Saturday, 22 February 2014

My first" Distressed Sign" workshop.

                                                                                                                                             Photo courtesy of Brian Batista

After years of thinking and talking about it, I finally decided to put together a Distressed Sign workshop. With the help of my good friend Doug Swinton, who owns Swinton's Art Supplies, it became a reality. I felt there may be an interest with people wanting to learn some of the scenic techniques I've picked up working as a sign painter / scenic artist, for the film industry over the years. With the rising popularity of hand lettering, it seems everyone and their dog is jumping on the bandwagon to hold sign painting workshops. Although I'm sure they can be fun, I don't think you'll learn more than just the basics of hand lettering in a day or two. What they will give you is an insight to the process, brushes and materials, and techniques, used in sign painting. From there, it's up to the students to follow thru on their own. 

I wanted to do a class that would take someone with little, or no sign experience , and have them create something they can take home with them. We decided to make it a 2 day workshop. Day One would cover the basics, layout / brushes / paint and materials.  Day Two would cover transferring their layout to the board / lettering, and the best part...wrecking their signs, but hey, that's what the workshop was all about. I didn't want to waste a lot of time on practicing strokes and such, as that gets old real quick. That's also something they can practice on their own. The focus of the workshop was to create a distressed sign, not to paint the perfect sign. I also wanted them to have something to take home to hang on their wall.

I decided to limit the class size to 10 students, which in the end, turned out to be the perfect size. Because this was going to be my first workshop, I felt it was important to make sure I had time for a one on one with each student. That way no one would feel left behind. As luck would have it, the class sold out.  They were such a enthusiastic group, they even took their layouts home to work on. Probably not something I would have done with my Saturday night. I also brought a wide selection of brushes and paints to the class, along with a few finished signs so they could see the finished product.  I find most people starting are unsure of what type of  brushes  to use / what kinds of paints and substrates to use, and where to find them. So I  put together a small workshop booklet that covered brush practice, layout rules, color combinations, and where to get suppliers. For the workshop, we would be using water based paints, and the proper brushes for use with the paints. I also spent some time covered oil based paints, such as One Shot and Ronan paints,  different types of brushes used, and which ones to use on what surfaces. One of the big high-lites of the class was letting them loose on the electro-pouncer, only two got zapped. All in all, everyone seem to really enjoy the workshop, and the best part was they all took home a finished sign. Due to the interest, and buzz from the class, we've decided to do another workshop in early July or August.  Here's just a few pictures from the class, I can't say how much I enjoyed sharing my information with such a talented group of people. I  look forward to doing it again.

Playing with the paint.

Starting the aging process

You could hear a pin drop, everyone was so focused on their project.

Step one. Painting the sign.

The most important part is enjoying yourself.

And I think they did.

Can you say "Focused"

                                           Photo courtesy of Brian Batista

                                                                                                                                                       Photo courtesy of Brian Batista

The happy class at the end of the workshop.
Thanks for taking the time to drop by. If you have an interest in attending one of the workshops, just drop me a line. I'll make sure to let you know when and where. Also, watch for my new upcoming video blogs.



  1. This is wonderful to see, Rick...They will never feel the same about sign-painters again. I mean that in the best possible way. Things like this go along way in educating and spreading goodwill about the craft that we have put our hand to.

  2. Great work Rick, we're also running some signwriting workshops over here in London now. If you have details of future events then please add them to my new site, Better Letters.
    PS. Will you be at the Letterheads meet in Mazeppa, Minnesota? My geography isn't great but it looks to be close to Canada.

  3. Thanks for the comments, You're right about the sharing thing Bob. With so many people having the passion, it's all about steering them in the right direction. Sam, I don't think I'll be making it to Mike's meet, but I suspect it will be a good one. Plus it's a 2026 km trek from here. It's to bad as it would be nice to sit and have a chat on our favorite subject...Ghost Signs. Maybe one day I'll make it to your part of the world.

  4. This is so nice... nothing like this where i live...
    Btw what you suggest for a paint if there is no way for me to get 1shot or any other sign painters paint?
    Great Blog

    1. Hi Guy, thanks for dropping by. Where are you located? A lot of suppliers will ship product to you. In a pinch, you could use Tremclad or Rust-o-leum paints, just make sure it's the oil based product. They're better than the Alkyd based house paints you get from the local paint store, and you can get them in 1/2 pint cans. I also use a lot of latex house paint for walls and board signs. It's not a good choice for metal or glass though, as the don't bond well to those surfaces. You can use a bonding primer, that that can be hit or miss...mostly miss. Hope this is of some help.

    2. Hey Rick thank you very much for the reply, im located in israel, and somehow im having trouble ordering paints, its weird, but i guess it got something to do with unauthorized chemicals...
      This is very helping... actually i did spent a lot of money trying some paints from house paints to industrials, for working with the paints on pounce mark i somehow managed to get some ok result, the problem comes mostly on getting nice smooth flow of the paint, i never used 1shot and all i know about how it suppose to feel is via youtube :), so i know my only choice is trying... im a calligrapher and somehow sign writing combine two of my favorites things letters and being outside, and the fact that there is no one here doing it, make me think it may be interesting to start doing it here... so for now im trying building some sort of a system that will base on what's available here. beside that im going to do some workshops later this year in london that may give me a better clue of how things done, and your blog is very helpful, and work is stunning.
      thanks again (hope it wasent too long)

    3. Hi Guy, Sorry to take so long to reply, it's been a busy week. You may want to drop a line to One Shot, and see if they may have a suppler that can help you out. As for getting the paint to level out, you may want to see if you can find a product called Penetrol ( made by Flood Paint Solutions)) . It's a paint conditioner that slows down the drying, and helps the paint flow out. One Shot also has a flow enhancer called Chromaflo ZZ6000 Flow Enhancer. You may also want to touch base with a fellow named Sam Roberts in the UK. He may be able to help put you in touch with someone that could help you find some sign paint and supplies. He just started a new sign site called: Just mention you were talking with me. Good luck on your quest.


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