Painting: Lettering With My Dad

Yesterday I painted with My Dad.  He’s retired now, but he used to be a sign writer.  He hand painted signs for over 10 years until computers were introduced and he had to switch to vinyl lettering.  My Dad actually taught himself how to letter. Now that’s discipline and drive!  We spent several hours painting together. He shared information about lettering, colour and compositions, which I will try to incorporate into my own work.

My Dad uses ‘1 Shot’ sign writing paint. It’s called ‘1 Shot’ because you can lay down the paint in one shot without having to go over it. The paint is oil based, so it stays a bit wet and tacky. It smells strong, but I like it as it brings me back to being a kid and watching my Dad paint. He taught me an old sign writing trick: if the paint has chunks it, you filter it through nylon.

The brushes he uses are made specifically for sign writing. They are made from Russian Squirrel hair (!) + assembled in France. I love the little wires that hold the brush ends together, you really don’t see anything like that nowadays.

Dad showin me how it’s done. He’s left handed, but was showing me how to maneuver my hand (as a right-handed person). His control and lettering with his ‘wrong hand’ was way better than my right hand! lol. This was our practice board. Dad’s stuff is on the right, mine is on the left. He painted the sign above as reference when he was lettering signs. I love the font, it’s very comic-book-like.

I’ve done a few test strokes, and now I’m ready to paint it for reals. I found the brushes a bit difficult to use as they have really long hair, and I’m used to brushes with shorter hair. I find I have more control with shorter brushes. I’m using a ‘Mahl’ stick, which is a painter’s tool for keeping your hand away from smearing the paint and for maneuverability. You rest your painting hand on it and can go from thick to thin lines and make a nice curve just by moving the Mahl stick around with your other hand. It takes some getting used to.

My Dad freestyles some letters. He hasn’t painted in a while, but he’s still got it!

3 thoughts on “Painting: Lettering With My Dad

  1. I learned old-school sign-painting just as I began my art career. It was one of my first jobs, hand-painting trucks, etc.. Unfortunately, just as I was getting decent at it (where the more experienced painters weren’t snickering), vinyl lettering came along. I couldn’t bear it and moved on. What your dad does in these photos takes me back to happy memories. He does beautiful work. Much respect!

  2. I love this blog, about you and your father. That is so touching hearing your story. My father lives 12hrs away from me and I could only dream of having a moment like that with him. You both do beautiful work!


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