Some good examples of the art of the pub sign on the BBC website.
Strangely enough, while glancing through the many fine examples, my eye was caught by the sign for The Milk Churn in Wiltshire. Something oddly familiar about this one…..
This is a photo, first featured on this blog a couple of years ago, of my dad painting a milk churn for a wedding. At first I thought it was a coincidence, just a very similar image, until I noticed that the artist had even copied the holes that used to house the spindles of the busted old chair that my dad uses in his workshop, even down to the crack on the edge of the seat.
So there we have it – Vaughan Jones (kind of) immortalised on a pub sign in Wiltshire.
Here’s something I’ve been meaning to try for some time now – convex lettering, the effect of curving or extending outwards.
For these techniques I thought I’d practice on a new kit box I picked up second hand a year ago. Since then I’ve been giving it a few coats of varnish and getting it ready for some tasty decorative lettering.
Light and shading effects are one of the strongest tools in a signwriters’ repertoire – quite often very simple decorative techniques which, when utilised correctly, can elevate and enhance lettering into something extraordinary. On a functional level, this perhaps isn’t as necessary in the current climate as trends in branding and contemporary typography have drifted towards the minimal, with the majority of our recent hand-painted work involving simple one-colour logo designs with bold, flat lettering and featuring very little in the way of flourishes or elaboration of any description.
While this is good, and I’ll admit to being an advocate of simplicity in design, there are few things as pleasing to the eye as well executed ornamental lettering.
So far my learning has followed what I imagine to be a fairly predictable trajectory – once moderately confident with painting basic letters you try experimenting with simple drop shadows, before progressing onto block or cast shadows, then introducing some lighting effects onto the letters, and so on….
Convex lettering manages to incorporate many of these techniques, light and shade, into one impressive whole, producing the effect of a solid, three dimensional text which, when embellished with further shading treatments, can give the impression that the text is standing off or elevated above the surface of the sign.
When analysed this isn’t necessarily a complicated procedure, but it takes thought and deliberation, especially with the use of colour. I experienced a few issues while attempting to achieve the different pink tones on the letters – too subtle and you don’t achieve any distinction between the different surfaces of the letters; too strong and you get a patchwork effect which distracts and can strip the lettering of its clarity.
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.
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.
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.