Character Building: my introduction to signpainting

Most people can recognise a piece of signpainting, writes Karina Monger, but how many of us really understand the work that goes into making this unique form of communication? Last weekend I attended a hand lettering workshop to find out

Most people can recognise a piece of signpainting, writes Karina Monger, but how many of us really understand the work that goes into making this unique form of communication? Last weekend I attended a hand lettering workshop to find out…

The weekend was held at the TypeTasting studio in Stoke Newington in London, and was hosted by Sarah Hyndman of TypeTasting and organised by Sam Roberts from Better Letters and the inspirational Ghostsigns website. We were tutored by Mike Meyer, a master signpainter from Mazeppa, Minnesota, alongside Ash Bishop of The Brilliant Sign Company, and Mark Josling from Spectrum Signs.

Earlier in the week I had attended a screening of the new Signpainters movie in which various American artists talk about their love and enthusiasm for the industry. It’s a great insight into the process, with some good stories along the way – but they also made it look so easy.

Come the weekend, I truly understood the hard work and precision that goes into each and every sign that they paint.

The workshop kicked off with a very enthusiastic Mr Meyer – with a moustache like no other (below) – passionately talking about his craft. We started with Gothic lettering and the idea of ‘precision’. We had to make sure each letter we drew matched the others to create a cohesive alphabet – before painting them.

I can’t remember the last time I used a compass, but it sure came in handy here. We practised our brush strokes again and again, to get the feel for the brush, and before long we knew how to use the ‘mahlstick’ [the padded stick that supports the brush hand] and when to lift and turn the brush to create a crisp letter.

The second day was about script and being more ‘free flowing’. It was very different to the first day’s levels of accuracy and was incredibly fulfilling.

Seeing words appear on the paper in a beautiful script (compared to my attempts over the years), was really exciting. I definitely feel more confident now – and have a better understanding of the signpainting industry.

It was a great weekend; lots of laughter, lots of paint and lots of learning. It was fantastic to have such a creative bunch of people in one place from all different backgrounds.

By Sunday evening we all felt gutted it was over, like that feeling you get at Christmas when you know it’s all finished. However, the class of 2014 will keep in touch!

Having received my goodie bag of paint and brushes, alongside Mike Meyer’s tips handbook, I know exactly how the forthcoming weekends will be spent: there may be a lot of paint everywhere, but that’s all part of the fun.

More details on the Better Letters workshops at betterletters.co. Karina Monger is a graphic designer at Ferrier Pearce (@karina_fptweets). See also karinamonger.co.uk and @karinamonger.

Thanks to Mike Meyer, Sarah Hyndman, The Brilliant Sign Company, Better Letters, Ghostsigns and all who attended the workshop – you all made for a fantastic inspiring weekend and I look forward to seeing you all again, Letterheads! (#ioafs).


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