Go Outside


Inspired by Anthony Purcell’s Pennsylvania wall art, I decided to dabble with some pictorial typography of my own.


The original idea came with a sketch, before trying out some further ideas in Adobe Illustrator, culminating in a hand painted version.


The final effect is a little more cartoonish than perhaps originally intended – it reminds me of the Simpsons opening titles – but, at the same time I think it works for this project and now I’ve had time to live with it for a couple of weeks, I think it works better than if I had gone over the top on detail. After all, the main feature are the words and you need to strike a balance between the image and legibility.

I’m still deciding what to do with it. These projects are always intended as practice, with the intention of perhaps selling them on if they come out well. But I usually end up hanging them up at home. So I’ll never make much money, but at least I’ll have a good looking house!

Here are some photos of the process along the way……




 

Cinema Typography Inspiration

I’ve been getting lots of typography inspiration from old black and white movie title cards, with some notable examples in the B-movie and film noir genres.

Wonderful vintage typefaces brought to monochromatic life with inventive backdrops and imaginative shadow and visual effects.

Here are some of my personal favourites……

dawn_title a85e9a4aecdb828b255c7470f783f7fc cda97d4d02548849f2fd7cc343fe0b82 nothing_but_trouble__title_card_ hellsangels1930dvd old-maid-trailer-title youngamerica1932dvdr The-Day-The-Earth-Stood-Still-movie-title-screen-movies-2074178-640-480 02468dcaa8a4848fce256fb4443f4e67 in-a-lonely-place 6beecfd28613f1ad2044e6e4b9417abb tom-dick-harry-movie-end-title-screen-shot

Ad Boy

Ad Boy 010

I was very grateful to receive a copy of “Ad Boy – Vintage Advertising With Character” by Warren Dotz and Masud Husain, as a christmas gift a few weeks ago.

It takes a look at examples of illustrations created for branding and advertising, mostly from the post-war United States, a period distinguished by bright cartoonish images and characters, many of which would achieve the status of pop culture icons in the years that followed.  It’s a valuable reference book, both artistically and culturally.

I’ve been keen on researching these kinds of characters for some time. In a work capacity I’ve always favoured striking but simple hand-drawn, vector graphics over those of a more digitalized nature, and I sometimes reference vintage ads for inspiration when working with customer logos and designs. In terms of hand-painting, these examples are perfect as this style of character image can often be produced very effectively using simple, clean brush strokes in just one-colour, lending uncomplicated charm to an otherwise flat design.

The appeal of these post-war ad campaigns is not difficult to decipher, as the author explains in the book’s introduction: “Product characters were designed to comfort consumers, to reassure them that they were making the smartest, safest, best quality choices and thus were wise, secure, good people”. The rise of character and cartoon led campaigns is also explained: “It’s important to recall that prior to the 1950’s manufacturers didn’t market to children……But as baby boomers populated the burgeoning suburbs and television reached out for the hearts and minds of America’s offspring…..Advertisers took note and kids were targeted to sway their parents’ spending”.

It’s interesting to evaluate the appeal of these earlier forms in comparison with more modern forms of advertising, which can often appear crass in comparison despite the fact that vintage and modern advertising are still coming from the same place, and serving the same purpose. Let’s face it, the primary aim of these characters was never just to make us feel good, it was to sell product – leading me to feel slightly paradoxical at experiencing nostalgia for these images when I find most forms of advertising, whether it be on television or on billboards, to be intrusive and somewhat cynical (a strange feeling to have for someone in the sign trade, I know!). These days I walk down the cereal aisle quietly bemoaning the packaging that’s selling breakfast products loaded with sugar to a target audience with impressionable minds and vulnerable teeth. Yet, leafing through Ad Boy I get a sudden pang of nostalgia when confronted with an early image of Kelloggs’ Tony The Tiger.

Ad Boy 004

It’s difficult not to see these characters as products of a more innocent time. I can’t imagine the same feelings being evoked in thirty years time, when we’re looking back at the advertising that we’re currently experiencing. Maybe because we’re saturated with it  – ads pop up on our TV screens, on our computers, social media feeds, in the palm of our hands, and not forgetting the more traditional advertising mediums of magazines and newspapers, and on the daily commute plastered on the sides of buses and at train stations. This saturation has perhaps led to a sense of weariness about advertising. It works in the short term but are we going to be quite so eager to take it to our hearts?

Ad Boy 006

But whether or not you agree with the practises and principles that led to the evolution of these forms of character-led branding, there’s little doubt that it’s a visually striking, psychologically perplexing, and often downright weird world to inhabit, providing a wealth of inspiration to draw from.

Ad Boy 009

The anthropomorphisation in some of these designs, particularly in food advertising, is a particularly fascinating aspect and leads you to question both the thinking that goes into it and the effect it’s had upon our eating habits and philosophies – what’s the best way to advertise meat products? Of course,  you produce a sweet cartoon image of a smiling pig or chicken about to happily tuck into a plate of bacon or chicken nuggets – self cannibalisation as a marketing tool! I’ve always been slightly perplexed by some of the UK high street mainstays too, the fish and chip shop with a smiling cod on the fascia, and the numerous fried chicken outlets selling their wares with the image of a happy hen! We live in a weird world, no?

Ad Boy 005

Ad Boy – Vintage Advertising With Character : by Warren Dotz and Musad Husain.

Published by Ten Speed Press / Random House

Warren Dotz

Cinema

A couple of cinema related items for this post. The first are a series of hand-painted poster cards featuring some amazing lettering and illustration by U.S. signpainter Ira Coyne, whose work featured prominently in the Sign Painters movie and book directed by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon.

You can find the rest of these on the Sign Painter Movie Flickr Set.

IMG_5700 IMG_5712 IMG_5688The second item features the work of highly regarded Dublin signwriter Kevin Freeney.  These are some of the signs he hand-painted for the Ambassador cinema in the eighties:

3882303582_2ba4b6ce52 3882304074_8eb401fe05_o 3882304812_be67241584_o(1)It’s hard to imagine something with as quick a turnaround as a cinema sign actually being hand-written, especially considering the scale of these; which is why, along with the obvious artistry on display, I find these photos so astonishing.

For more examples of Kevin Freeney’s work please follow the link to the Gentleman Of Letters Flickr page.

Death To Vinyl!

DeathToVinyl1 “…bemoaning the sad fact that most signs are either digitally printed onto or digitally cut from stickyback vinyl. It always looks so noncommittal to me, as if you don’t really intend to keep your shop open for more than a year or so. A good handpainted sign shows that you plan to stay, and are serious about your enterprise – you MEAN it!”

The words (and work) of Jim Medway – a Manchester based man of many talents who I happened upon just this week while browsing the Pre-Vinylite facebook page for inspiration. Much as I’m reluctant to dismiss vinyl completely, after all it does pay my bills (and probably will for some time), I do agree with the above sentiment.

Medway is, from the information gleaned via his website, first and foremost an artist and published cartoonist who also runs educational workshops in schools and community groups. He also seems to be increasingly involved in hand-painted signwriting.

OldSchoolWildStyleI’m enjoying his work very much. Take a look for yourself……

Jim Medway

Paw Quality Comics

 

 

The Cliffs

The Southbourne Cliffs was a pub that I lived very close to for a few years in my twenties and frequented from time to time without ever stepping up to becoming a full-blown “regular”.  A few years back the pub closed and was torn down.

DSCN3752Last year I saw the original pub sign for The Cliffs in it’s new home – hanging upon the wall in a lovely barbers shop in Southbourne that we were working on.  The barber shop owner had happened upon it at a car-boot sale and managed to obtain it for a reasonable price, thinking it would sit perfectly amongst the vintage stylings of his new shop. It did.

Last weekend, while leafing through a book about pub signs by Paul Corballis that lives under my dad’s coffee table, I happened upon this photo of the very same pub sign in its infancy, being worked upon by staff at Brewery Artists, a subsidiary of  Whitbread brewery:

Southbourne CliffsI couldn’t find the date for the photo although, going by the beards, perhaps the seventies. But I loved seeing these two photos together – the pristine new sign with glossed frame being painted under close professional scrutiny; against the later version with its scuffed frame and still-bright but blemished and time-worn featured image, now taking it’s rightful place as something of value, an antique.