Getting it right

Getting it right



I have repainted the Hewas Inn pictorial sign a couple of times over the years and never been completely satisfied with the result. It’s a nice enough idea, initially worked up in collaboration with the landlord, depicting an agricultural scene set in front of a local landmark. Somehow though it was missing something. Areas of the design were indistinct, and with the passage of time I had lost my original source photographs that I had referred to, resulting in subsequent pictures being painted with only the old faded sign as a guide.

When the sign needed to be replaced this time it was an ideal opportunity to refresh the design and improve it, so this week I dug out as much reference as I needed, both from my own extensive library and online, and set about breathing new life into the old idea. Some time ago I bought a very tired old horse harness so that I could better understand how they work, and this has also been pressed into service as reference material.

The research and sketching side of the process on any project can take a long time as there is seldom a complete image that can be reproduced exactly, and I usually pull in elements of the design from several sources and stitch them together in a sketch. This sketch is then altered and adapted a few times until the composition works for me. This will probably take much longer than I had budgeted for in my quote in this case, but the important thing is to get it right. The time put in is a double investment too, as I am also writing and illustrating a book which has a large horse drawn vehicle in a leading role, so the more familiar I am with heavy horses in harness the better. It’s another example of how everything that I do artistically, whether painting, carving or writing, invariably informs and supports the other projects in some way. No effort is ever wasted.

Over the weekend I will sketch the figures that will be pitching the hay onto the cart, and add them in. I already know roughly where they will be and how they will be standing, but the detail still needs to be refined.

It’s a lot of work for a small country pub, but each job is as important to me as the next whether its for a Royal Household or a local business. To the landlord and patrons of this pub their sign matters. In the end I know the sign will be better for the effort. I will enjoy painting it, secure in the knowledge that it is the best that I can do, and hopefully it will be an accurate depiction of hay harvesting in the early 1900s.


Tidy Studio

Tidy Studio

Signature Signs studio

“Well that’s one corner of the studio tidied up. No, honestly that IS tidy. No, I won’t show you photos of how it was before I started. Anyway it has clearly been tidied because there is a flat surface with nothing on it, where a guy might actually be able to work. Now to tackle the rest of it.”

My workshop can become extremely cluttered at times.

That is usually due to having at least two or three projects on the go at any one time. Being at different stages each project involves different tools and materials, all of which are used daily in rotation.

In amongst this, new ideas are occurring, for which sketches must be made and reference books must be referred to. Personal ongoing projects also share this space, essential practice pieces that hone the techniques that will be called into play on some future carved or painted commission. In a small space, this build up of books, paper, paint, brushes, pens, wood carving tools, half finished carvings etc. can get quite tricky, so once in a while a big purge of clutter becomes necessary.

It feels great when it’s done…..but it doesn’t last long.
I have periodically tried to work differently over the years, but my mind moves faster than my hands, so there is always an accumulation of jobs spread around the studio at any given time.

Linseed Oil Paint

Linseed Oil Paint

I received my tin of Leaf Green exterior paint from Brouns & Co. yesterday afternoon.

It has been a long term aim of mine to experiment with linseed oil paint for use in my traditional sign painting business, Signature Signs, and the time has finally come

After stirring the paint I began mixing the turpentine and linseed oil to the prescribed proportions for the primer coat.

This is where the magic happened.

You see, I used to be an artist and illustrator for a living, before turning to sign painting in 1998. I worked in all media, but oil paints were my favourite. As part of my research into the techniques of the old masters

I had come across a glazing formula using linseed oil, turpentine, and a few other ingredients.

When I mixed the Brouns and Co. paint this morning my workshop filled with a delicate aroma so reminiscent of that glaze recipe that my mind flooded with wonderful memories and emotions as I recalled how much I had loved painting in oils all those years ago.

Hot on the heals of the memories came the inspiration for how I can best incorporate what I have learned throughout my career with this wonderful paint, to reach new heights in my profession and new levels of creativity.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that I am actually giddy with nostalgia and excitement for what the future may hold !

Pullman Crest

Pullman Crest

Pullman crestThe incessant rain is hammering from a leaden sky onto the roof. Inside deep shadows and warm golden light make the studio the only place to be on a day like this. With a new exciting project on the bench I have all I need.

I have been commissioned to paint a new version of the iconic Pullman crest, synonymous with luxury rail travel worldwide.

The original artwork from which their crest is reproduced has been lost, and all attempts to digitally touch up their remaining blurry reference failed to achieve the crisp, authentic finish required.

Consequently they called on me to repaint it in the traditional way for reproduction on all future applications.

It wasn’t easy working from very poor reference, but with time and drawing on my past experience I eventually teased out the necessary details.

It’s quite an honour to be associated with a brand as universally recognized for their tradition of quality as Pullman.