A Festival of Sight and Sound Printed on Canvas

Stephen Kerner, the Woodstock, N.Y.-based fine artist (www.stephenkerner.com) and fine-art printer (www.stonerivergiclee.com) profiled here at the LexJet Blog about this time last year, is no stranger to the abstract. Nor is Kerner a stranger to complicated, outside-the-lines projects that challenge and perplex.

Printing graphics for music festivalsBoth of these qualities – the abstract and the complicated – as well as Kerner’s 20-plus years of experience came to the fore on a recent project he completed for big-show set designer and promoter Marco Ferrero, who also owns Vivo Fine Art gallery in Woodstock.

The result was a giant pyramid structure, covered in canvas and complete with projected video and extensive LED lighting designed for music festivals. The structures most recent stop was at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival held earlier this month in Manchester, Tenn.

This design, which was really creative, was totally his. One night he approached me about the job. I thought it was fantastic and didn’t realize he was ready to go into production. It happened very fast, as a lot of things do. A lot of people were involved in a lot of different levels.

“He approached me about creating 18-foot tall pyramids and printing his design, which was triangles within triangles. Marco designed them in many different colors and we tested them on a lot of different substrates: backlit, canvas, vinyl and even metals. We printed a lot three-foot test panels, and he chose LexJet Instant Dry Satin Canvas. He liked that look and the canvas looked beautiful; there was such vibrancy to the colors,” says Kerner.

Inkjet printing on canvas for a music festivalKerner printed four panels for each triangle that made up each three-sided pyramid on his Epson Stylus Pro 11880. These panels were seamed together by printing a two-inch bleed area, folding it over and joining the panels with either LexJet Heavy Duty Banner Tape or an industrial adhesive.

Then, the canvas was attached to the metal framework with grommets on all three sides placed at three-inch intervals. The final pieces were then coated with a solvent-based ClearStar coating from LexJet.

“The satin canvas is durable up to a certain point, but the festivals are outdoors and there’s typically a lot of rain down in Tennessee this time of year so they wanted to make sure they were heavy duty,” explains Kerner. “The problem we had here was with curing times on both the coating and the adhesives were using to the seam the canvas. It rained here constantly, so the humidity was high, making those curing times much longer than normal.”

The pyramids open up and reveal 12×12 video screens while hiding all the video equipment that runs the screens in the base while another pyramid houses huge speakers. Ultimately, the pyramids were designed as both festival décor and as practical working devices to bring the show closer to the thousands who throng the festivals Woodstock-style.

Coating and finishing canvas“It was very complicated and it’s probably the most difficult project I’ve worked on. It took many weeks of collaboration and tons of math to make everything fit just right and work together,” says Kerner. “When you’re dealing with triangles everything is on an angle so it’s a lot different than dealing with a square piece.”

Kerner adds that he also collaborated with world-renowned Nevessa Studios and its owner, Chris Anderson, on the fine details of the project.

Big Prints for Big Time Artists

Printing Russel James' photographyWhen you work print magic for some of the biggest names in photography and fine art you might as well print big, which is exactly what Stephen Kerner does. Kerner, owner of Stone River Giclee in Woodstock, N.Y., has been printing giant reproductions on canvas for renowned photographers Russell James and Catherine Sebastian (who’s also the wife of former The Lovin’ Spoonful front man John Sebastian).

Those are but two examples of a long list of prestigious clients for whom Kerner prints, which also includes the Dali Lama, Harvard Press and the New York Cultural Society. Kerner reproduces the drawings and Thangkas (Tibetan religious paintings) from the Dali Lama’s monastery on LexJet Water-Resistant Satin Cloth. “They use real gold paint, so it’s very difficult to get that color, but we can hit it with our ImagePrint RIP on the Epson printer,” says Kerner.

As the exclusive printer for New York Cultural Society’s endowment for all of its modern fine art painting, Kerner reproduces the work of legendary painters like Edwin Church and Jackson Pollock. Kerner either captures the original work in his studio or he’s supplied with transparencies, but sometimes he has to capture the work at the museum. “I go with a laptop and a camera and do all the color correcting in front of the original paintings. I photograph them, take color swatches, come back, put them all together and calibrate the printer with the color profiles,” he explains.

But it’s not just printing that recommends Kerner to this exclusive clientele; it’s an innate sense of color and artistic aesthetic that Kerner brings to his work.

Stephen Kerner in his studio
Master printer Stephen Kerner, Stone River Giclee, Woodstock, N.Y.

Kerner started printing about 20 years ago when the first Iris printers appeared on the scene. He didn’t pick up printing to start a business, but was propelled into it through a need to reproduce his own fine art. Kerner’s fine art is displayed in 14 museums across the country and printing his own work so he could control the process to his tight specifications helped him gain a foothold for his paintings.

In those 20 years, Kerner has gone through the entire digital print evolution. It’s an evolution that has reached a “pinnacle,” he says, thanks to incredible improvements in inkjet technology. Kerner’s workhorse is the Epson 11880 he picked up from LexJet. The 64-inch printer, along with the ImagePrint RIP, help Kerner produce remarkable pieces of art writ large. As an example, Russell James, most well known for his fascinating celebrity photography, has embarked on a series called Nomad Two Worlds, which highlights indigenous peoples from around the world.

Print studio
Stephen Kerner's studio, Stone River Giclee.

Kerner explains: “They’ll send me a RAW file and then I do all the retouching and reformatting to their specifications. It’s quite a process because they’re printed out as large as 12 feet long. After I retouch it and prepare it, I print it out using LexJet Sunset Select Matte Canvas and the ImagePrint software. Once the images are printed, we pack them in tubes that then go to the artist, an aboriginal artist who embellishes it with their own native motif in paint. I then take that embellished work and print them as limited editions up to 14 feet long. Russell likes to go big with his work. He could have picked anybody, but he picked us because of the quality of our work and the canvas we get from LexJet.”