The Low Down

Here is a slow and fairly uninteresting video I took while on a job this week. It does take a while to paint that zero – in my defence I was working approximately four inches off of the ground and in conditions I’m unaccustomed to.

The close of 2013 has found me thrown into some fairly interesting projects and, though I’m still in the early stages of my progression, these projects have provided me with some valuable experience. After the first twenty minutes on this job, it soon became apparent that I was about to learn some of the problems that can be encountered while hand painting letters outside in the British winter time.

We were on site in Totton, Hampshire where we had to signwrite three crane weights measuring 3 metres by 800mm each. We attempted to pounce the letters onto the concrete blocks using chalk but we immediately encountered problems with damp. Despite wiping the surfaces dry prior to pouncing, the chalk lines would soon evaporate as a new layer of moisture settled upon the concrete. On top of this, the masking tape we were using to hold the pounce patterns in place was taking off the existing layer of paint from the concrete blocks!

We then had to resort to hand-drawing the letters out in white pencil, a method that was time consuming but at least ensured the letters remained in place long enough to begin applying paint. With no break in the clouds and little warmth the surface would not stay dry for long and it grew increasingly difficult and frustrating trying to paint to the lines.

What followed was a fairly testing day – progress was slow and the morale waned on many occasion as we struggled with a surface that was unworkable. We had to abandon the job at 4pm due to the rapidly receding daylight and made plans to return the following day to try and finish the work.

Despite a wary anticipation about returning to the job, not helped by a thick morning mist that seemed reluctant to shift, leading me to predict another fraught day, we seemed to hit a good spell. We had managed to negotiate the use of a gas powered heater which the staff on site very kindly powered up for us. This kept the surfaces dry and we managed to power through the remainder of the work along with second coating where required and touching up the numerous areas that had proved problematic the previous day. Here are the results……

DSCN4459And the moral of this story……. Signwrite in the summer!!

Colosseum Cinema

Hot on the heels of my recent launch into the world of actual, paid hand-painted sign work, I managed to muscle in on this piece.

DSCN4447Vaughan had previously signwritten the fascia for Lavish Life, a coffee / art & artefact shop in Westbourne arcade, Bournemouth.  The owner has recently converted the basement into what we believe is the UK’s smallest cinema, seating approximately twenty people and showing an assortment of classics (new and old) and foreign films.

We had discussed producing something to fit to the wall above the main fascia to draw people in and so people wouldn’t have problems finding the venue. I decided to research and find some examples online of vintage cinema wall signs and came up with a design based on these.

It wasn’t always certain that we would be producing this as a painted piece due to the client’s desire to keep costs down, so we were considering making the sign in dibond and vinyl for a while. However, we looked at the options and worked a good cost out for a timber and plywood hand-painted board that the customer seemed happy with.

On reflection I believe it’s the right way to go on a project such as this, lending the sign an authenticity that would be absent from its vinyl equivalent. While we were fitting the sign I couldn’t help but notice the shop next door – Don Strike, a guitar and music shop that’s been around longer than most people can remember. The fascia is hand-written and looks like it’s been the same for twenty years or more at a guess. The paintwork is weathered, a little faded and scuffed, but still holds up and, I would imagine, looks better than the day it was painted. A vinyl sign exposed to the elements for the same period of time would be cracked, peeled and faded but the sign above Don Stikes looks fantastic and lends it a certain authority – it’s almost like it’s telling the customer “we’ve been here a long, long time. Trust us, we know our stuff!”

I mentioned this to our client, explaining that he wasn’t buying a sign, he was buying an artefact and that one day, should he move on from Westbourne arcade, he can take the sign with him (he might even make some money back from it on ebay!).

So here is how this collaboration progressed. I worked on design and layout, Vaughan prepped the timber, cut the boards to shape and painted them up. We were then presented with two identical boards to write on. I pounced the artwork and we took a board each and got to work.

First Coat

First Coat

The interesting thing about this job, for me, was that I was working on exactly the same project as Vaughan, so I could observe his working methods and compare them with my own. It also gave me insight into the speed at which he works. It goes without saying that I was working at a much slower rate but that’s to be expected at this stage.

I’m quite pleased with the finished piece, it has a kind of fairground quality to it in my eyes – the colour and the bold type etc. – and, looking at the two signs side-by-side, I’m happy with my work overall. I still don’t paint as precise a corner as my teacher but my brush strokes are feeling more confident.

photo(8)Importantly, it’s been good to get a couple of jobs under my belt before the end of the year so I can begin 2014 with more confidence and start to take on some more ambitious projects.

Lavish Life Colosseum Cinema