Back To School

We seem to be getting fairly regular requests for hand painted quotes on walls in schools.
This is the latest batch – sixteen quotes for the walls in the languages department of a Bournemouth school, in a mixture of French, Spanish, Latin, and Italian.

Good practice, especially for speed and stamina as I had to work long days in order to get the work completed for the new school term. Here are the results:


A few bits and pieces that I’ve been messing around with of late, in between my real work……

The main purpose of these has been to try and develop some freehand skills, trying to rely less on pre-pounced artwork. With the saw, I just loosely sketched the layout in white pencil and painted over the top, adding freehand shadow, lining and flourishes afterwards. For the flourishes on the handle I used a Swirly-Q – a long, thin brush often used for intricate and twisty detail and lettering. It’s a brush that I’m keen to get to grips with.

Sky Bike


Sometimes a job comes along that you just take without question. 

We were recently approached by a client with a restored vintage push bike and trailer with a request to paint logos along with some lining detail. 

I accepted without a second thought as it was an unusual commission, a good portfolio addition, and the clients seemed to me a worthwhile connection to make with the prospect of future sign painting projects.

The project was not without its issues – I had to work to a fairly tight deadline and it was some of the smallest lettering I’ve had to paint, on a surface that was unstable and awkward to work on. It’s the first time I’ve had doubts about my ability to complete a job, leading to a palpable sense of relief at my clients’ positive response to the work the following day when they came to collect.


Kevin Freeney

Kevin Freeney

Some time ago I posted about Dublin signwriter Kevin Freeney (1919 – 1986), and featured some photos of his extraordinary hand-painted cinema signs from the 80’s.

A recent revisit to the flickr page set up by his family in honour of his work has revealed more treasures, including some quite stunning vehicle work.  Despite the popularity of signwriting in the vintage vehicle community, there’s very little of this kind of work around these days in the commercial field, which makes these images all the more interesting.

Iphone 022 Iphone 012 Iphone 013 Iphone 014 Iphone 016 Iphone 018 Iphone 024 Iphone 021 Iphone 023 Iphone 020 Iphone 011

There are many more of these photos on the A Gentleman Of Letters flickr page so please have a look, there is some fantastic work on there and much to be inspired by.

Unfortunately I’ve been unable to source any similar treasures from my own family archive other than the handful of photos my dad kept of his work. I’ve been unable to find any documentation of my granddad’s work despite enquiring with several family members. It would be great to have an archive that stretches back to post-war times when he was starting out in this trade.

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!!

A Personal Milestone

P1020549Just returned from my first official signwriting job, painting these letters on the side of an office building in Bournemouth with my dad. I did the layout and design work on computer and then created paper templates which we pounced onto the wall.

P1020555The surface was a little uneven in places which made it difficult to get perfectly clean lines. It was also a challenge working off a ladder for the first time, trying to balance with paint, brush and mahlstick in hand.

P1020556P1020552P1020553I should also add that my dad worked at about three times my speed, but he does have fifty years experience under his belt so I’m not going to feel too bad about it.


Paper Signs

61975_541713842545317_639951143_nMy attention was recently drawn to the work of Dad’s Paper Signs from New Hampshire, USA.

Poster lettering has, I imagine, suffered an even worse decline than signwriting since the advent of cheap digital print shops and home printers, which is a shame as it appears to me to represent hand-lettering in its purest form as work of this nature seems more dependent on instinct in both the lettering style of the painter and his / her eye for layout, spacing and colour.

Again, it’s something I remember seeing a lot as a child, spending time at the family workshop – rolls of fluorescent paper adorned with fat, bold letters advertising sales and special offers – bright and visually striking.

298140_542841119099256_1945491942_n483321_487927657923936_1810357145_n941514_543712162345485_513049429_n575524_542669495783085_723931374_n580624_508453735871328_923895274_nCheck out the link above for more from Dad’s Paper Signs.