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 visual landscape. Fortunately, there is a growing trend to seek out traditional sign painters and a renaissance in the trade. In 2010 filmmakers Faythe Levine, coauthor of Handmade Nation, and Sam Macon 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 stories and photographs of more than two dozen sign painters working in cities throughout the United States. With a foreword by legendary artist (and former sign painter) Ed Ruscha, this vibrant 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.
New York Post:
"With hand-painted signs rapidly going the way of the film camera, documentarians Levine and Macon offer a welcome look at some of the remaining artists and their work, which adorns storefronts, walls and billboards. New Yorker Stephen Powers began as a graffiti artist; Las Vegas painters Mark and Rosie Oatis met in sign school; Ernie Gosnell, in Seattle, learned the trade as a teen from a sign-painting lady wrestler who "tattooed a little bit on the side." It's a toss-up as to what's better - these characters or their art."
"Artist Clark Byers may not be a household name, but if you've lived or traveled in the southeast U.S., you're probably familiar with his work. Byers, whose death in 2004 was commemorated with an obituary in the New York Times, painted the advertising slogan, "See Rock City," on the roofs of more than 900 barns from the late 1930s until the 1960s. Byers' and other artists' signs inspired filmmakers Sam Macon and Faythe Levine's great new book, Sign Painters, an homage to the craft and its craftsmen (and a great gift for the Americana-lover on your holiday shopping list)."
"Sign Painters is a great source of inspiration about this often-overlooked industry, and a good reminder to pay a little extra attention while out in the city, on the highway, or wherever. Beautiful hand-painted signs are everywhere."
"Full of stunning full-color shots of finished signs and works-in-progress of folks from San Francisco and Iowa City to Mazeppa and Boston. Even artist Ed Ruscha gets in on the action."
New York Times:
"A lovely paean to a vanishing art... Ms. Levine and Mr. Macon have hopscotched the country, interviewing many of the best remaining old-school sign painters and printing their best work... This book, with an introduction by the artist Ed Ruscha, is a funky and necessary work of preservation."
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
"This is not only a wonderful book, a delight to take in, rich and telling in its details and a visual pleasure with its gorgeous photography. It's an important book that captures a largely untold story."
"Every now and again, a book comes my way on a topic that is utterly and completely unexpected. Sign Painters is the sort of artistic celebration that should be commonplace on the shelves... this is graphic design at its best, these signs command attention, enliven the landscape, and bring customers in... good stuff, and damned inspiring."
"As lovingly hand made as the signs it celebrates... What comes across clearly is the respect for good work, letter by letter, that helps their clients' businesses succeed. This book captures the renaissance of the sign painter."
Fantastic (rating 5 out of 5):
I worked as a billboard painter for about 15 years from Atlanta to Buffalo and Pittsburgh. I was very sorry to see my profession end. I loved climbing up on buildings, or painting a sign along a highway out in the country in the summer. Thank you for making the book, looking forward to the film. And film is where I took my skills in the early '90's and slowly over the years most hand painted signs are disappearing from film work and being replace by vinyl.
- Gregg Puchalski from Pittsburgh, Pa (03/04/2013)