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Poster Backstory: Jennifer Kernica — ARTCRANK Chicago 2014

Written by in Profiles

From Bolivia to Chicago, bikes bring everyone

together in Jennifer Kernica’s poster.


In Bolivia, in 2011, a family of five is riding together on a motorcycle, piled on top of each other and hanging on for dear life. Fast forward to 2014 in Chicago, where another family is riding around Lake Michigan in a single-file train.

ARTCRANK® and Neenah Paper

ARTCRANK® is a poster show about bicycles. Since 2007, ARTCRANK has staged more than 50 pop-up art shows featuring handmade, bike-inspired posters created by local artists and graphic designers in the U.S., the U.K. and France.

A longtime sponsor of ARTCRANK, Neenah Paper is teaming up with the show to highlight the work of four poster artists in 10 U.S. cities throughout 2014: Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC.

Each Poster Backstory feature follows the artist’s creative process as they develop their ideas and print them on a Neenah Paper stock, using craft techniques such as silkscreen and letterpress. Behind-the-scenes poster stories will appear on the ARTCRANK site and here on Against The Grain.

In the mind of illustrator and designer Jennifer Kernica, these two images combined to provide the visual inspiration for the poster she created for ARTCRANK’s 2014 Chicago show. “What ties these two events together for me visually is how instinctive it is for us, as humans, to fall in line like ducks to get from point A to point B, one way or another. The poster is a quirky train of characters — a brat pack of wildly different friends riding by the lake.”

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And while you might not see this particular cast of characters plying the streets and pathways of The Windy City every day, Kernica thinks they’re representative of the strange bedfellows (bikefellows?) created by Chicago’s rapidly expanding and dynamic cycling scene. “A tribute to the diverse friendships and relationships Chicago inspires due to its bike-friendly access and approachable locals,” as she puts it.

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Bikes play a role in Kernica’s creative process as well: “When I hit a wall creatively, I like to hop on my bike to clear my head.” And when the idea arrives, things get ugly. Her illustrations begin with a small “ugly” sketch, one in which “only I can tell what is what. Then I make another sketch that is just as ugly except a passerby can kind of distinguish one thing from another.”

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For her ARTCRANK Chicago poster, Kernica hand-illustrated her design in ink on Bristol board, then scanned it in and colored it in Photoshop. Not the quickest or easiest route, but the only way she could get the results she wanted. “I really wanted to go the full old-school route with this design so it would separate itself from other work and also play with the texture of the paper.”

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After starting with ink on paper and making the jump to digital, the last step in producing the poster meant a return to paper. Kernica chose CANALETTO Cover PREMIUM WHITE, a rich cotton paper that’s ideally suited for screen-printing, especially for prints like hers with heavy ink coverage. “The thickness, softness and the slight tooth/texture were the big draw. I wanted to have an added texture element. The slight tooth gives the image bumps, grit and what I call ‘consistent inconsistency’ from print to print.”

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Like the scene depicted in her poster, there’s always a lot happening in Jennifer Kernica’s creative life in Chicago: “Between the AIGA community, the growing screen printing industry, engaging handmade markets popping up everywhere, and with public art and street artists merging into the galleries, museums and collector arenas, Chicago is not a place to live if you want to sit still.” Jennifer said. “Thankfully, I don’t like sitting still.”

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