In Production: Sign Painters, A New Documentary from Faythe Levine and Sam Macon

Filmmakers Faythe Levine (Handmade Nation: the Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design) and Sam Macon are working on a new documentary on sign painters persisting in their hand-lettered craft. So far, they’ve shot in Olympia, Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose, and Syracuse, with Milwaukee, Chicago, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta, and more to come. The film, by capturing the stories of sign painters both young and old, illustrates that although digital vinyl lettering has decimated the profession since the early 1980s, the craft still continues to draw in many young painters with an eye for the handmade quality that digital work so clearly lacks.

Then there are the old-timers, like  90-year-old Rey Giese of San Jose, who has been painting signs since the Great Depression and is still going. And everyone seems to have a story about how they picked up the trade, whether it was from a friend, in a trade school, in prison, or as a way to continue a youthful love of lettering first brought out in graffiti.  Stay tuned for more updates on this feature, projected for release in 2012. Check out some early stills below.

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13 thoughts on “In Production: Sign Painters, A New Documentary from Faythe Levine and Sam Macon

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  2. Chuck Gunderson

    My Dad was Marvin Gunderson. He actually painted 42′ x 90′s for Leo Burnett in Chicago, the ad agency for Marlboro Cigarettes, please contact me should you need information or help in your documentary. He was one of the greatest commercial artists of all time.

  3. MARSHALL A. COALTER

    I worked with the original marolbourgh man sign painter for 24 years. the images were 20′x60′
    outdoor advertising signs. his name was marvin gunderson. he worked for pacific outdoor in
    los angeles. then his own company outdoor media group. he passed away in 1998. i still have many of the 
    camera ready art photo prints he painted from. all came from the add agency leo burnett. no line
    snapping just a old fashion yard stick. some of the heads on the signs were 40′ tall.
     

  4. MARSHALL A. COALTER

    I worked with the original marolbourgh man sign painter for 24 years. the images were 20′x60′
    outdoor advertising signs. his name was marvin gunderson. he worked for pacific outdoor in
    los angeles. then his own company outdoor media group. he passed away in 1998. i still have many of the 
    camera ready art photo prins he painted from. all came from the add agency leo burnett. no line
    snapping just a old fashion yard stick. some of the heads on the signs were 40′ tall.
    ready art work from the add agency leo burnett.

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  7. Mark Staff Brandl

    I’m thrilled you are doing this. My father was a sign-painter and I am still very involved with using his techniques in my “fine” art paintings and such. It ius a beautiful art and I hate seeing it be replaced by plastic crap. Go check out my site sometime (www.markstaffbrandl.com). Great best wishes and thanks to you all.

  8. warren Lunt

    Glad you’re doing this. I am a 57 year old signpainter still going in Denton, Texas. Mostly specialize in faux antique and distressed signs for restaurants. Looking forward to seeing your movie. Hope it will generate more interest in hand techniques. Thanks, Warren

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