Hand painted signs are making a comeback. This may not be obvious at first glance. Store signs are everywhere, and it takes an observant eye to notice the quietly appearing hand painted signs. But where uniformly printed signs usually stand in store doorways and windows, hand painted signs have begun to grace storefronts in their place.
Before vinyl lettering, hand painted signs were the norm, creating a sense of personality and familiarity. But once resources allowed, saving time and money became the priority over the originality of hand painted signs, and the vinyl plotter took center stage as way of easy signage.
As a result, impersonal 1980s printers threatened to make hand painting traditions obsolete.
However, businesses are beginning to recognize the value of hand painted signs. For the same reason that companies work hard at crafting their image on social media, hand painted signs make that image for them, creating a down-home, personal and unique company image that says “We’ll be around for a while.”
In fact, sign painting is making such a comeback that a documentary called “Sign Painters” was released this year in March 2013. Reviewer Mary Louise Schumancher of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote this succinct summary of the lost art of hand painting as a metaphor for today’s technology-saturated world: “[The documentary] is a cautionary tale about the head-long rush into a technology-driven time and a meditation on what’s lost along the way. It is a reminder to look around and recognize the physical history in our presence every day.”
So maybe the art of hand painting represents something else: a new appreciation for, or recognition of, the need to slow down and be in the moment. Learning to hand-paint signs takes years, and only the most dedicated will master the art. Only one school teaches hand-painting in a two-year graphics program: the Los Angeles Trade-Tech College run by Doc Guthrie, who teaches “time-honored brush skills”.
So next time you’re out and about, keep your eyes open for these gems among storefronts. You may gain a new appreciation for your local artists.
And if you yourself are a store owner, keep the power of the hand painted sign in mind.
Have you come across any hand painted signs lately? What’s the coolest one you’ve seen, whether in-person or online? Let us know in the comments!
- Films I like: Sign Painters (zoeopal.wordpress.com)
- The last ad painters of Los Angeles (audiovision.scpr.org)