This time last year I went down south to Maidenhead to spend the week with Joby Carter and take part in his 5 day sign writing course. It was a course I had had booked in for months in advance and was really excited about. This was my first proper venture into sign writing.
Well what a week it was, I learnt so much about sign writing from somewhat of a legend in the sign writing world....
Day one involved lots of drawing and studying of the Roman font. Working on the drawing straight lines, curves, serifs and ensuring the thicks are thick and the thins are thin. The day was broken up with a wander round Joby's yard. What a place! Sheds and sheds full of lorries, rides and all sorts of other weird and crazy stuff, naturally everything was adorned in Joby's beautiful art work.
On days two and three we started to throw lots of green paint onto our practise boards. Lots of lines, circles and roman font were practised fueled by what seemed like hundreds of cups of tea. Tea is a key nutrient in the diet isn't it? The general idea of these two days was... Paint a practise board. Get feedback from Joby. Clean the board off. Brew up. Repeat. This process was excellent, having the time to just practise solidly without being interrupted by other mundane life tasks like work or the washing up is always time well spent. Although sitting down all day it's amazing how fried you feel at the end of 7 or so hours of painting, that may just have been all those solvents though?!
The other bonus of spending time in Joby's workshop is not only do you get to spend hours staring at the various pieces of art adourning the walls but Joby was bashing out signs at the front of the room like no one's business which was both inspiring and frustrating in equal measure.
On days four and five we made a start on our final pieces. I wasn’t overly fussed about the final piece being a masterpiece as I was hoping that in a years time I would be able to look back and go look how much better things are now… My word of choice was ‘Chapeau’, the French for hat which is used in cycling terms as a ‘hats off’ kind of well done. However I think I might have missed out on the exclamation mark?! Ah well. Doing the final piece was a chance to go through the whole process of drawing out a sign on a piece of paper, copying it up on the board with a piece of china graph and then actually painting it out. Font wise I kept it simple wise a roman font, I'd been working on it all week and the feedback that Joby gave everyone was that if you can master Roman then the rest will come with time. Colour wise I went bold and brash. As I said I wasn't really too bothered about the final sign for me it was more about the process and getting some worthwhile feedback from Joby.
Obviously now it is a year on and 'Chapeau' sits happily above the window in my office. I will always be fond of this sign simply because it was the first sign of hopefully a lifetime's worth of work. I look at this sign now and I can see the imperfections and what could have been better, oh and what about that outlining!! 'Chapeau' is a good reminder of where it all started and I feel that one year on it is only just now that I am beginning to understand just how much there is to learn in this trade. Some days I look at my work and think ‘that’s pretty good’ then see what someone else is doing and think 'wow I still have so far to go'. But that's good. It's exciting to think that one day I might be half as good as someone with Joby's talent.
On that note, the brushes are calling....