Traditional sign painting

You remember those hand painted signs from the good old days when quality was still non-negotiable and honest men made a living from the skill of their hands and the sweat of their brow? Well, before you get too nostalgic, here’s some good news: sign painting is alive and well thanks to a handful of diehards who refuse to let the traditional ways fade away.

One such man is Dan Madsen from Minneapolis, Minnesota who practices his craft under the moniker Dusty Signs. He is the third generation sign painter in his family. According to Xheight LA, it all started when Dan inherited his grandfather’s collection of drawings and photographs, and his great grandfather’s sign painting books. He went on to receive training in his home town as well as in California by influential sign painters such as, Derek McDonald and Tina Vines.

Take a look at this short video of Dan doing his thing:

If you can’t see the video, click here to view it on Vimeo.

Here are a few more examples from the portfolio of Dusty Signs:

Traditional Sign Painting by Dan Madsen

Traditional Sign Painting by Dan Madsen

Traditional Sign Painting by Dan Madsen

Traditional Sign Painting by Dan Madsen

Traditional Sign Painting by Dan Madsen

Traditional Sign Painting by Dan Madsen

Traditional Sign Painting by Dan Madsen

Traditional Sign Painting by Dan Madsen

Traditional Sign Painting by Dan Madsen

Traditional Sign Painting by Dan Madsen

Traditional Sign Painting by Dan Madsen

Traditional Sign Painting by Dan Madsen

See more on Flickr.

In related news, a documentary called The Sign Painter Movie is currently in production.

Directors Faythe Levine & Sam Macon are traveling around the United States to gather stories from the American Sign Painter. We are interviewing those who have and still continue to work in the industry and have shaped the way our urban landscape looks with their hand lettering and painting skills on walls, windows, cars, building, menus, etc. around us.

I look forward to seeing this film when it gets released, but I think focusing on the USA alone will offer a limited window on the subject. Although sign painting is somewhat of a novelty in advanced countries, it is still the standard in many developing parts of the world, so comparing approaches to this craft across vastly different economical environments could be even more fascinating! Maybe part two?