Another Sign Movie

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Topics include: Sign Making, Design, Fabrication, Letterheads, Sign Books.

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Bill Ames
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Another Sign Movie

Post by Bill Ames » Mon Nov 05, 2012 7:09 pm

Interesting video. I really like some of the fonts they briefly show.

https://vimeo.com/44200022

Mike Jackson
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Re: Another Sign Movie

Post by Mike Jackson » Mon Nov 05, 2012 10:00 pm

Bill,
The font used most in the film was designed by Tom Kennedy and is available at Letterhead Fonts. I believe the set is called Billhead.

I found the film interesting and fairly informative and has a nice "texture". It is refreshing to see someone actually selling a hand lettered job and even better to know the client is buying the sign because it was hand lettered.

Maybe it is the "hand done" look he is selling, but boy his lettering strokes are rough! I hate to be too critical. People here will immediately catch the fact he is using Dutch Metal and more or less calling it a gold leaf job in the Chicago style.

I watched Open Range again the other day and enjoyed seeing all the hand rendered signs in the movie. Sea Bisquit was on earlier and it is loaded with period, hand lettered signs. Very nice!

Mike Jackson
Mike Jackson / co-administrator
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Bill Ames
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Re: Another Sign Movie

Post by Bill Ames » Tue Nov 06, 2012 8:40 am

I just checked out the Billhead Font and it is similar but not quite as ornate. Both are very nice fonts though.

I'm absolutely in no position to criticize the guy's techniques or brush strokes. Mine are way rough but then again this is just a hobby for me and not what pays my bills. As with all things, if I had occasion to practice more I'm sure I'd improve.

It's interesting to note that he talks about acceptance into the art community. I've noticed that people are taking an interest in sign writing as an art form. I'm sure it's not coincidence that I stumbled across it around 2-3 years ago. Otherwise I would've probably never really thought about how many of these signs, reverse glass, and gilding are done.

As far as the movie goes, I like watching the process as much as hearing the history and background of what the person is doing. I'd like to see more of the techniques showcased. I've been hard pressed to find many resources here in Baltimore outside of the stuff I find on the net or the occasional used bookstore.

Mike Jackson
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Re: Another Sign Movie

Post by Mike Jackson » Tue Nov 06, 2012 11:17 am

Hi Bill,
There are three variants of Billhead at LHF....Billhead 1890, 1900, and 1910. It was used extensively in the film, though mainly as subcopy and in the list of products on the round corner. I am fairly sure the rest of the fonts in the video are also from LHF, but you'd have to dig around to find them.

Like I said, I enjoyed the flavor of the film. There is some deception or slight of hand going on in the film however. He mentions some computer assistance here and there, but the entire design was made with a computer and using pre-existing fonts and probably all of the panels were done with clip art similar to the stuff I sell. That's all well and good and the way most signs are designed nowadays. At the first of the clip, he is hand drawing over his layout with a Sharpie, but that'd be an unnecessary step since it is already on his computer in vector format. It would have been just for show in this case.

In the old days, you would have sketched the layout on a drawing board, then either scale the design up, or project it up with an overhead projector or opaque projector. In the film, he would have let his plotter pen plot the entire computer design on paper. Depending on the kind of plotter people have, some will do a perforated pattern in one step. In the film, he hand perforated the paper pattern with an electro-pounce machine. In days before an electro-pounce, they would have used a pounce wheel.

When I watch the film, I understand the general look and feel the film makers wanted to portray. It is interesting to me to see where the sign artist draws the technological line in the sand. It appears to me the line is "hand painted" signs but everything else up to that step is fair game to use any piece of technology available and necessary. Again, this is NOT a criticism—only an observation.

I also watched the girl painting in the border of the big panel using a fairly large fitch. They are used mostly on rough walls. If I had been lettering the panel, I would have used either a 1/2" or maybe 3/4" flat or even a large quill for the detail work in the border, then a 2" to 3" cutter to fill in the background. In the old days, the journeyman would be cutting in all of the lettering and a helper would be filling in with the cutter. That is close to what is happening in this film, but it looks like the owner is letting the helper try her hand with some of the border using a fitch.

There are lots of top notch caliber hand letterers here and maybe other can chime in to help illuminate the subject.

Possibly the most important point in all of this might the be public starting to place a higher value on the craft if hand done vs the homoginized look they see all around them now. I mentioned some of the movies with hand lettered signs. There are less and less people learning to hand letter anymore, so you might expect there to be a demand someday that will pay for the skills above and beyond the current value of the same sign done with vinyl and sheets of printed materials. The film never discusses the prices paid or whether the sign company actually made any money on any of the projects shown.

Either it should cost a lot for all of the hand labor, or the sign company can lose money because of all of the hand labor (labor of love). There has to be a trade-off or balance somewhere. For example, you can make a pounce pattern with the computer in almost exactly the same time it takes to cut the vinyl. It costs for the vinyl and application tape, while the paint is only pennies. Applying a legend of vinyl takes almost exactly the same amount of time as it would take to center and level the pounce pattern. The vinyl guy walks away while the sign painter has to now hand letter all of the lettering, and possibly requiring two coats of paint. It might take two or three more hours....or a lot more hours depending on the letterstyle and amount of copy. So the balance might be $50 worth of vinyl and half an hour of installation labor, or $5 worth of paint and materials with 4 hours of skilled labor.

Bill, thanks for posting the link to the video clip. It would be nice to see all of these short movies gathered up into a list for easy reference! I am sure there tons of them on YouTube and the Internet now.

Mike Jackson
Mike Jackson / co-administrator
Golden Era Studios
Vintage Ornamental Clip art
Jackson Hole, WY

Photography site:
Teton Images
Jackson Hole photography blog:
Best of the Tetons

Rick Janzen
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Re: Another Sign Movie

Post by Rick Janzen » Tue Nov 06, 2012 11:43 am

Hi All,
The fellow doing the video is Sean Starr, and he started a site called "Traditional Sign Maker Magazine". You can check it out at: http://traditionalsignmaker.com/. Mike, it's funny you mentioned watching "Open Range" I just caught it the other day on cable. I guess I enjoy watching it for a couple of reasons. Another show that has a lot of signs in it is the series "Boardwalk Empire" Not sure how many are actually hand painted, as the film industry is finding all sorts of ways around having someone paint them by hand. Here's a video I came across quite some time ago about the making of Boardwalk Empire, http://vimeo.com/18275127 Sometimes things aren't what they seem. The big thing now in film industry is to print the sign on paper, apply it to the sign blank, and then distress it. With flat bed printers, they can print directly to most surfaces. The thing they're still have problems with is making the sign look like it was done by hand. Most of the graphic design people who work in the Art Dept. have never painted a sign, so they don't what it should really look like. The signs just look like they were done with a computer, they lack a personality and soul, something that is added by the person doing the sign. When I did Open Range, almost all of the signs were done with no more than a level / ruler /chalk line and chalk. The big problem is the only people who will notice the difference, are people that do signs. Unfortunately we're not a big enough viewing audience to make a difference. There's still a market out there for hand painted signs, but it's not a large one.

Dan Seese
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Re: Another Sign Movie

Post by Dan Seese » Wed Nov 07, 2012 12:07 am

Mike,

You make some excellent points here. The whole discussion of hand lettering versus digital signage can be tainted by a myopic vision on both sides. One view exalts the superiority of hand-lettering - returning to the old school ways to doing signs. The opposite view promotes using any and every technology available.

When it comes right down to it, even a brush is a form of technology and the guys we revere from the past, while they were schooled in an old trade, also welcomed and incorporated improvements as they were introduced (especially if they were time-saving devices which improved the bottom-line). So tools - the technologies - are not necessarily the "enemy". The more pertinent question to ask is whether any particular technology weakens or strengthens design and also if we become so dependent on the automated aspect of a technology that the underlying principles are lost. Therein lies the necessity of preserving the art of hand lettering.

When letter form, spacing and other important decisions are made for us by a computer, many of the organic decisions integral to the process never enter the picture because they don't need to. It is automated. I recently read a fascinating book by Nicholas Carr called "The Shallows: What the Internet is is Doing to Our Brains". In the book he demonstrates scientifically, historically and sociologically how, along with the great benefits of the internet there is a costly trade-off where we are losing the ability to read deeply and to think deeply. There are similar parallels we could draw in looking at the benefits & trade-offs with computerized technology in the sign industry. While it would be foolish to think we could eschew sign technologies indiscriminately we certainly should think carefully how we use them.

Rick,

I discovered your website about a month ago and was meaning to contact you and say how much I appreciate your work, especially the film industry projects and the restoration work. Thanks for the link regarding the making of Boardwalk Empire. I'm not familiar with the series (don't get cable) but definitely want to check it out based on the rich tapestry of old signage visible in the clip. Looks to me like the folks doing the digital imagery are working with some pretty great references. I hope you are able to continue your hands-on work in the film industry and look forward to seeing more.
Dan
"The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne."
Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340 - 1400)

http://DanSeeseStudios.com
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Rick Janzen
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Re: Another Sign Movie

Post by Rick Janzen » Sun Nov 11, 2012 5:37 pm

Glad your enjoying my blog Dan, and also Doug (mentioned my blog in another post). I just finished a post you may find of interest. I also enjoy seeing videos of people doing signs. Sean has taken the time to start posting them on his site, saves searching for them. It's nice to see more in-depth types of videos being made, opposed to the short youtube types that show a set of hands painting a word or two. You gotta to love the internet.

Kent Smith
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Re: Another Sign Movie

Post by Kent Smith » Sun Nov 11, 2012 9:55 pm

I may be too critical but following the theme of Mike's first post, I would profer the following. There is a difference between sign painting and hand lettering. This is a good example of sign painting, many of us find ourselves doing this today, but hand lettering it is not. As Dad would say about Rodger who worked for us in the 50"s, "he would follow the pattern even if it blew out the door". He had decent brush technique and if one of us made a good detailed pattern, he turned out a good finished product. I don't want to be too disparaging about it but the hand lettering process is more about the brush process and less about the pattern/layout. I did like the overall feel of the video and is a good positive view of us, technicalities aside, for public viewing.

Dan Seese
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Re: Another Sign Movie

Post by Dan Seese » Tue Nov 13, 2012 11:09 am

Rick,
I read your most recent blog article. It's a true pleasure to see someone doing this stuff so well.
The time schedules sound like a real headache, but I guess that's the nature of the business, isn't it? Keep it up. Your work involving historic research, duplicating old techniques, accurately nuanced lettering, etc. - is a breath of fresh air.

Hi Kent,
The distinction you make between hand-lettering and sign painting is intriguing. I've begun ruminating, periodically, in some blog articles featuring a few of my favorite lettering artists and the distinction you make sheds light on the subject from an interesting angle. There's no shame in being a "sign-painter" as opposed to a "hand lettering artist". Good eye-hand coordination is necessary in both skills, but there is a difference between accurately executing a pattern as opposed to the actual formation of a letter, a word and a phrase. I'm probably more of a sign painter striving (at the ripe age of 60) toward being a better hand lettering artist.

And, incidentally, as I think through the "lettering artist" moniker, it seems to me that it includes such things as calligraphy, hand-lettering, chalk board art, graffiti, even (gasp) digital vector manipulation. All of these skills, if they are to be done right, require a proper knowledge of letter forms, space relationships, proportion, rhythm, etc. (i.e. creative communication within sound design parameters.) And though there are those sprinklings of "genius" among us, NONE of it comes naturally - even with those who are particularly gifted. A great deal of study, practice and hard work is always involved.

Maybe I'm blurring the lines here on the "Hand Lettering Forum", but that's the way I see it.
Dan
"The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne."
Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340 - 1400)

http://DanSeeseStudios.com
http://www.DanSeeseStudios.com/blog/
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Kent Smith
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Re: Another Sign Movie

Post by Kent Smith » Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:01 pm

I like the distinction of lettering artist as a third definition.

Joe Morreale
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Re: Another Sign Movie

Post by Joe Morreale » Tue Nov 13, 2012 4:55 pm

After watching this video and reading the comments I thought I would put my two cents in. While some sign painters may painstakingly follow a pattern, whether computer generated or not, and complete a nice clean job it doesn't make them what I would call a true sign painter. We used to call them line chasers way back when. A good sign painters work has it's own style and character that is developed over years.
I like the British term of sign writer, it more describes my idea of a signman's brushwork. It used to be that you could tell who did a sign just by the style of lettering where I came from. The computer generated signs have eliminated that.

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