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.

For the rest of September I'm offering new subscribers discounted rates on the Blagger plan. This will include a copy of BLAG 01, although there are now less than 90 of these left in stock. The button below will get you 25% off the monthly plan, or you can use this link for $20 off the annual plan.

40% Off Everything in the Shop

Variety of sign painting publications and merchandise.
Goods in the Big Cartel shop, all with 40% off until the end of September with code BTS22.

Use the discount code BTS22 to get 40% off everything in the Big Cartel shop. This includes books, posters, brush cases and patches.

Events Galore

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 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, Thank you to Naomi Lipsky and Tony Mead for a couple of the links below.

Binky Brown's Funeral Pyre

Man with white hair painting a sign.
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 online.

The Lost Mural

Three-part pictorial mural with the ten commandments in Hebrew.
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

Woman working with paint pens to create a colourful sign board.
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

Sign with pictorial of native American chief.
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

Upgrade your subscription today for more adventures in sign painting, and to receive BLAG (Better Letters Magazine) in print. This link will get you $20 off the annual Blagger plan, and the button below will give you a 25% discount on your first year of the monthly plan. These offers expire at the end of September, and there are less than 90 copies of BLAG 01 in stock for new subscribers.

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...

To get your copy of BLAG 02 in December, and a copy of Issue 01 delivered to your door, sign up today as a Blagger. You can take out the annual plan for $99 until the end of September, or get your first year on the monthly plan for $9 per month.

Thank You!

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 / @betterletters