Well, the week of sign painting is over and I am exhausted! I was not sure how much I was learning at times, but I do seem to have picked up quite a lot in the end.
Practising drawing letters, getting your thick and thin strokes right, and then beginning to draw words.
On day two we started by painting circles and lines, then whole words. It was difficult and quite frustrating.
I stayed for the week in a private house that becomes a B and B for the courses. It was a lovely place, with a very welcoming couple, and my fellow guests Joe and Mick were great company all week. We visited The Bear in Maidenhead three times! It is a Wetherspoons, and so is extremely cheap!
On Wednesday Joby Carter, the man who runs the course, showed us how to measure and draw block shadows on a letter. For me, this was a revelation. I have tried to do them before, but with no idea how. Unlike the spacing of your letters, ('if it looks right, it is right'-Joby's little saying with regards to this) there is an actual rule, which, when applied, works every time. I am so pleased I finally understand this!
Choose your shadow thickness, mark on the horizontal and vertical, get the angle on the corner, then use this measurement to work out your shadows on the curves. This was based on a 45% angle and this can be varied.
Painting the block shadows rather than the letters.
Painty, splattery shelves. There is a lot of white spirit used in repeatedly cleaning off your practise board. On Wednesday it became quite unbearable at times. It made me cough a lot!
Joby demonstrating on a sign he was working on. He demonstrated quite a lot of techniques. It was a week that made me realise I have a lot to do if I ever want to become any good at this. Joby Carter runs a Steam Fair-literally a fair run by steam, as in Victorian times. In the winter the work is all about repairing and maintaining the rides. He paints and works on signs during the course, demonstrating different things as he does so.
Below are examples of pattern making using a lining brush, a long skinny brush. I had a go. Tricky! In the photo above he is using the brush to add lines along the edges of the sign.
This is one of my practise words-chosen because it had lots of o''s and s's-both very difficult to get right.
On Wednesday evening, I decided that my final word would be PEARL. This word has no special significance, but it contains letters I felt reasonably confident at attempting!
I had a difficult morning on Thursday. I couldn't do the measuring, and, in the end, got Mick to draw my three main guidelines! There was a bit of an issue with blaming tools, but the rulers were not very good, the chinagraph pencils were blunt (and impossible to sharpen with the blunt knife available) and so there was a 2mm gap between where the ruler was and the pencil made a mark. Anyway, after three attempts, I finally managed to mark my word out. I even managed to paint the letters in blue before I went home. When Joby does a sign, he roughly marks it out and then starts painting. He is so good at the painting that he does not need the many guidelines and exactly drawn letters that I do. So, for me, the majority of the work goes into the preparation, and the actual painting part is a massive relief to do!
Lots of signs to look at for inspiration.
I wanted to see gilding, and Joby demonstrated this on Friday. How he did it is more or less the same as I have done it in the past, except he used 'whitening', a fine powder that you brush over the area before painting on the size, to prevent the gold from sticking onto other painted areas.
My sign finished! It may not look much but it was very difficult, so I am quite proud. I went out yesterday to get some plywood, which I am painting with gloss paint in the shed, and will then use to have another go. In the meanwhile I am practising drawing letters, looking at books on calligraphy and typography, and looking around the house for things I can paint. (there are lots!)
Joby showed us how he paints swirls. The top one is his and the bottom is mine-as you can tell.
The week has given me a taste of sign writing, and now it is up to me to practise lots more. Put it this way, I know a lot more about what I can't do! I need to work on my measuring and accuracy first, as that is really quite appalling. Getting a straight and level line was one of my major difficulties. Then, even when I did all my letters were slanting to the right. I will share any practise signs I make and would welcome constructive criticism!