“You can make the brush do whatever you want.
That's real power”
So says the late Keith Knecht in the documentary Sign Painters
Being a child of the 80/90s, for better or worse, I grew up with the silicone chip. By the time I started work the only tool of the trade I needed to know about was the Mac, traditional type being consigned to overpriced gift shops and flea markets.
This meant that to me leading was a matter of alt + up/down on the keyboard and optical alignment was a checkbox. There is no argument that this has made the task easier. But it also means that the journey of learning typography has gone from a hands on apprenticeship, taking years and learning from masters and been condensed into a few terms at art school. Whereas once a typographer was a respected and integral part of any creative department, now it is an amalgamated skill we expect to see in the armament of any designer/art director—only in many cases we don't.
All of this is why in the name of interest and greater knowledge I have started pursuing a study of sign painting. I became interested earlier in the year and in June I attended an introductory class at Osbourne Signs in West Sussex, which I highly recommend. Right now I'm super excited about a course in London being taught by legendary, US sign-painter Mike Mayer it's over 2 days (27/28 October) more info here, but be quick cos it's gonna sell out.
Since I started I've already noticed the effect on my typesetting, it's more considered, I'm more aware of negative space and the area within copy than I was before. As well as feeling like a constructive use of my spare time it's also very therapeutic and gives me space to think. For anybody who's interested I'd recommend buying a couple of chisel brushes and a couple of pots of 1-Shot, for less than the price of a meal out your well on your way.
Watch this space