January 31, 2014


I took a week-end workshop at Swintons Art Supply (http://www.swintonsart.com) taught by Rick Janzen of Streamline Studios (http://streamlinestudiosinc.ca)  and a wicked local sign painter in the sense of the traditional trade craft.
We started out finding about the history and Rick told many great stories about his experiences. There were many book references and lots of photos of past work to look at. He introduced us to the tools of the trade and all the materials etc. were included in the workshop fee = wicked!!
I have always wanted to learn the skills of the traditional sign painter in order to better perfect what I hope to do in my work. I've taken up many of the skills, from transferring lettering, hand painting on glass as well as learning airbrush. I've done a few murals and some signage(see earlier blog post or visit my website for reference) Brianbatista.com. 
We rolled out some poster paper and began with layout and design of hand painted signs.  I decided to make a sign that I can use at my comic expo booth or elsewhere I offer custom work.
Then I was lucky enough to get to try out his electro pouncer. This is definitely something I'd love to have in my studio, though at around $500 its a little rich for my blood. for now a luxury item I can try out. It used electricity to burn holes int he paper. How it works is you stick paper to a piece of metal using magnets. The electro pouncer has a ground wire that gets attached to this metal backing. You turn it on and use it like a pen. It pulses out a little arc which burns holes. So cool. A couple of people got shocked, which isn't that shocking, handle with care!
This paper is then put on top of the surface. Take a chalk bag and tamp the surface and the chalk will go thru the little holes and create an outline to follow that can easily be removed. This is a great way to transfer a design. here I am using white chalk but if the surface was light or white I would use crashed charcoal instead.  Once the designs transferred it makes it much easier to paint, plus I still have the pounced paper design if I need to make multiples.
Here it is mostly painted.  It takes a lot of brush skill to do this well. Something that only time and practice and bring, as in any real skill worth attaining. I ran out of time to add other colours and outlines but I do intend on working on the sign more and adding some more decorate elements and maybe some gold leafing before distressing it.
What interested me most about this particular workshop is the DISTRESSING part.  In my sacred images paintings I try to get that aged antique look. Often it is tedious and labor intensive requiring lots of techniques and time. This on the other hand was quick and effective. First we need to age the wood so that the ground doesn't look so fresh. there are so many ways I found online to do this from vinegar and steel wool to what we did, which was way easier, stain it with raw umber paint watered down.
After the initial drying we applied wallpaper paste to the surface. This will act as a resist for later when we begin removing layers. I used this heavy duty dryer to speed up the process. Aesthetically speaking, the wear on a sign would be more around the edges and more around the top due to weathering so more paste should be applied there, the middle would have much less distress. rick gave us many fine examples and ways about thinking about how to distress the work to look realistic.
 Then you put on your design. You can use a variety of transfer methods or go the old fashioned routs and draw directly on it like I did.
I created a second test panel where I painted a letter on a fully painted background whereas the first I chased in the background. I designed this letter B based on an old rosewood style font I have always admired. another transfer method is to rub the back of the paper with charcoal and then place it down and go over the lines on the front. This pushes the charcoal on the back onto the surface with the traced design.
Here they are painted in. I decreased the contrast between the off white and black to show bleaching by the sun. The colours I used are harmonious with one another and are heritage colours.  With little time I raced to paint these in, they are rough but it is not going to matter once the distressing comes into play.
Here they are after I finish with the two distressing techniques we learned. I like them really aged :D
The first method is to use a warm water soak to loosen the wallpaper paste and then using a floor brush or nail brush with short strokes to lift the paint off the surface where the wall paper paste is applied. Its wet, wild and fun and works fantastic.
I love how this lake sign turned out by one of the other participants.  Did I mention these are water based paints but it works equally as well for oil based paints. It is the messiest part of the process which is why we put down black plastic garbage bags.
We also tried block ageing which added to my tests. It is a way to make it look as though the painting is peeling off without having to life the paint, instead you add paint of the wood colour on the top. Here rick is further ageing his sign.I think the more distressed the better, as long as you can still make out what the sign says. It was a fun time and by the end of the class we had some pieces to be proud of!
Photo by Rick Janzen

I am so stoked about what I learned, I am pumped to apply it to my practice. I already have grand ideas and an extensive list of stuff I want to do so be prepared to see some major output in the coming months  after I finish all my teaching gigs and I can get back to the studio. I can't stop thinking about it, so much so I skipped past the remaining El Salvador trip inspiration. If this class comes up and this interests you I highly recommend the course.

Until next time = :D

1 comment:

Francesca said...

My first watercolour course was in St. Albert in the 1990s, which seems like a lifetime ago. My instructor was a man from the Netherlands who also had his own sign-painting business. He's not around anymore, but he introduced me to the paints I still use today. Windsor & Newton Cotman colours- Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Prussian Blue, China White & Burnt Sienna.