It is believed that we are all born to be artists - and I'm no exception.
How a little girl grew to be an Artist.
I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. Creating my way through primary and high school and deep-diving into Art and Art History, to further education.
Gaining my trade qualifications, then on to Graphic Design and wide-format Digital Printing until finally, I find myself as a serious artist in my early 50s, with an online e-commerce store, selling art worldwide from my home in Mackay, Australia.
I sometimes mention my trade background and for good reason I guess. People ask me where I got my training as an Artist. I didn't complete an Arts degree at University.
I'll let you in on a secret... I was a Brush Sign Writer once upon a time! (Check out the blurry photo of a fresh-faced teenager at the beginning of her career).
By today's standards, sun safety was obviously not an issue, we just slapped on a bit of sunscreen and a hat. I must confess to wearing men's dress shirts like an artist smock when outside working for days on end to try and give some sort of protection.
I am a bit of a shorty in stature, so these shirts sometimes reached well below my knees. What a picture that must have been presented to the passer-by!
Apprenticed as a tradeswoman when I was younger, brush sign writing was my full-time job from the age of 18 and for over a decade until computerised signage had become the norm.
Brushwork did continue for another 10 or more years, but certainly not utilised as much as it had previously. I learnt so much during this time; the importance of detail, how to mark out and match existing lettering, how to hand paint every curve perfectly.
Over the years, I have had the great pleasure to design and paint outdoor advertising and signage on all types of surfaces, in all locations, and at some very interesting places.
Being a sign writer meant managing all types of situations.
Difficult installations or locations and substrates, client requirements, and being flexible and confident to fulfill their needs.
I recall working on a billboard and standing on the top of 16-foot trestles (approx 4.8 mtrs) to reach the billboard. Behind the trestles was a massive drop down to a rail line.
Can you imagine the feeling of already being off the ground balancing on a plank with a drop of several metres behind and then several more below that, and to a rail line? When I say difficult locations, this memory certainly fits the bill.
From pictorials of animals, hand-drawn and painted text onto wooden or metal hand-painted backgrounds, Gold Leaf onto the canopy wall in a beautiful church to pen and ink drawings or painting in reverse onto glass in enamels so they last the years.
Each day presented such diversity.
I don't have many photos from my time as a "Brushie".
I kick myself now and had I known, I would have carried my 'box brownie' camera with me, but getting photos processed was so expensive, even back then. What a shame I didn't have a mobile phone back then to record all that I did.
I am fortunate to have a few photos from early works done over the years. Some I am still hunting for in boxes stashed away on high shelves. Some of the photos below are borrowed from some of my old co-workers.
This skill of brush sign writing is still with me today and I love being able to include some hand lettering into my artworks.
In future blogs, I intend to add some videos of hand-brushed sign writing. Which I think everyone should enjoy. I clearly remember people stopping on the street to watch while I worked on a glass window or awning above a shop on trestles.
They were always fascinated by how fast the lettering formed and became a sign, no longer blobs, and lines of paint.
Painting with acrylics on art paper and canvas is much more romantic.
Doing this kind of artwork doesn't require precision brushes, so I don't get to use my Le Pinceau or Haydn Brushes anymore that meet the precision needs for Brush Sign Writers.
Unbelievably I still have in my possession brushes I purchased in my apprenticeship. That makes them roughly 36 years old. They are still oiled up and sealed in a plastic tube, to stop them from drying out.
They cost me a fortune and I spent many months of hard-earned wages on these sable hair brushes, just so I could do the work required of me.
I nicknamed them my “Rolls-Royce” brushes due to their purchase price tag and the value to me as a tradesperson.
To give you an idea of the cost, one of my brushes, a size 14, approximately the thickness of my pointer finger, cost $140. Just one solitary brush.
In a kit of brushes, you were required to have brushes numbering from 00 all the way up to a size 16. And these were just the enamel brushes.
On top of that were required, acrylic brushes, Dagger Liner brushes (used to do the striping and scrollwork on truck cabs). Yes, these were all hand painted too. Along with a multitude of other strange brushes for many and varied uses.
It was an expensive trade to enter into and we didn't earn a huge wage. Also, remember this was way back in 1986. Those brushes today would be a shocking price.
This part you may or may not know about; Brush Sign Writers were at the height of their trade in the 50s and 60s.
I started my trade in the mid-1980's and only just made it in time, because as we all know the computer age was well on its way.
I consider myself fortunate to have lived and worked in a trade that is close to disappearing altogether. Perhaps bringing it back to life by offering hand-lettered artworks will prevent that from happening. Food for thought...
The paint used at that time had the lead in it as well as solvents. A far cry from today's water paints which are non-toxic and safer to use in our homes and workplaces.
I remember quite clearly having my hands in tins of lead-based paints and solvents all day, every day. The things we did back then.
This blog, has given you the reader a little insight into the world of the disappearing trade of traditional brush sign writing.
You've been able to visit my humble beginnings as a Sign Writer wearing t-shirts, shorts, or overalls, covered in paint, and always happy to show off my latest creations, to becoming the artist I always wanted to be.
I hope you enjoyed this little snapshot in time.
If you would like to view some of my earlier commissioned works as a professional artist click the link below.
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