received the LexJet Product Reference Guide, and that’s very helpful because I can see all the different things we can do with our printer.”

Eng didn’t want to try an adhesive-backed material on the plywood that covers the windows of the empty buildings because the plywood surfaces are extremely rough and inconsistent.

What Eng did instead was to print on LexJet Poly Select Heavy coated with LexJet Sunset Satin Coating, and then fastened the inkjet-printable fabric to the plywood with screws.

Fabric Printing for a Festival“It was about 2,300 square feet of printing; the biggest job we’ve done. Some of the windows were huge, up to 20′ x 15′, so we had to rent a lift,” says Eng. “The color and imaging looks great on the fabric, even after three weeks of being in the elements. Fortunately, people have left it alone and there’s no graffiti on it.”

The buildings where Eng applied his fine art photography are across the street from each other. One building features a series by Eng called City Reflections and the other is called Building Nature. If you’re in Jacksonville be sure to go to Laura Street and check out Eng’s work while it’s still up.

For a detailed look at this project, go to beyondthefacade.com.

The Fine Art of Photography on Canvas

Wolf printed on Fredrix canvas from LexJetDavid Micelotta, owner of Through the Eyes of David, a fine art photography studio in Farmingville, N.Y., prints his work almost exclusively on canvas, Fredrix 777VWR Vivid Matte Canvas from LexJet, to be exact.

“At one time I sold framed pieces, but switched to canvas because my customers love canvas. I print them all on 1 1/2″ gallery wraps so the customer doesn’t have to worry about framing the piece and it gives the piece more dimension,” explains Micelotta. “I love the color reproduction and the gamut the Fredrix canvas produces.”

Micelotta travels the art show circuit in New York and neighboring states showcasing his unique take on a variety of subjects. Though he leans toward nature photography, eager art buyers also appreciate his landscapes, cityscapes and nautical photos on canvas.

The key to selling a great photo at art shows, says Micelotta, is the quality of the finished print. Therefore, Micelotta profiles his inkjet materials and calibrates the entire process, from capture to monitor to print.

Fracture Art printed on Fredrix canvas from LexJet“I get the same quality in gamut and detail in both papers and canvas due to the calibration between monitor and printer. After I print the canvas and let it dry, I coat it with a varnish and it tends to saturate the color 10-15 percent more than the fine art paper and gives it more gloss, which I like,” says Micelotta.

Micellota also creates more abstract pieces he calls Fracture Art, a technique he developed using five different graphics software programs.

“It starts with a photo that I bring into the five different programs and then apply formulas I’ve create in each. The outcome is the Fracture Art, and then I adjust those formulas from there to change the look slightly,” he says.