Saturday, 3 October 2015

And I thought it would be a regular sign shop.

Back in 1987 I started what I thought was going to be just another sign shop. Within a short period of time, it turned into a full blown scene shop. It wasn't long before some very talented artists started showing up on my doorstep. It's funny how they just seem to find you. It was a real education working shoulder to shoulder with them on a daily bases. It was the type of education you couldn't get from school, except for the School of Hard Knocks. Keep in mind, this was before the computers and CNCs came in in to the picture, although the Gerber 4 was just starting to make inroads into the sign industry. Everything was done by hand, both painting and fabrication. The days where spent pounding out backdrops, murals, signs, and props. It was a crazy time to say the least, but was also a blast. Kind of miss those day, must be getting old.

 Hand painted canvas panels. I believe it was 10' x 40'. It was painter for the Vulcan Space Centre. They wanted something that the tourists could  have their pictures taken in front of.  It was designed to have the end panels folded in, creating the illusion of being on the deck of the Star Ship Enterprise. 

What really helps to sell big paintings like this, is trying creating a sense of depth through the use  light and shadow. If all else fails...make it look cool.

    This project was designed to brighten up the halls after a  major  store pulled out out of the mall.
We would come in early, before the mall opened, so we could project the layout  for the day. All the layouts were done using  light blue pencil crayons (non photo). That way you didn't have to erase any lines as they were only visible up close. And it also kept people wondering how we could paint the images with no layout to follow. Had more than a few come up and ask.

You can never go wrong with a circus mural, people seem to enjoy looking at them. As long as you don't have a clown phobia or something.This project really got a lot of attention people went down the hallways just to check out the mural.

These are made painted trade show props. It's amazing what you can do with a sona tube, and some muslin. If you sand the ribs from the spiral off,  and glue muslin to the surface, you get a get a nice smooth surface to paint on.

More product displays for a trade show. All the lettering and graphics were hand painted back then. The boxes themselves, were build from cardboard. The first vinyl cutter was just starting to make it's appearance, but was still in its infancy stage. It didn't take long to see the writing on the wall. Big changes were coming to the way  signs would be made, and being skilled at lettering wouldn't be so important, if needed at all.

This was the store front done for a baggage company. It was sculpted out of styro foam, then coated with a product call Foam Coat. The silver base coat was water based clear, mixed with aluminum powder. Graphics were all hand painted. There is also a tail section and mural inside the store. 

Most of the sculpting was done by my brother Randy. Using a model kit for the layout worked great, everything was to a scale, we just sized it up to full scale. I still have the model kit, but never got around to putting it together. Maybe it could be a winter project. Complete with Buffalo Airways graphics:)

 The mural was painted on muslin in the shop. After trimming the canvas to the shape of the hanger, it was taken to site, and glued to the wall using wall paper paste. It's a great way to do commercial jobs. You only need to be on site for the install. It can be a bit of a challenge to say the least, working on site with the trades, who are also trying to get their work done. But I have seen some interest hand shadow puppets when project the layout. 

Friday, 2 October 2015

Crazy jobs from the past.

Back in the early days of Streamline Studios, we did a lot of crazy stuff. But this is one of the projects I remember the most. We use work with a special effects company called Unreel Effects, making props, just so they could destroy them. You never had to worry about a warranty. The Stampeders Football Club wanted to do some kind of big western welcome for the Argonauts, and their newest Line Receiver... Raghib "Rocket" Ismail This is back when John Candy and Wayne Gretzky were co owners of the team. They decided they wanted some kind of gag involving a rocket. Before we did the job, we thought it might be a good idea to do a test. So we made a small rocket pod, and blew the hell out of it in the parking lot behind the shop. We were like a bunch of little kids that had just smashed the neighbors window, running and hiding in the shop. Nowadays I would be writing this from a jail cell. But things were different back then. Funny thing is, the cops didn't even show up.

Setting up before the game. Jim from Unreel Effects, is reassuring the fellow from the stadium that everything will be just fine. Thought I would stay out of that conversation.

 The rocket in all its glory. built completely out of Styrofoam, gantry included. The biggest thing with working with props and explosives is not to creation projectiles. We used rubber cement and tooth picks to hold it all together. No matter how big the blast, the foam only travels so far.

 Count down on. On 3, the gantry fell away, and smoke began to bellow. If you look at the people behind, you can see some of them know what's coming.

Unfortunately, it wasn't to be the Rocket's day. It made a hell of a bang, and I think some people actually thought it was going to take off. We must have set them off their game as they lost. Mission accomplished.

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