This month the world of sign painting has been mourning the loss of Doc Guthrie, sign man extraordinaire, and long-time instructor on America's last sign painting programme at Los Angeles Trade Tech. Numerous tributes have been paid to Doc via social media, including many former students whose lives he changed for the better. I am planning to collate these, and others, for a future online article.
Doc Guthrie's signature in the Sign Painters
book, Cincinnati, 2015.
I only met Doc once, at the 40th anniversary Letterheads meet in Cincinnati, where he kindly signed his page in my copy of the Sign Painters book. We also discovered that we shared a taste in trainers, both being committed Reebok Classics wearers. RIP Doc Guthrie.
Back to School
I'm now back in the groove after the summer holidays. Here are a few catch-up announcements including some tasty 'back to school' discounts, and a busy Autumn ahead for online and in-person events.
BLAG 02 & Subscriptions
This month BLAG 02 goes into the design phase and I'm excited to see the layouts as they emerge. There is once again an international flavour to the numerous articles and features, and it will be shipping to Blaggers worldwide from the end of November.
40% Off Everything in the Shop
Use the discount code BTS22 to get 40% off everything in the Big Cartel shop. This includes books, posters, brush cases and patches.
I've been updating the events page of the site which now lists dozens of talks, workshops, conferences, and exhibitions. Many of these are either exclusively online, or in a hybrid format. They include: the brand new Kernference from Good Type; a Luscious Letterforms workshop from Ken Barber; and (not online) the latest series of Letter Exchange lectures with talks from Seb Lester and Dan Forster, among others.
Latest Online Articles
Here are the latest articles at bl.ag online. Thank you to everyone that has contributed to date, submissions for future pieces are always welcome.
And one from the archive...
The work that goes into BLAG (Better Letters Magazine) is made possible by paid subscriptions
. Thank you to everyone that has shown support in this way, especially our sponsors 1 Shot
, A.S. Handover
, Colossal Media
, and Mike Meyer Sign Painter
. I'm also hugely grateful to patrons Blackout Signs & Metalworks
, C&P Graphics
, Chicago Sign Systems
, Dragging the Line
, John Moran
, Right Way Signs
, Skiltmaler Gundersen
, Stender Bros. Sign Co.
, and W&B Gold Leaf
. Collectively your trust in this endeavour makes it all worthwhile.
Please share informative and inspiring material, or questions, for future issues by replying to this email, email@example.com. Thank you to Naomi Lipsky and Tony Mead for a couple of the links below.
Binky Brown's Funeral Pyre
Justin Green (RIP), creator of Binky Brown, 'Sign Game', and more.
To celebrate the life and work of Justin Green, his surviving family are organising a retrospective in Cincinnati by the name of Binky Brown's Funeral Pyre. They are currently fundraising and you can support this effort via their dedicated GoFundMe.
Some of Justin Green's 'Sign Game' cartoons can be seen here at bl.ag online.
The Lost Mural
Ben Zion Black's Vermont mural. Photo: Associated Press/Lisa Rathke.
The rediscovery of a mural painted in 1910 by Ben Zion Black has resulted in its restoration and installation at the Ohavi Zedek Synagogue in Burlington, Vermont. This Associated Press article discusses the mural's significance and the work done to rescue it.
Trader Joe's Sign Gang
Zoe Terrell working for Trader Joe's. Photo: Nicole Craine for The Washington Post.
Behind every Trader Joe's is a jobbing sign artist/maker, working by hand to give the shops their signature look. The Washington Post met some of the gang.
The $1.5m Sign
Detail of the Musgo Gasoline sign that sold for $1.5m at auction. Photo: Richmond Auctions.
Now officially the most expensive antique sign ever sold, this double-sided porcelain piece for Musgo Gasoline recently fetched $1.5m at auction. The full story is told by Signs of the Times.
Gibbs Connors' Gnarly Interview
Gibbs Connors is a straight-talking Philadelphia sign guy and I really enjoyed this interview that Gnarly Magazine did with him. He talks about how he got into the business, collaboration with other sign painters, and lots more over 37 minutes or so.
I'm currently working on a round-up of podcasts featuring, or dedicated to, sign painting and sign painters. If you have any recommendations, please share them by reply to firstname.lastname@example.org
Ghost Sign Corner
The two Chicago signs featured in 'the corner' last month have been safely removed ahead of their host building's demolition. The Ward's 'soft bun' bread sign has made its way to the American Sign Museum, while the Shell one has been safely stored ahead of a decision on its final resting place. Block Club Chicago has this account of the signs' removal, bravo to all involved.
Advertising sign for Rock City painted on the roof of a barn.
You may have heard of Mail Pouch Tobacco barn signs, but even as a ghost signs enthusiast of 16 years, I only just learned about their cousins, the Rock City barn signs.
The city was founded by Garnet and Frieda Carter in 1932, and established itself as a popular tourist destination. Visitors came to see Frieda's beautiful gardens, and the views (of seven states on a clear day) from the top of the mountain nearby.
However, the location could have remained unheard of were it not for the effectiveness of the painted barn advertising commissioned by Garnet Carter:
"In 1935, there were 900 hand painted barn signs in 19 states, from Michigan to Texas. Sign painter Clark Byers chose each one and travelled all around the country working on them until his retirement in 1969." – Caroline Eubanks
Since Byers' retirement, barns have gradually been lost to tornadoes and highway development, and today there are less than 50. These are documented on a map hosted by Rock City Gardens for anyone interest in seeing one 'in the flesh'.
You just have to believe...
And finally, while researching the 'Ye Olde Sign Shoppe' feature for BLAG 02, I came across this 1906 advertisement for Albert Hallas Gawthorp's Yorkshire sign business. The accompanying text in the Journal of Decorative Art refers to it as,
"One of the many examples of advertising ingenuity which have their origin in the fertile brains of Messrs. Gawthorp, of Leeds, who have few equals, and possibly no superiors in the world of sign-writing.. To praise Gawthorp’s signs, at anyrate in Yorkshire, is rather like praising Old Sol for shining."
Besides Gawthorp being a freemason, and active at the turn of the 20th century, I've not found much else about him and the firm. If anyone has any useful information, and even some examples of his/their sign painting, then I'd love to learn more...
Thank you for reading this latest BLAG (Better Letters Magazine) email newsletter. Please get in touch with feedback, things to consider for publication, and any other adventures in sign painting that you'd like to share.
All good things, Sam
bl.ag / @betterletters