August 24, 2011

The Hand Lettering of a Master Sign Painter

Here's an amazing example of the lost art of sign painting. I came upon this old sign in a rental shop and stared at it to see if it was really hand lettered. Estimating it to be at least 40 years old, back then all signs were painted by hand. Computers weren't around to make cookie-cut vinyl letters.

Consider the "O" and how his stroke made a relatively perfect circle each time. Look at how his "A"s and "E"s all look the same! Unbelievable consistency here and on top of that, his lettering shows personal style. Its just beautiful!
Compare the actual Brush Script font here to the sign. It is so true to the font that I had a difficult time believing it wasn't vinyl. It's not! It's just incredible how he made those strokes perfectly and with flare.

When I was young, I had the privilege of being tutored by such a master sign painter as this. The method is to dip the paintbrush into the heavy enamel sign paint, then work it on a palette to get just the right amount of paint on the squirrel hair lettering brush, while mixing in just the right amount of turpentine in order to achieve the right consistency that makes the paint flow onto the metal sign. Too much turp and the paint drips. Not enough turp and the paint skips and gets gummy. The brush must be loaded with just enough of this mixture to perform each stroke with one pass and without stopping. The artist has to watch both edges of the stroke at the same time and move with the same consistent timing. His hand has to stay the right distance from the sign. Move the hand closer and the stroke gets wider. Move the hand away and the stroke gets thinner.

This was an art, and THIS guy, whoever he was, was truly an expert. I can tell by the flawlessness of the thin letters. Every stroke of every letter was done with one pass. A master doesn't need to go over the stroke a second time. Like many things, this art has been eliminated by technology. 'Faster, cheaper' has moved it aside and another piece of soul has been lost. What a shame!

August 22, 2011

Art Photos

Here's a few random art photographs I've taken over the years. I love to shoot but I am completely clueless when it comes to settings on my camera. My general method is to blindly fumble through various settings until it looks decent.
I would say that I'm technically inept at cameras but I am a tech guy, so I have no excuse other than I don't shoot enough to remember settings that work and settings that don't.  But I know what I don't like and I don't like flash.  It's all about the lighting and a flash just destroys the image, -it's like being presented with a nice meal and then having a fly land in the mashed potatoes.
I did lighting for the Dalai Lama some years ago and had a limited opportunity to snap some close-ups as he walked by. All I got was blurry waves of orange. So I photo-sewed some of them together in this image.
It's actually kind of cool because it gives him a ghostly spiritual feel.

A spookier image is this carousel horse taken at night when nobody was around. I think I took this at the beach park in Santa Cruz. Funny how such a kid friendly image can become so scary under different lighting conditions.

Then there's this old fallout shelter door below that I happened by one night in Honolulu. So emotionally cold is the image and yet it's fiery hot yellow from the single incandescent bulb overhead. I think it's the peephole that made me pause and imagine what it would be like being inside... and then stuck outside pounding on the door to get in... Creepy!

Lastly, I'll end with a lovely fish pond image showing the colorful Koi frolicking about. Not so thought provoking but decorative and rather calming.  I'll post more random favs in the future. Until then, if you see a guy swearing at his camera, that'd be me.