sign painting

Although I would consider this a complete side project, I am interested in signs (as in street signs).  I borrowed some good one-liners pulled from Alessandra’s poetry and hand printed them with oil paint on plywood.  The tricky thing (I think Al would agree) is not to detract from the poetry itself by using overly distracting lettering.  Ultimately, it becomes a battle between words and image for attention.  It’s the same challenge as trying to create a unique storefront sign or a logo without losing the message completely. Perhaps the interesting thing about these signs is the lack of functionality or direction, which brings back the old talk about art for art’s sake, and art being at odds with utility.  (This is where I might argue about the function inherent in art, and that even aesthetic beauty alone is functional, but that seems tangential at the moment.)


What this inquiry really needs is a deep look into artists like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Charles Demuth, etc, and throw in a contemporary design school textbook, if I ever intend to take these works seriously.  For now, it will probably remain secondary to my other work.

Moulin Rouge, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Moulin Rouge, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

The Figure 5 in Gold, Charles Demuth

The Figure 5 in Gold, Charles Demuth











This entry was written by Sarvey and published on August 18, 2011 at 7:16 pm. It’s filed under 8folds artists. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “sign painting

  1. words are images, too, i guess. in the way that they occupy space on a surface to convey anything, value, meaning, arguments. they supply lines, hard and soft intersections, collide and run just as color does. do we not read words on a leaf of paper as we do graphics? can we not rest our eyes on a group of words and react in a singular moment? when does reading words become a reflex as is reading images?

    • I remember learning in my speed-reading class in 5th grade that we read words as whole images rather than as a combination of individual letters. My teacher used the example of being in a jungle and seeing a lion, that you would see a LION, not tail + teeth + mane = lion. Not to mention that words produce images and all sorts of associations in our minds … starting to sound like Synesthesia?


  2. onthefold on said:


    You should also look at early twentieth century artists like Stuart Davis and Jacob Lawrence whose styles are kind of like signs in themselves. There are some more recent San Franciscan street artists really into sign painting/ documentaries on Netflix about them if you look in the right spots.

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