Last week, at an event sponsored by the City Of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program and Temple Contemporary for Design Philadelphia 2014, I discovered that an amateur like me, with minimal artistic ability could potentially incorporate sign making into her life. No, the above sign is not mine, and no, my signs won’t look that amazing. After all, sign making techniques take years to master and this is Hooch & Home: a place for those of us who do home improvement in our spare time. But, in said spare time, I learned a few simple techniques that I think I can replicate on my own. And I think you can too. These new skills can be used to create cute labels in your kitchen, garden, closet, or to indicate your house or apartment number. You can also make your friends awesome signs that show off just how clever you are. In addition, we’d like to try something new and suggest the following song as the perfect accompaniment for your sign making experience, because you only get one shot:
- Paint brush: you need a “one stroke” paint brush because the shape and length of the brush are necessary for creating clean thick lines. We used the one made of synthetic material pictured here. We were told that the best brushes use squirrel hair, and that you can find them at an art supply store like Blick (or the internet).
- Paint: You need to use special paint for this project. We used Ronan Aquacote WB021 which you can also get at an art supply store (or the internet). There is another paint named Sign Painters’ 1 Shot but it is allegedly way more “toxic” than Ronan. These paints will withstand the elements so your sign does not need to be treated post paint.
- Surface to paint on: wood, glass, anything really!
- Pounce wheel: this is an optional tool if you want to try the technique we used. You don’t need this if you are going to go free hand, but this tool helps you to make what is essentially a washable stencil for your sign. Apparently this tool is also used for quilting. According to our teacher, it is best to pounce on a yoga mat. More about that in a minute.
- Pounce bag. A pounce bag is used to create an easily removed stencil for your design. We used a baby sock full of charcoal. Any porous material that won’t let out too much charcoal or chalk would be suitable. An old t-shirt that you don’t mind cutting up will do. You can make your own charcoal if you are already making a lot of your own fires (or if you have way too much time on your hands). You can also pick some up at an art supply store, or you can order some online.
- Getting ready to paint: Hold your paint brush like a pencil. You need to be comfortable enough to be flexible while painting so you can rotate the brush. Maybe play around with the brush to see which grip is most comfortable to you. Next, pour some paint into a paper cup, or if you are extra fancy, onto your palette. Then, before you start painting, you need to charge your brush. Dip your brush tip into the paint. Don’t be shy. Then push the paint brush against the surface of your cup or palate while bending the brush so that it is at a 45 degree angle to the handle. Repeat on both sides several times like this:Charging your paint brush helps to get paint on every bristle by pushing the bristles apart as you push the brush against the cup. This ensures an even stroke.
- Practice makes perfect: if you aren’t practiced in the art of painting or applying paint to a paint brush (like me) you are going to want to practice. Practice by making vertical, horizontal, and diagonal straight lines. When you’ve had enough of that try the curved line. The trick is to turn your actual paint brush as you make the line.
These four strokes are all you need to paint every letter in the alphabet using Egyptian Font which looks like this:
A note on fonts: There are two types of fonts in sign painting according to the sign gurus who led the workshops: finished letter versus single stroke. Egyptian is a single stroke font because each part of every letter can be made with one stroke of the brush. Finished letter fonts require more brush strokes. Our gurus were Darin Rowland and Keystone Sign Co. They are amazing sign makers.
- Next up the pounce: Pouncing is a very old technique used to transfer a design from one surface to another. This technique was commonly used by Italian fresco painters and the Sistine Chapel was painted using this technique. Generally the design is transferred from paper to a wall, or whatever material your sign in made of. For our workshop, we transferred the outline of numbers on paper, and they were cut out individually so that they could be arranged in any order. If you want to print out a whole word or phrase on paper, you can do it that way too. Use the pounce wheel to poke holes around the edges of your design. Then, place the design on the surface you will be painting. You can tape it up on a wall, or you can lay it on a piece of wood, glass, plastic, etc.
- Rub the pounced paper with your pounce bag.
- Remove the paper. It should look something like this:
- Start painting! Use your one shot technique, but know that you aren’t going to do the entire letter or number in one shot. I picked my brush up many times in the course of making this sign, but always using the brush strokes that I had practiced.
- When your paint has dried, wipe off your creation with a damp cloth to remove the charcoal. Eh, Voila! Your very first sign! Can’t wait to hang this one on my new house!
Sometimes you only get one shot. If that is the case, the classy broads behind H&H would like to make it count. Jackson from Canvas Lounge suggested a smaller version of a classic cocktail. So while waiting for your sign to dry, grab the following:
- 3.5 ounces of mixing bourbon like Benchmark
- 1.5 ounces of sweet vermouth
- 5 dashes of orange bitters
- 5 maraschino cherries
Place one maraschino cherry in each shot glass. Combine the bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters in a Boston Shaker with ice. Shake well. Divide evenly among five shot glasses.