Taking Corporate Art to the Next Level

Photographing and printing sports action imagesWhen someone says, “Nashville,” the first thing that pops to mind is music, and for good reason. Local photographer Ed Rode is renowned nationally for his artistic renditions of various recording stars. Rode’s photography draws out the heart and soul of each musician with his distinctive combination of lighting, hue and composition.

Rode was recently commissioned to provide photographic artwork of scenes from the Bridgestone Arena, which hosts the Nashville Predators hockey team and various special events throughout the year. Rode’s photography would be used to bring a special touch to Bridgestone’s corporate suite, which was being remodeled and updated.

Printing canvas wraps for a corporate suite“I spent several days photographing the Predators for the project. Since it was intended as a showcase for Bridgestone, the real challenge was making sure to somehow feature logos and branding without detracting from the essence of the shot,” says Rode.

To produce the photos, the obvious choice was Mark Lakey, owner of Art Warehouse in Chattanooga, Tenn. The choice was obvious since Lakey prints much of Rode’s work and Lakey provides not only top-notch finished work but he does it start to finish.

Photographing and printing artwork for a corporation“The theme was Ed Rode’s stylistic interpretation of hockey games and events. They hired him to put his spin on the arena; to give the suite the artsy, hip look of Nashville’s premier photographer,” says Lakey.

Lakey produced Rode’s photography on Epson GS Canvas Gloss with his Epson GS6000 low-solvent inkjet printer. Lakey says he chose a solvent printer with a solvent-compatible gloss canvas for speed, beauty and ease of use since he wouldn’t need to coat the canvas after printing.

Lakey then constructed canvas stretcher bars for a museum wrap of each the 11 images, which varied in size from about 11” x 20” up to 20” x 40” once printed.

“It took about half a day to hang them up, then they walked us around the arena. It was fun; they were really nice people,” says Lakey. “They wanted a clean, modern look for the entire remodel, and wanted to reflect that look in the artwork as well.”

Check out more of Mark Lakey’s projects at previous posts on the LexJet Blog:

Benefit Brings out the Best in Photography and Inkjet Printing

How Art Warehouse Brought Chatanooga to Life with Inkjet Wall Art

Benefit Brings out the Best in Photography and Inkjet Printing

Benefit for the Craniofacial Foundation of America included inkjet canvas wraps

The Craniofacial Foundation of America, based in Chattanooga, Tenn., is a non-profit that supports the ongoing work of helping people with facial deformities lead normal lives. One of its biggest supporters, who worked tirelessly to help with the Foundation’s recent fundraiser, Palate 2 Palette, is Art Warehouse’s Mark Lakey. Lakey, previously profiled at the LexJet Blog, donated his time and printing expertise to help ensure a successful fundraiser.

Gallery exhibition of Ed Rode's music photography
More than 800 people attended the benefit for the Cranial Foundation of America. Here, attendees enjoy the one-of-a-kind music-oriented work of photographer Ed Rode.

Lakey’s role was to bring the talents of three photographers to life with more than 60 inkjet-printed gallery wraps of their work, varying in size from 24 in. x 16 in. up to 50 in. x 50 in. The images were featured as part of the event’s Gallery Walk. The photographers who donated their images represent some of the finest talent in the Southeast: Keith Mitchell, Chattanooga; Ed Rode, Nashville; and Jim Begley, Corbin, Ky.

All regular Art Warehouse customers, Lakey took his usual care and diligence in the pre-production, printing and finishing process to properly present and draw attention to their work for the Craniofacial Foundation event.

Lakey used LexJet Sunset Select Satin Canvas SUV for all the prints. They were printed on Lakey’s Epson GS6000 solvent printer.

Canvas wrap inkjet prints at benefit gallery

“The prints turned out fantastic. It was my first experience working with the canvas, and I really enjoyed working with it. I also preferred the satin finish for this project. Glossy is great for consumer work, but from a viewing standpoint, especially in the gallery, the satin is very rich looking. Photographers are pickiest about print quality and they were all thrilled with the quality,” says Lakey. “I’m a stickler on finishing the product so that it’s gallery-ready. When Ed Rode does a show, for instance, it’s always at a gallery. He’s got photos in The Bluebird Café in Nashville, at record studios and other high-profile spots, so my finished work has to be right on and all three photographers appreciate that.”

Lakey hand-stretched each canvas, as he does with all of his canvas work, to make sure the canvas is perfectly taut on the stretcher bars. He used three cases of stretcher bars, more than 100 linear feet of canvas and three boxes of archival matte board backing.

“I stretch with the mentality that there will be some relaxing of the canvas over the course of a few years, so I know exactly how taut to make it so that it never gets sloppy. I don’t wrap a canvas, I stretch it, which is why ink adhesion is so important to me,” explains Lakey.

Printing canvas with an Epson GS6000 solvent inkjet printer
Printing one of the 60 inkjet canvas gallery wraps at Art Warehouse on LexJet Sunset Select Satin SUV with an Epson GS6000.

More than 800 people attended the event this year and strolled through the various galleries on the Gallery Walk tour, which included the photography gallery that Lakey put together, a living gallery and a youth gallery, as well as an after party.

“The photography gallery was phenomenal this year, particularly given the photographers Mark chose to work with for the event,” says Terry Smyth, executive director of the Craniofacial Foundation of America. “It really helps get the word out, especially since he reaches out beyond the local community to other regional artists. The Lakeys put their hearts and souls into the event, and it shows.”

More Great Inkjet Canvas Options from LexJet

Printing canvasBuilding on more than 15 years of researching, developing and bringing award-winning inkjet printable canvas products to the fine art, photography and graphics markets, LexJet introduces Sunset Reserve Matte Canvas and Sunset Reserve Bright Matte Canvas.

Both canvas products are now available and shipping from one of LexJet’s ten nationwide distribution centers and, like all LexJet products, come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Sunset Reserve Matte Canvas and Sunset Reserve Bright Matte Canvas round out a diverse portfolio of LexJet inkjet canvas products that include the award-winning Sunset Select Matte Canvas and Sunset Select Gloss Canvas, the solvent and UV curable compatible Sunset Select Satin Canvas SUV, and Instant Dry Satin Canvas.

“Both versions of the Sunset Reserve Canvas have a nice subtle texture for true artistic color-critical canvas reproduction,” explains Alex Ried, LexJet product manager. “And, since some customers prefer a bright white base to a more neutral white tone and vice-versa it was important to offer that option with the same performance, quality, consistency and color gamut.”

Compatible with aqueous printers from Canon, Epson and HP – and specially engineered to take advantage of the wider color gamuts provided by the latest generation of their printers – both canvas products are perfect for a variety of applications, from commercial and corporate graphics to gallery and museum wraps and other fine art and photographic output. Both are optimized for LexJet’s Sunset Coatings – Gloss and Satin – and work well with other spray and roll-on protective coatings.

Canvas printing
Mark Lakey, Art Warehouse, Chattanooga, Tenn., printed this black-and-white photo by Nashville photographer Ed Rode on Sunset Reserve Bright Matte Canvas.

“It prints great. I love it because when I profiled the canvas, I could amp up the sharpness with photography and get more detail out of it. And, the coating allows for a high ink load, so if someone wants to produce high-quality prints they can do it with this canvas,” says Mark Lakey, owner and president of Art Warehouse, Chattanooga, Tenn., who prints for renowned photographers and artists. “You see more vibrancy with this canvas in color prints and for black and white printing I can hit the tonality marks I’m after.”

Stretching and wrapping canvas
Lakey stretches and wraps Beach at Sunset, photographed by Jim Begley, Corbin, Ky., and printed on Sunset Reserve Bright Matte Canvas.

Sunset Reserve Matte Canvas has a neutral-white finish that produces a wide color gamut without optical brighteners. Sunset Reserve Bright Matte Canvas features a bright white base. Both are a water resistant, acid-free and pH-neutral with a poly/cotton blend so they’re easily stretched for gallery and museum wraps.

How Art Warehouse Brought Chattanooga to Life with Inkjet Wall Art

Custom wall mural inkjet printing

Mark Lakey, owner and president of Art Warehouse in Chattanooga, Tenn., strives to be in the “top two percentile” of his trade, and judging by the quality of the photographic and graphic reproductions shown here, Art Warehouse is there.

Lakey’s work is more than simply reproduction; it’s art and science. He’s meticulous about maintaining the fidelity of the original image and enhancing subpar images so that they meet his high requirements for the printed and finished product.

Lakey had both situations in front of him recently for two separate but similar and related projects: One for the Chattanooga Visitors Bureau and its Visitors Center, and another for Rock City Gardens, a local landmark and favorite spot where visitors from all over enjoy the scenery and rock formations.

Both projects were printed with an Epson GS6000 solvent inkjet printer on Photo Tex PSA Fabric – Solvent Printers from LexJet. Printing and installing the images was a cinch. Lakey chose Photo Tex because the customers wanted something they could tear down and easily replace if they wanted to try a different wall mural or remodel in the near future.

Inkjet print custom wall mural“That’s probably the greatest advantage of the Photo Tex material. All they have to do is have the contractor clean up the wall a little bit, and it’s done. From their perspective they have the freedom to decide if they want it up to leave it up for as long as they want. They love the possibilities it opens up. Particularly in the case of the Visitors Bureau, if our skyline changes in the next couple of years they can put up an updated mural that reflects those changes,” says Lakey.

Lakey adds that he offered to clear coat the murals, but the clients preferred the matte finish because you can view it from any angle in any lighting situation with zero glare. That worked for Lakey too, since he’s a self-described “matte finish freak” whose favorite photo paper is LexJet’s Premium Archival Matte.

The real challenge was in pre-production and processing the images for printing. In the first instance, at the Visitors Center, he had an amazing image with which to work, courtesy of local photographer Lawson Whitaker. Whitaker’s capture of the Chattanooga skyline was right on, but the challenge was the sheer size of the file and the final output size, about 17 ft. x 13 ft. in four panels.

“Each file presents its own algorithm to make it that large. It starts with a proper workflow to be as good as it can be. That workflow can change so it’s not written in stone,” explains Lakey. “Typically, I’ll either de-noise it or instead of doing a line sharpening I’ll do a radial sharpening to separate the shadows and highlights a bit, and run it through either PhotoZoom Pro or Genuine Fractals. Data is data. If you don’t have it then you try to make it as close as you can so you don’t see over-Photoshopping. I don’t want to make it into something it’s not.”

The other image for Rock City Gardens was much more of a challenge and required a lot more work to the file to make it just right. The image was originally taken in the ‘70s then drum-scanned, and it wasn’t a great drum scan to begin with, says Lakey.

“Scanners are great, but just like a camera lens, they have a sweet spot. You can hit below it or above it and not have a good photo. It’s all about knowing your equipment so you hit that sweet spot, but they did not hit the sweet spot,” explains Lakey.

Lakey and the graphic artist on the project spent most of their time on the signature portion of the image, the waterfall area called Lover’s Leap. It’s the piece that’s used in all of Rock City Garden’s marketing and basically works as a brand.

“In Photoshop I did a color selection of that particular section. I used Nik Software’s sharpening tool and Photoshop’s sharpening tools. Depending on what the file has in it, I’ll either go into unsharp mask and do more of a radial sharpening, and then go back into Nik with a line sharpening. Then I’ll do a color selection on parts of the photo I think have the most noise and do a Noise Ninja process on that,” says Lakey.