Sunday, 19 April 2015

Time to catch up. It's been awhile.

Well I must admit I've been a little tarty on adding any new posts for awhile, it's been crazy busy to say the least. I did manage to squeeze a little break at Christmas, but it was short lived. It seems the interest in hand lettering is only growing, and at this point, showing no sign of slowing down. Although I do enjoy the resurgence in hand painted signs, I do find it a bit of a challenge to keep up at times. I guess in the big picture, I would rather have too much work, than sit by the phone hoping for it to ring. With the coming of spring, so comes the calls for exterior wall work, and they're already starting to call.

This is a job I just did for the Reynolds-Alberta Museum. They had recently finished the restoration of a Mogul Stationary Engine, and the only thing left was the pinstriping. Although it's relatively simple striping, based on the original design, it did pose its own set of challenges. Between the rough surface and awkward angles, it can be a little tough to get a nice line going. But with a little patience, and did I mention patience, it can be done. The one thing I've learned being a sign painter after all these years, is that it really pays off to be versatile in the type of work you. It really comes down to mastering your layout and brush skills. Once you feel confident with your skills, you can then decide on the type of work you want to do.

 One of the two flywheel for the engine. The thing about old equipment, is everything is heavy. Thankfully they had them mounted on a stand that allowed it to spin freely. Made my job a whole lot easier, and spared me the pain of stretching over a table.    

You can get a sense of how rough the surface is from the picture. It's also is the type of surface that doesn't allow for taping the lines.You would probably spend more time cleaning up the paint bleeds from under the tape than it would be worth. I did use tape, but only as a guild. You want to work with the paint as thick as you can, that way you get nice clean lines.

I love the simplicity of this stuff. It's made to work. Things don't have to be complicated to work, they just have to be functional. You can't say that about a lot of things today.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

If you like that "Old Sign" look.

I receive quite a few emails inquiring on how to go about creating different distressed sign looks.  I thought it might fun to open a Facebook Group page to talk about the process, and also share information with other that have the same  passion. If you have an interest, just follow the link The Distressed Sign Workshop  You'll have to 'JOIN ' the  group, as I've set it up as a closed group. I'll still be posting information on my different projects here, but I thought a group page would be good for interacting with questions / techniques and such. I've confirmed doing another Distressed Sign workshop / February 2015  at Swinton's Art Supplies in Calgary. Follow the link for more information: Swinton's / Destressed Sign Workshop.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Just a few of my recent projects..

It's been a while since I've had a chance to post anything. It's been an interesting and busy time to say the least. I thought I would pick a few projects to write about that you might find of interest. Here's a brief description of the stories I'm working on.

The 1953 Alco A and B unit graphic re-creation project. I'll go through the steps I took to re-create the Canadian Pacific lettering and numbers for both units. I'll also cover re-creating the Beaver Crest mounted on the nose of the Engine.

This summer I had the pleasure of doing a sign workshop for the ALHFAM Annual Conference. It was attended by members involved in the running and maintaining of historic parks and villages across North America. The workshop focused the basics of sign painting, and also the re-creating and maintaining historic signs.

Creating a distressed sign to be used  for CJSW's Fund Raising Campaign. I'll explain the designing steps, and also the making of the actual sign used for the campaign.  


Thursday, 21 August 2014

A quick distressed sign.

There seems to be a lot of interest out there in making distressed signs. With so many ways to make one, it can be a little confusing to say the least. In the big picture, it doesn't really matter how you achieve the look, as long as you enjoy the process. Having a background as a sign painter/ scenic artist in the film industry, I've had the good fortune to take my sign aging skills to a whole different level. In the film industry, it's all about speed and being believable, not to mention, the ability to work on all types of surfaces under extreme conditions.

Here's a short post on creating a simple aged sign. I'm also working on a more detailed post on creating a similar type of aged sign, but will include more of the process and materials involved. The one thing I always tried to stress when asked about making aged signs is just look at the real thing. You can find many examples around your town or city, or on the internet. You should also start a detailed file on different types of signs, on different surfaces. For colour reference, I use a common fan deck you get from the paint store. Gee...who would have thought it could be that easy. And don't overlook the fact that the colours have long lost their intensity. Always try to start with a muted pallet, it makes the sign look old with little effort.

I like to play around with different looks, great way to waste time. This sign was more about the aged look than the sign. I start off with a piece of cheap plywood, something with a rough grain. I keep the copy really simple as that's not the focus of the project. I then add an age to the wood, a simple color wash of raw umber and black, nothing fancy. I also apply a release to the wood surface before applying the base colour. I'll go over using release products in the next post. I then coat the board with the base colour and do the layout.

With the layout done, now it's time to do the lettering and boarder. As I mentioned before, keep it simple. Although the white looks like it's straight white, it's actually a mix of white / raw umber and raw sienna. The lettering took around 15 mins. to do, free hand, The trick is to use the right brush. The paint is just your regular latex house paint in an eggshell sheen. I find eggshell works well for lettering. 

The finished sign. Once the paint had dry, I used warm water and a scrub brush to remove the lettering colour and base colour. With the release applied the the board, it makes it a simple task to remove the base color, thus exposing the aged board, no sanding involved. With a little block aging ( will explain in next post) to tweak the sign, the project is almost done. All that is left is to do a wash coat to settle the colours. Hope you enjoyed the post. Thanks for all your emails, its always nice to hear how many of you enjoy my blog and tolerate my writing skills. Thanks

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Wow...An award for the historical sign work I do, what an honour.

A few weeks ago I received a phone call saying I had been nominated, and had won a Lion Award from the Calgary Heritage Authority, in the tradespeople / craftspeople category. I was quite surprised to say the least. It was nice to see the awareness and the recognition of old signs and lettering, and the craft of hand painting them. And that it is viewed as an important part in preserving our history. No digital back then folks!

On Thursday I attended the award ceremonies to receive my award. I was 1 of 2 winners in my category, the other being a Tinsmith for his work in restoring the metal moldings and architectural details on the many old buildings in our city, a true craftsman.The event was also attended by a number of architects and designers involved in restoration work, who were very interested in the type of work I do. It'll be interesting to see what comes of it. I also had a chance to joke around with Calgary's Mayor Nenshi, who I must say, had a great sense of  humour. It's been a long and bumpy road learning my craft, not to mention making a living as a sign painter, and I wouldn't change it for the world.

  Our City's Mayor Nenshi giving a speech on the important of preserving our city's history. I had a chance to talk with him after the event, and he came across as a really nice person. He mentioned I should maybe hand paint all his re-election signs, He sure has a good sense of humour.

It's always something to get up in front of a crowd. It's also a good time to make sure your fly is done up. I was also asked if I would like to do a short speech, no pressure there. I  decided to talk about the importance of signs, and not letting the craft be forgotten. And any restoration from the past, needs to be done the way it was originally done. Stencils and vinyl weren't around back then. The funny thing is, in 50 years, someone will be restoring the digital and vinyl stuff  being done today. I guess that's what you call the full circle.

                                                     Now to find a good spot for it to live.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

This time it's real Gold Leaf

In my last post, I talked about doing faux gold leaf water gilding, this time, it was the real deal. A client of mine wanted an "Old School" gold leaf sign for his high end restaurant, a water gilded gold leaf sign. Done it the traditional way, using a water and gelatin wash to adherer the gold to the glass.

 I started by painting the outline and drop shadow in reverse on the inside of the window. The next step was to apply the gold leaf. It's always fun working on location, sort of. The first problem came when one of the staff decided to come through the door where I was working. I had just finished making a batch of size, and had set it on a ledge using the door closer arms for support. Although I had put signs on the door asking "Please do not use these doors", and also had a ladder blocking the inside, she still decided to use it. Needless to say, everything on the ledge came tumbling down, include the fresh pot of size. I always find interesting, and frustrating, when people don't think that warning signs and such, apply to them. Although she was very apologetic, it didn't change the fact I would have to start over. Even after locking the doors (something I should have done in the first place) people would come up to the door and pull on it, not to mention the pissed off look they gave me because they had to use the other doors, which was 20' away.

Applying the leaf went smoothly, except for the air from the air exchange blowing the leaf on the cutting pad around, but that' just part of the job. The backing-up and cleanup went just as smooth. In the end, the customer was thrilled with the job, and also amazed with the amount of work that went into doing this type of sign. Hopefully he'll keep that in mind when writing the cheque.

 With the outline and shadow done, it's time to move onto the gilding.

With the backup done, and excess gold clean off the job is finished. Time to head off on a short, and well deserved vacation. Although it doesn't show up well in the picture, the gold is highly reflective, the true look of a water gilded sign. Nothing else comes close to the look.