Monday, 5 October 2015

The rise in popularity of the painted Ghost Sign.

I seem to be getting more request these days to paint ghost signs in pubs, restaurants, and stores. In the film business,  it's just another day at the easel or wall. Out of all the different types of sign work I do, the ghost sign is my favorite type of sign to paint. Aging a sign to look believable takes a little work to get it right, from the background colours and breakdown, to the lettering itself. I can't say I'm a big fan of crackle paint finishes, but everything has its place. One thing that can really help to pull it off,  is to start a collection of reference pictures. It's best to separate them into categories, such as various stages of aging, from the slightly aged, to the ones you can barely read. And also signs painted on different surfaces, wood , brick, metal and such. It makes it a heck of a lot easier when you want to find a reference for the job you plan to do. One of the things you to pay attention to, is the brush strokes. Paint breaks down in different ways, and so does the lettering. If you pay close attention to those little details, it makes it a lot easier the paint a believable ghost sign. If you are doing a job for a paying customer, you sould really pay attention to the layout. Nothing spoils a good ghost sign more than a terrible lettering job. If your not strong at lettering, it helps to look at actual signs for reference. If you're just doing them for fun, or for friends, it's not as important. Sometimes you get to design the sign, other times, you'll be working with client supplied artwork. You may feel the design could be improved, and it won't hurt to make a suggestion or two, but they insist that's what they want, then that's what you paint. You could tell them their design sucks, but you probably won't be doing the job after that. Here's a few examples of some of the recent, and past jobs.

Hand painted ghost sign for the TV series "Fargo" 2nd season. It was painted on a surface that was already breaking down, for real. They wanted something interesting to fill the big blank wall. I got luckily with the weather the day I was suppose to paint the sign.  It was still early spring, and quite cold during the days. As luck would have it, a Chinook blew in, and it turned into a beautiful day. Thank god for Alberta Chinooks.

Painted for a local pub. They wanted that "old warehouse" look. The trick with this type of sign is to keep it simple and clean. Also, watch how strong and opaque the colours are. I tend to work with very transparent colours, then build up as needed. It's also a good idea to mute your colours, black more into a grey, and white pushed to a grey ivory. Then the sign has an aged look when you finish, and you don't have to spend time breaking it down and aging it.

Working on my favorite surface... brick. This was a job where the designer wanted to create the effect of one sign over the other. I also added a broken white wash to the brick to back up the sign.  They then hung old speedway photos to add to the decor.

  A close-up to show the breakdown detail. It really helps if you put a few layers of aging in the colours.

Another piece for decor. New sign painted and aged to have a rustic feel. I really enjoy making this types of sign. Lets me use my limited wood working skills along with my painting skills. The crab painting looks complicated, but is really like a pen and ink illustration, just takes time and patience. I used a release before painting the background so I could remove paint at will.

Pretty straight forward lettering on a concrete wall. They wanted to fill the space with some proverb, and also have it look like its been there for a while simple and fun.

Another simple brick job. Quick to do, and very effective at filling space. The trick with this type of sign is to keep the colours muted and transparent. It's easier to add more paint than to remove it.

  Sometime it's all about filling the space. They were also using the slogan in their marketing campaign.

 This would be a good example of painting what the client wants. Although I could have improved on the lettering, it was part of their existing logo.What they wanted was a sign that had that old "faded metal sign" look. The sign was for a charity event at this years Sturgis Bike Rally. And from what I heard, it did it's job and raised money for a good cause. It never hurts to be part of something like that. Thanks for dropping by. And free to post a comment or send me an email if you have any questions.

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.