I Goat - by Kenny Hunter with Christ Church in the background.

I Goat – by Kenny Hunter with Christ Church in the background.

A pre-xmas solo trip to London inevitably ended up with a mooch around Spitalfields and, while I didn’t achieve the somewhat fanciful goal of wrapping up all my xmas shopping in one inspired lap of the market, I did find inspiration both in the stalls and on the street.

Featured in a previous post, Peter Hardwicke is a London signwriter who has worked on several of the small shops in the streets around Spitalfields. I’d seen both the examples here as photos but it was good to get a good up-close look at his work – it is very fine!

Also took the opportunity to snap some vintage work and a ghost sign before jumping on the tube to Oxford Circus.

The English Restaurant by Peter Hardwicke

Emin International by Peter Hardwicke P1010906 P1010907 P1010908


One highlight from a recent jaunt to Spain (albeit a fleeting one) was an overnight stay in Saragossa. Intended only as a way to break the six hour plus road trip from Bilbao to Barcelona, we managed a good couple of hours of wanderings around the old town (mainly in a quest for food!) and took in amazing buildings, statues, fountains and happened upon these lovely pieces adorning a small shop tucked into a side street. If it weren’t for a fairly tight schedule I would have stuck around in Saragossa.

Ghost Signs

On a brief stop in the Dorset town of Bridport at the weekend, I happened upon the above ghost sign, a wonderful term which applies to those faded, scuffed old signs that you sometimes catch sight of above eye level on forgotten walls.  It reminded me of another example i photographed while visiting York two years ago.  The Bile Beans sign is a fairly iconic local landmark and was apparently restored by the York Arts Forum in 1986.

In case you were wondering I think Bile Beans were a mild laxative, similar to liver salts.

Upon further investigation online I found an entire website dedicated to the documentation of ghost signs where you can find some interesting archives and articles on the subject.

Ghost Signs

Margaret Kilgallen

Margaret Kilgallen, along with her husband Barry McGee, was one of several American artists in the nineties (collectively known as the Mission school) creating a fusion of work drawing from street art, graffiti, folk art and installation art – with work feeling equally at home in the gallery as on the numerous non-commissioned murals she painted on city walls.

With a strong interest in folk traditions, learning amish quilt-making and bluegrass banjo at an early age, before studying studio art and printmaking in Colorado, Kilgallen then moved to San Francisco and began drawing inspiration from old hand-painted shop signs. She would graffiti freight trains, an old hobo tradition, using the tag Matokie Slaughter. During her time in San Franciso Kilgallen worked at the public library repairing old books, a job that informed her study of traditional typefaces.

These influences are clearly visible in her work, made even more striking by her unorthodox use of colour (her paint was often obtained for free from recycling centres where surplus paint was randomly mixed to create ugly brown and yellow tones that many would have deemed unusable).

Sadly Margaret Kilgallen was diagnosed with cancer while expecting her first child and, opting to forego chemotherapy to see the pregnancy through, died in June 2001 just a few weeks after giving birth to her daughter.

Her work, along with that of her husband and many of their contemporaries, is featured in the documentary Beautiful Losers. Margaret Kilgallen explains her work and influences in the video below.

A Love Letter To Brooklyn : Part 2

Take the subway to downtown Brooklyn and turn the corner from the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station and you come face to face with “A Love Letter To Brooklyn” the latest piece from renowned street artist / sign painter Steve Powers a.k.a. ESPO.

Following on from “A Love Letter For You” and his work in Philadelphia where he took old, decrepit buildings and breathed new life into them with huge murals full of optimistic slogans and messages, Powers was commissioned to do similar with this Macy’s Parking garage. It was completed in October 2011.

Having seen photos of the work prior to visiting Brooklyn I knew what to expect, yet was still taken aback when I first encountered the piece.  It was bold and striking but at the same time it was just a part of the downtown Brooklyn landscape and we, the small-town British tourists with cameras out and heads directed skywards, appeared to be the only people paying attention.

From browsing the blogs for information it seems that the piece has divided local opinion on its merits. As an outsider I was impressed and considering the building it adorns is fairly ugly, claims that the work is an eyesore seem a little unfair. I can only see it as an improvement.

A Love Letter For You

First & Fifteenth

A Love Letter To Brooklyn : Part 1

Back from first trip to NYC.  Truly a remarkable city and a difficult one to experience in a week.  Thankfully we centred most of our activity to Brooklyn as we were located in the Greenpoint / Williamsburg area and, although we couldn’t not take time out to visit Central Park, experience Halloween in Greenwich Village, catch a band at The Bowery Ballroom and take the Staten Island Ferry, we generally kept visits to Manhattan to a minimum, so enamoured were we with Brooklyn’s charms.

Lost! My wife and brother-in-law consult map, I take photos.

Compared to the dwarfing city across the East River, Greenpoint and Williamsburg were reassuringly scaled-down with an industrial feel that could be considered offputting by some.  But after exploring we found some gems in amongst the warehouses and the area soon became a comforting respite from the chaos of Manhattan.

I also took the opportunity to photograph some of the local sign work and found some good examples, providing an interesting contrast to the overwhelming lightshow that is Times Square.

We will return.