You still see them, weathered hand-painted signs advertising a business from days gone by. They were the norm.
You needed a sign…
you called a sign painter…
they painted one for you…
Until the 80’s, when slowly the warmth and character of hand-crafted signs were replaced with flat and soulless vinyl.
But thanks to a recent revival in hand lettering and the release of Sign Painters: The Movie directed by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon. The film gives insight to the talent and love that goes into a hand-lettered sign.
If you know me, then you know I have a huge love for anything typography related. When my boyfriend and I go riding on his Harley, I’m on the back snapping photos of the great signs as we go through small towns. When I heard about the screening for Sign Painters: The Movie, I had to go.
The Society of Typographic Arts hosted a screening of the film and brought in three of the sign painters featured in the film: Bob Behounek, Jeff Williams, and Pat Finley. Along with Ches Perry of Right Way Signs.
The real treat was after the movie when the Ches Perry, Pat Finley, Jeff Williams and Bob Behounek took questions. They told stories about how they first got started. They all painted as a kid, in some way or another. At some point, someone noticed and asked them to do something bigger and eventually they were taken under the wing of an experienced painter. The term ‘fire in the belly’ was used more than once. Meaning, someone would notice the talent and see the drive to learn. Those were the days of the apprenticeship. We need more of that today. Apprenticeships and talent mixed with unstoppable drive “fire in the belly!”
The response to a question about what trends they look to and how they find their inspiration was interesting too. They didn’t seem sure how to respond at first, which makes sense since their style IS the trend. Then they said they always looked to each other. Bob Behounek would go to the tracks to see what Pat Finley’s latest work on that year’s race cars. They would see something the other did, try it and then someone else would see it and try it too. As Bob said “It takes two to start a trend.”
We need more of that today as well. People who aren’t concerned about following a trend because they are too busy coming up with new things that will eventually become the trends.
The days of apprenticeships are sadly gone, and there aren’t many sign painting schools to be found, how does one enter the field?
“Paint anything that doesn’t move.” — Jeff Williams
“Practice, practice, practice.” —Ches Perry
“Get a Speedball book” — Pat Finley
P.S. Sometimes I share the pictures of the old signs I snap on Instagram 🙂