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.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Faux Gold Leaf window signs for the movie industry.

Here's a little faux Gold Leaf window job recently completed for a TV western series. It's not often they want this type of work, but it's a welcome change to the standard sign work that's usually done for film. It was done using the same glass gilding approach you would use on a real gold job, except using dutch gold instead of real gold. Although dutch gold/ bronze leaf is heavier, and is a little tricky to work with, on camera, you can't really tell the difference.

The first step is to reverse paint the outline with the pattern attached to the outside, making sure to put registration marks so you can line up the pattern when it's time to backup the lettering. If you're not familiar with the process, it means to line up the pattern, and pounce the layout over the leaf. That way, you have a layout to follow. 

With the leaf laid down using a gelatin wash, and the holidays filled in, it's time to do the backup lettering. Because this is done for a western, you don't want a perfect lettering job, you want it to have a little character. There is a difference between painting a sign with character, and painting a bad sign. The funny thing is, they both will work in film. No town ever had perfect signs through out the town. Just check the history pictures and you'll see what I mean.

                                                                                                            Photo by Randy Janzen Photography...Thanks Bro.

The finished glass installed. A sign like this really stands out, but could also pose a few challenges for the lighting and camera people, but it will definitely be noticed. Thanks for taking the time to drop by. If you have any questions, feel free the contact me.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man replica bike project

With Spring officially here, I thought this would be a timely post to do. I was approached by a new client that was building a replica bike from the movie Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. He had contacted me through the company Facebook page inquiring if I would be interested in re-creating the lettering job done on the hero bike, ridden by Micky Rouke. The answer was a quick ... You Bet!  Being from the 2 wheeled community, and having watched the movie myself, it was a perfect fit. Not to mention. a great use of the hand lettering skills.

                                                                  Picture courtesy of the web

My client had fabricated the bike from the ground up, and needless to say, I was blown away by the attention to detail. My job was to replicate the lettering and graphics. We decided to stick as close as possible to the lettering done on the original bike. There are other bikes people had built, but I would be only using reference from the movie bike. Whoever had painted the original had put their own touch to the lettering, so it was important for me to try and capture it. There were a few subtle differences in the tank, so I had to improvise on the positioning of the lettering. In the end, the client was thrilled to say the least, and it was a piece that I'm glad to share with you. Here's a few pictures of the work in progress. And I'd like to say a big thank you Andy, for trusting me with a piece of your dream project. 

The blank canvas.

Due to the curved surface, the pattern was applied in separate pieces. This way, you have the luxury to move it around.and adjust to the surface. Another trick I use is to print off part of the layout, instead of redrawing it, and pounce the print. It saves you a little time. And no, it's not cheating, you still have to paint it.

                With the layout in place, it's time to get the brushes out and mix some paint.

With the orange on, it's time to move onto the outlining. Time to turn up the tunes and get into the outlining zone.

Just about there. Next step, paint inline and card detail. 
Sorry about the glare, the lettering is really orange. 

The finished job. I was asked to change a few cards to represent some important points in the client's life.

The finished bike. It's always nice to be part of a custom build. It's the type of job that someone has put their heart and soul into, and they have the trust in you to be part of it. PS... it sounds as good as it looks. Thanks for taking the time to drop by.

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.