Sign Painters

When thinking about how to express what a shop dedicated to our fathers and grandfathers would look like, Joe Gannon and I turned to sign painters like Jeff Canham and one time sign painter, the artist — and one of my personal heroes — Ed Ruscha. Because as good a friend as she is, she’s an even better artist, we reached out to our buddy, Christine Mitchell, who put together a hand-drawn logo, which surpassed our expectations and, as a calling card goes, expresses what we never could with Buckshot Sonny’s.

Man Painting American Flag on Barn Roof

You can imagine the great pleasure I took while Christmas shopping at my local bookshop this past December in flipping through The Sign Painters, a book from Princeton Architectural Press. Even more pleasurable, discovering yesterday they’ve created a documentary around this dying breed. Follow along on Facebook as updates on the film’s release roll in.

From their site:

There was a time, as recently as the 1980s, when storefronts, murals, banners, barn signs, billboards, and even street signs were all hand-lettered with brush and paint. But, like many skilled trades, the sign industry has been overrun by the techno-fueled promise of quicker and cheaper. The resulting proliferation of computer-designed, die-cut vinyl lettering and inkjet printers has ushered a creeping sameness into our landscape. Fortunately, there is a growing trend to seek out traditional sign painters and a renaissance in the trade.

In 2010 Directors Faythe Levine and Sam Macon, with Cinematographer Travis Auclair, began documenting these dedicated practitioners, their time-honored methods, and their appreciation for quality and craftsmanship. Sign Painters, the first anecdotal history of the craft, features the stories of more than two dozen sign painters working in cities throughout the United States. The documentary and book profiles sign painters young and old, from the new vanguard working solo to collaborative shops such as San Francisco’s New Bohemia Signs and New York’s Colossal Media’s Sky High Murals.