Range of marks, tattoo and signwriting styles.
Across London today there is a fabulous groundswell of analogue design activity placing signwriting where it once stood as an important infographic transmitter and pure design led solution.
There is no more versatile a tool than a master signwriter and his brush. Well actually that’s the paradigm shift right there because a host of master signwriters, including myself are now training young art grads and creatives to take up the noble craft like never before.
NGS aims to train start-ups and link them up with projects, taking the lettering itself to a more refined level. Fueling this are a host of exciting design trends and opportunities opening up new avenues of creative expression and work experience. At the heart of this New Generation of Signwriting is a greater understanding of quality and detail, ramped up in an age of unique online business marketing.
I guess after 10 years as pubs sign gilder I embarked on a parallel career in product design in order to develop my pure design ability further. Working for the best as senior designer for Laura Ashley or Designers Guild, head of design for China Accent Hong Kong I believed in creating icons, not just beautiful products – I dreamt it, built it and shared it with my 35 strong design team staff. Staying at number one in the world (with these producers) was and is down to working incredibly hard at the most difficult areas of skillsets, having a dream and owning it. So it’s mainly mechanical, long hours and stubborn determination.
For myself the word detail holds the key to success across many meanings, practices and expressions.
Detailing encompasses a gamut of skill sets. For instance identifying nuances and emotional beauty of a particular historic piece, emulating a previous artists hand or revealing a completely new bespoke design detail from talent and hard yakka.
The range of detailing is an incredibly complex and yet wonderfully simple, attentive process. It is thought about a great deal, and like many traditional products, aged and decanted. When that entire creative process is repeated and strengthened over the years it becomes ingrained in a very special way.
At NGS the current styles of signwriting fall into several new categories:
- Graphic Minimalist
- By Eye
As a decorative artist, I have developed over the decades some acclaimed paint effects and grunge distressed finishes for Designers Guild UK. These work perfectly with new era urban grunge lettering (Ghost Signs) and decayed effects – so it is possible to paint it on and peel it off for, as we say… a badass sign!!
Alongside that fantastic range of marks sits a style which owes everything to my furniture restoration experience.
Since 1990 I have had a love affair with either restoration or design of furniture. This passion became a twin trade for me for 25 years. I still restore, create and build furniture today in my Italian home studio.
Includes this restoration approach and my passion for original iconic lettering.
At the heart of this range is the London Transport regional Victorian fonts and Italian Romans; in particular Florentine gilding and Parma’s Bodoni Roman.
The lettering I use for this collection are traced from the original hands, off carvings, off the walls in London and Italy or off the very peeling fascias I restore. So they are as original as I can get ’em.
They are not normally from books and simple downloads.
Sempre originale… e sempre tradizionale
These are then either learned and painted by mind’s eye or from original hand traced pencil layouts.
I then (in some instances) add my own hand with the greatest respect to the original. Just as the original artist would have developed his own pieces. Because as beautiful as they are, the classically trained orginator would have said… ”it could have been better”.
The final piece has an unequaled richness.
Reflects the designs passed to me from the new crew of sensational graphic designers across London.
It is a pleasure working closely with these guys and quite often training them in my Signsmith workshops.
These designs are then painted, above the line and perfect to the original. But there will always be that little moment where I help make it fly.
So it is never the case that this art remains static. One way my practice has grown and changed is seen in the new workshops I hold training a new generation of Signsmiths.
Every time I roll across town to create lettering, I go with a sense of pride, anticipation and excitement. Because I know the day I don’t feel that passion, will be the day to lay down my brushes.
That is in part an insight into my creative process.
Of the Times
For the client these seeds sink into the new sign an action not necessarily measurable… but it becomes a garden that will help us all grow, flower and prosper. I can assure any client that this is a matter of seeing and believing.
Today once again Signwriting is alive… (what a joy) let’s keep it that beautiful way.