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Learning Sign Painting - The Beginning Part 1

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

Hey there, my name is Darragh and I’m a sign painter based in Dublin, Ireland. I’ve started writing these blogs for two reasons. I’ve always loved documentaries that manage to capture the full career of an athlete, artist or high-achiever. It’s always interested me to see their progression through their career, from beginner to expert. This blog will serve as a reminder to me of just how inexperienced I was at the beginning as well as my improvements along the way to trying to become an expert. I also want them to help other aspiring sign painters. You’ll read about the mistakes I made (and continue to make), the resources I used and what the ‘correct’ way to learn sign painting is!

 

The Backstory

 

After working in digital marketing for a few years, I got tired of staring at a screen and decided to look for a creative outlet. I used to enjoy drawing and began drawing portraits, learning from YouTube videos. While researching what evening art classes were available to me in Dublin, I stumbled upon a great mini-documentary about a Dublin sign painter nicknamed the ‘Gentlemen of Letters’. I had never before given a second thought to who made the signs that I walked by everyday, so my curiosity was piqued. I then came across two great articles about another local Dublin sign painter, Vanessa Powers (or Signs of Power).

It’s not an exaggeration to say that immediately after discovering this trade, I was sure this is what I wanted to do. My first thought was, ‘’I could actually make a living by learning how to paint just 26 letters…how hard could that be?!’’

 

First Steps

 

I’m embarrassed to admit that those were actually my first thoughts. If I knew how many letter styles there were to learn, or how many hours were needed to be able to paint a simple straight line, I might not have been so enthusiastic.

Two of the first blogs I ever read really helped me understand what I needed to buy to start sign painting. Katya Amber Willis and Best Dressed Signs’ blogs have no doubt helped countless people start their sign painting journey. Be sure to give them a read. I might even write my own version in the future considering these blogs are a couple years old and some resources are only available to those in the U.S.

I went straight to the local hardware store and bought a small tub of house paint and an art brush and began to paint lines on a sheet of paper. I’m so glad I kept this sheet and marked the date, I recommend any beginner do the same. I’m going to show this practice sheet below, so you don’t have to feel bad about your first attempt either!


A few weeks later I heard about an event happening at a local cafe, called The Side Project. A bunch of people would meet up for coffee and food and discuss their side projects, look for feedback and meet new like-minded people.


Each event ended with a Q&A with local creatives and their next event featured Vanessa Power and Maser, a well-known visual artist from Dublin. I went along and managed to chat to Vanessa and received some great advice on what brushes and paint I should actually buy. Full of inspiration (and coffee), I went straight home and placed my first order on A.S Handover, a gold mine for sign painting enthusiasts!

This blog is getting long, so I will continue the story in the next blog!

Find me on Instagram to see me latest work here or get in touch to discuss a future project.


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9 Comments


John Murphy
John Murphy
Aug 15, 2021

you still see signs like this in rural America


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John Murphy
John Murphy
Aug 15, 2021


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John Murphy
John Murphy
Aug 15, 2021


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John Murphy
John Murphy
Aug 15, 2021


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John Murphy
John Murphy
Aug 15, 2021

to me this is pure art 1940 1950 pulp pop art


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