It is a real heartbreaker!

21 Jul

I visited a large number of sign shops and to my disappointment, I never had the opportunity to chat with anyone old or new in this unique art field that even knew what a quill brush was. These sign shops thrived on software, vinyl and masking tape.

The real sign painters are all but extinct, it appears. I have seen some neat signs turned out by computer, but they lack the touch a true artist gives them. Since no two people do things exactly the same, all the sign artist had their own techniques  and manner of doing things, this added great variety and an array of colorful eye catching signs on businesses and road sign everywhere you looked.

I know starting in the 70s neon signs all but faded out, except maybe Las Vegas and a few places like that. The plastic internally lit signs replaced them, but now neon is coming back along with led lighted signs.

I am just hoping that the sign painters that are left are training someone to carry on the trade. Because the demand for hand painted signage is on the rebound and there will be plenty of work for those who can paint a  sign.

I would love to hear your comments on this, let me know  what you think!


Please visit my training website for more information

until next time James Chastain

PS: While your there sign up and grab the free lessons!


7 Responses to “It is a real heartbreaker!”

  1. Jessica 09/11/2010 at 17:53 #

    I’m so glad that I’ve found this blog, and I hope you keep the posts coming! I haven’t yet learned the art of hand lettering, but am very interested in learning. Using an opaque projector in high school I painted designs onto my walls and loved the process. Hand lettering is so beautiful and interesting. If I have anything to say about it then sign painting will come back like neon.

    Thank you for passing along your expertise.

  2. Pamela 09/25/2010 at 20:47 #

    I’m so very glad that I found your website. You are right, hand-painted signage is a lost and dying art. I first learned how to paint hand-lettered and designed plywood signs from my late husband in 1985. He was a self-taught sign painter. He would get the sign job and then I would help out by painting inside the lines that he drew onto the plywood. I learned by doing how to handle a sign painting brush and how to mix the One-Shot sign painter’s paint. I’m not trying to boast at all about my abilities, especially since it has been over 20 years since I’ve used my skill. After my husband passed away, I had to go out to work in the so-called “real” world and work in an office where I had to get all dressed up for nothing. Well, as you can imagine, the work, the pay, and the lack of personal freedom were more than dissatisfying. Now that I’ve put in quite a few years of working in the conventional work place environment, I’ve finally decided to revisit a previous skill, sign painting. But alas, I also experienced the same thing that you did, all of the signage businesses in town are using manufactured signs and vinyl. How discouraging. However, now that I’ve found your website, I feel encouraged to begin anew again at re-learning an old skill. Thank you for your personal dedication to an age-old art form!

  3. Stacy Tennison 10/26/2010 at 08:07 #

    I’m a semi-professional artist/photographer, and has built a small home based business with my love for typography and painting. I’m still learning the fine art of sign painting, but have been rather successful with the little talent I have.
    In the town I live in, when my husband and I mention that we design hand painted signs instantly everyone wants up to work for them. The sign shop here – that mainly works vinyl and vehicle detailing, is slowly losing his business…because of me. 🙂 This is the reason why I’m searching for a course that will enable me to reteach myself the basics and refine new skills in quill work. I’m hoping that I can incoorporate my airbrusing skills, typography, and a stronger form of letter painting to build a new style for my work.

    The art is not dead at all, but if us letterworkers don’t heighten our skills and range of design, we’ll lose out again to the high tech stuff. Honestly, I do all my designing on my computer, and then paint everything on my medium. When a customer sees that the personal touches I’ve placed on the finished product looks far better than the mechanical printout they can get from any other company, they always end up coming back to me. That’s so nice to see.

  4. Orlando 323.677.8501 11/14/2010 at 17:28 #

    I think what your doing is verry cool. Sharing tips about your experiance with sign paintig.Ive tried learning art on my own but its tough.ive asked around for ways on how to get started on tools i might need but i never seem to get what i need to get started.If you give classes email me or call me.Thank you for the tips.

    • James Chastain 11/16/2010 at 03:59 #

      Hi Orlando

      First off, I want to thank you for the comment and I hope I can help you get started!
      Sign painting is a very self satisfying trade and takes persistence and dedication to learn. It also has a very high and lucrative pay scale , compared to other skill trades.

      If you really want to get started in this form of art, go to my website and order the lesson package. It covers the basic tools etc. you will need and basic layout, paints, materials, letters and so forth. You will get a lot of info for nearly zilch, nothing!

      I do not have classes at this time, but maybe in the future. I will answer any questions you have and help you any way I possibly can. Feel free to call me anytime between 10am and 10pm EST. If machine gets you, I will get back with you asap.

      Thanks for your interest in Signs

  5. Monica Dominski 09/23/2013 at 16:27 #

    I am in my mid 50’s now and learned sign painting in 1982 from someone older that was kind enough to take me under their wing. I started out strong and determined the first 18 years and then the arrival of the computer and vinyl dampened my confidence and enthusiasm. Economy was down and I got laid off. Had my own shop for awhile but unfortunately I gave it up to help someone else pursue their dreams. I used to be known back then as a very good sign painter (for a girl) and had a lot of customers. They sought me out by word of mouth and I was always busy, had money in my pocket, and my own pick up truck mobile marina sign shop. I was known for attention to detail and quality work that stood the test of time over and over. For a girl I was pretty amazing I guess to be in a male orientated field. But I was just happy to do what I loved doing. Now I am wondering what to do with myself. Married to a soldier for 17 yrs took its toll after Iraq, and now i must get on my feet again after a separation. I still have a daughter to raise. But I came across this website and it inspired me again about sign painting. Although I have had 11 surgeries on my hands Im skeptical about whether i can handle the demands again. Im slow but steady 🙂 It’s really the only work experience that I have thats solid on my résumé. I live in an area that is not conducive to hiring an oldie but goodie like me. And all the sign shops are owned by people (guys) half my age. everything is about money and they want to whip the signs out fast. There are alot of artists in the area that seem to already have a following and I know that takes time. I’ve tried to come up with ideas how to continue my craft with least amount of investment since I have very little extra money. I don’t know what else to do. Got any suggestions?

  6. Doug Cusic 07/16/2014 at 13:08 #

    Sign painting has all but disappeared in my city, too. I believe I am among the last of a mere handful remaining, and I’m third generation. The Recession caught the trade by surprise and our local One-Shot/Chromatic dealer went out of business, selling off stock at astoundingly cheap prices. However, even after having stocked my shop with gallons, pints and quarts, leaving no room for more, the shop owner asked me to sell his remaining stock on consignment. So, for over a year, I managed to sell only seven quarts of either One Shot enamel or Chromatic Bulletin and absolutely none of the poster enamels, three of the quarts to my own business! After a year’s time, the former owner told me to just keep the remaining stock for myself! Now I have a lifetime supply many colors (except Bright Red, Dark Blue, Gloss White and Black, Dark Green and Primrose Yellow, all of which I can order through Glantz). So, if you ever need a sign which requires Chrome Yellow, Medium Brown, Medium or Process Green or Brilliant Blue, give me a call, will ya? I’m the “State Agent”. Meanwhile, I’ll keep on hand painting banners, box vans, 4×8’s and boats when requested and stay away from digital printers.

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