I am Lucky and Grateful for the Experiences in My Life
Art has always been a passion of mine, dating back to my childhood when I first used my father’s Windor & Newton Oil colors as fingerpaints on the walls of our house. Turpentine baths were the only option for the aftermath.
The summer before entering 2nd grade, I visited my father in Paris, France where he was taking some art classes. The experience of meeting his classmates from acrooss all parts of the world had a profound effect on the interconnectedness of humanity. Drawing pictures removed the barrier of communicating without know a foreing language. I knew art would always be a part of my life, somehow.
Growing up, I saw how hard my father had to work as an entrepreneur. He ran his own business, Cernak Design Studios, with an office located nextdoor to the Oliver Mansion in South Bend, Indiana. Eventually, he would pursue a Masters Degree at the Art Institute of Chicago. This made having an Apple Macintosh in the house essential, and his long commutes to class weeknights gave me enough time to experiment with Photoshop and QuarkExpress before he returned home.
My love and appreciation for art continued, and by the time I reached High School, the wisdom of Andy Warhol had the strongest impression on me.
Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.- Andy Warhol
Unlike my father, and later my brother, I decided to pursue a Business instead of a degree at the Art Institute of Chicago. This path eventually lead me to Georgia State University and the J. Mack Robinson College of Business where I focused on Marketing and Advertising.
After living in the Midwest all my life, the warmer climate of Atlanta, GA was certainly appreciated at my new home.
Living in Inman Park, near the Variety Playhouse, and working for The Coca-Cola Company afforded me the opportunity to focus on my other passion — Music! I attend as many Concerts and Music Festivals possible. From New Orleans Jazzfest to Boston for New Years Eve, driving anywhere for a show was now an option.
On May 21, 2006, I attended the Soco Music Experience featuring many bands including The Flaming Lips, Cowboy Mouth, Big Star, De La Soul, & Ozomatli. The concert poster for the event was designed by Lindsey Kuhn, as was being screenprinted live. I didn’t realized at the time, but I had also just met Ron Donovan who was helping Lindsey with the print demonstration.
ExpressoBeans.com members might remember this date as the EMEK Tool ‘Cyberman’ poster release. Needless to say I missed out, but the events that transpired would more than make up for that missed opportunity.
As I was hanging out near the backstage with other fans, up rolls Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips to say Hello. I was well aware Wayne was also an artist. I owned the Art of Modern Rock: The Poster Explosion Hardcover by Paul Grushkin and Dennis King, a book he wrote the Foreword too.
As Wayne was signing autographs, I mentioned that I had my Sketch Book with colorful Sharpies on me and would be more than happy to bust them out if he felt inspired.
I was completely surprised when he said “Yes.”
As if things couldn’t get any better, I was then asked to be a part of the show that night dressed up like Santa Claus, aka St. Nicholas, my Patron Saint, on stage. I called my girlfriend, who was living in South Bend, Indiana to make sure this wasn’t a dream. Conversation confirmed my new reality. Time to Be Here Now.
That Day Changed My Life Forever
Soon, I decided it was time for me to follow my passion. I left Atlanta the Summer of 2006 and moved in with my girlfriend who was living in my hometown so I could focus more on art while taking courses online via Lynda.com that included WordPress, an open-source blogging software program built using HTML, CSS, PHP, and MYSQL.
On July 29, 2006, I attend Flatstock 9 at Union Park, Chicago. This was the first time I met Merle Becker, a groovy filmmaker working on what I thought was a little something about Concert Posters.
I continued making art on a seemingly daily basis while dreaming of concerts I wish I’d rather be at. At one point I convinced my girlfriend that we should drive down to St Louis, Missouri to see a concert. The Flaming Lips were going to play at The Pageant.
“How would we pay for it?” she asked.
I’ll design a rock poster and sell it in the parking before the show to help pay for some of our expenses, something I learned about from attending a Grateful Dead concert after I graduated High School. I later attempted making my own posters for Phish concerts in the 90’s, so I felt ready to give it a try one more time.
The Flaming Lips show was EPIC. Afterwards, I got to talk to Wayne — again! I gave him a poster, and he signed a copy for me. If that wasn’t enough, the band then proceeds to hand me the drum head containing the setlist from that night. Wow. Love and Kindness does exist.
When bands visited South Bend, Indiana — I would make a concert poster.
I experimented with various mediums including: graphite, ink, marker, and watercolor, on various subtrates like Vellum for my Roger Waters piece.
Date Night in Chicago also became opportunity to make a concert poster.
The low cost of living in Indiana made it possible to invest more time into making art.
If I didn’t make a concert poster for a show I was attending, I had an uncanny ability to run into the artist who did.
During the holiday break, I met up with a dear friend dating back to my childhood. He had made the journey to California after High School and mentioned he might have an opportunity for me designing eLearning SCORM compliant courses for software programs. I swear Estimated Prophet started playing in my head. I knew where to go.
I moved to Oakland, California on March 14, 2007.
A fellow co-worker was in an avant-garde band called Eddie the Rat which was coool to me. I approached him one day on our lunch break about making posters for his shows. There would be no risk for him as I would pay for everything. All I wanted was the rights to my art, and be allowed to sell some copies online in hopes of making some rent money. The Bay Area was not cheap after all.
I had every intention of designing more concert posters, and was open to any opportunities.
On August 8, I married that girlfriend you’ve been reading about. Soon there after a financial crisis hit and the tech company I was working for was aquired. This meant my services were no longer needed.
The changing economy effected everyone to some degree, including The Firehouse Kustom Rockart Kompany, who moved the printing studio from San Francisco to Oakland. Coincidentally, this was only a few miles away from my apartment, basically a short bike ride.
One evening at ArtRock Gallery, I met artists Chuck Sperry and Ron Donovan. I was aware of this place since High School, and recently designed a banner ad for the website GigPosters.com. I expressed my love for concert posters and mentioned I owned their Eric Clapton posters from a run of shows Madison Square Garden. They were impressed enough to invite me into their studio.
I soon realized that the art being produced at the Studio (dubbed Hangar 18) needed to be shared with the world.
“What could I do to help the Artists so they could have more time to produce their art?”
My mission was clear. In the age before Social Media, a website was crucial. I started a blog on my domain nickcernak.com to document thier art. Later, as the content scope evolved, the artist whose poster I was featuring would send me a PayPal button linked to their account to get thier art directly into collectors hands.
This experience soon opened up the door for a paid gig designing the website for The Rock Poster Society.
Before I knew it, an opportunity to design a website for artist Chuck Sperry presented itself. I jumped at the offer. Word was finally getting to rock posters with similar interests.
I consider myself very lucky. I’ve been given the chance to work with people who inspire me and bring joy to the world including: