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Before the age of computers and vinyl printers, sign painters worked by hand to illustrate storefronts, billboards and banners. Sign Painters, a new book and documentary by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon, captures the work of artists around the country who are keeping the art alive.
Old signs become art.
I want to make signs that turn into art.
The film shines a spotlight on the little-acknowledged but highly seen world of commercial sign painting. Its protagonists are the men and women whose brushstrokes have rendered a typographic landscape now fading from view since the emergence in 1982 of cheaper, faster vinyl signage. As with most things made with care and skill, those gorgeously hand-painted signs make their vinyl counterparts look as noxious and unexceptional as they really are. Like other unsung-hero docs of late such as Linotype (about the outmoded printing press that once revolutionized the newspaper business — and a truly wonderful, must-see film!) and Died Young Stayed Pretty (about the gig poster), Sign Painters focuses on the quality and the craftsmanship of its artisans. Unlike those subjects, hand-painted signmaking is experiencing a “renaissance,” say the filmmakers, who also made a book on the subject. (See the branded short film “Up There” by Mother New York for Stella Artois as further proof.) Looking forward to seeing this story writ large on the big screen.
We couldn’t be more excited. One of our favorite books is now a movie! Study the related material listed above and stay tuned for more information about a screening near you.
From Sign Paintersby Faythe Levine and Sam Macon.
The book is now a movie!
Please join us for two events this week to celebrate the newly released
Sign Painters book!
First, this Thursday at the Type Directors Club in Manhattan, authors Faythe Levine and Sam Macon will discuss the profiled practitioners, their time-honored methods, and their appreciation for quality and craftsmanship. TDC’s holiday party will follow the presentation.
Then in Brooklyn on Saturday, Colossal Media will be hosting a book release party where the authors will be giving a short talk and signing books, complimentary beverages will be provided.
New Modernist Type & Sign Painters lectures | TDC Holiday Party
Type Directors Club, 347 West 36th Street
Thursday, Dec 6th, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
TDC members free | Non members $20
Student Non members $15
Colossal Media Sign Painters Book Release Party
85 Wythe Ave, Willimasburg, Brooklyn
Saturday, Dec 8th, 4 to 7 p.m.
Free and open to the public
Not only was it featured on the approval matrix; NYMag calls Sign Painters some mix between highbrow and brilliant! Get yourself a copy of this beautiful book!
Norma Jeanne Maloney, Red Rider Studios, Austin, Texas
“Even as a small child I had a fascination with typography, which was completely abnormal.”
From Sign Painters, available now!
Damon Styer, New Bohemia Signs, San Francisco
“I don’t know how a new generation of sign painters is supposed to make it. It’s not just about good design and nice hand lettering. It’s about being able to do it quickly and efficiently so that you can get paid enough to keep doing it. Practice is a part of it, but so is having good supplies, the right brushes, a smooth enough board, and paint that’s going to coat in one shot.”
From Sign Painters, available now!
Caitlyn Galloway, New Bohemia Signs, San Francisco
“My other work outside of sign painting is as a gardener/farmer. I’m naturally drawn toward hands-on activities that are meditative, that I can be invested in, and then have this amazing final product. I get in a similar headspace when I’m tending to the soil or focusing on making a letter look a certain way.”
From Sign Painters, available soon!
Grocery store paper signs
“You don’t outline a sign painter’s letter and then fill it in with a Q-tip—that isn’t really sign painting. You use the appropriate size brush and do it in three strokes. Who can do that? My computer can’t.” —John Downer, sign painter
From Sign Painters, available October 2012.