Q. When did you start?
Sign painting started officially around 2014/15, however my school homework diaries are good proof that I’ve been sketching letters for a lot longer than that.
Q. Why did you start?
My background is in graphic design and allot of work being by produced by the studio I was in was falling short of the mark when it came to being represented in the wild. The frustration I felt through this was part of what led me to sign painting, the other being an escape from my desk as I was starting to realise that sedentary work wasn’t really me. It was a pretty natural transition, as it employs many of the fundamentals of typography, layout and composition, which I had already acquired through years of work in studios across Ireland.
Q. How did you train?
For the first while it was all youtube and self tuition. Lots of bad first-signs and letters. I had the wrong paints, wrong brushes, but all the enthusiasm, so I didn’t give up! Not long after starting, I signed up for a Better Letters course that was led by Mike Meyer. This taught me allot about painting but I think more importantly, gave me the confidence to take a leap and actually start painting signs for other people. I couldn’t recommend their courses highly enough, whether you’re into sign writing in a small or a big way, you will find something interesting and beneficial from them.
Q. What has changed in all the time you’ve been doing this?
I would say the main thing is that I used to focus heavily on the sign painting ‘aesthetic’…lettering effects, flourishes and decoration featured in many of my early signs. As I moved along and became more comfortable, I’ve found that I have reintroduced my graphic design background and allot of my work doesn’t follow sign painting traditions. I’ve a designers brain and sign painters hands (and I think that’s ok?!).
Q. What do you enjoy most about your work?
LOADS OF STUFF. The satisfaction from finishing a sign is obviously great, seeing the look on someones face when they see their sign realised is a really rewarding feeling too. I love meeting all sorts of people across all lines of work, as I get into their worlds and learn things about areas in which I would never usually have access to.
Q. What have your favourite jobs been?
Although it was only a small amount of sign writing (and mostly painting animals and trees), my work for the Ulster Museum’s ‘Dippy on Tour’ exhibition was pretty special, mainly due to the scale of the job and it being for such an important artefact in such an important building.
Q. Anything that didn’t go as well as you’d hoped?
I’m my own worst critic so I’m never really fully happy with every job. Sign painting for me is all about the small details – sharp serifs, flicks on a script with style, sans glyphs that are razor straight. I never completely nail it, but if I did it’d be boring I guess. That sort of thing keeps me practicing and always striving to get better.
Q. How have you found being involved in the project?
The project has been really rewarding on a number of levels. Meeting John has been fascinating and the participants enthusiasm is infectious and encouraging. I really feel like I’m still just learning myself, so to be asked lead a workshop and talk to participants about my sign painting experiences is pretty crazy.
I hope the project continues to grow and reach a wider audience, as I think sign painting adds a layer to a city that helps it speak and enhances its personality. Strengthening the awareness of sign painting can only be a good thing for Belfast!