"Signs of Every Description"
May 20, 2010 10:08 AM   Subscribe

Up There is a twelve minute documentary about the nearly-lost art of hand-painted wall advertisements, the kind that eventually become ghost signs. The signs in this film were painted by Colossal Media/Sky High Murals and by Bob Middleton, himself the scion of a New York sign-painting family.

Bob Middleton describes the process:
This is a rough idea of how some wall signs get painted: I receive the phone call and make an appointment. I meet the customer and he usually takes me down to the street and shows me where he wants the sign. The space is from the edge of the building in to the first row of windows and from the top of the third window down from the roof to the bottom of the fifth window down.
posted by ocherdraco (10 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I love this stuff.

I was just recently thinking what a great time it would be for a comeback of the hand-painted wall sign. In this day and age of hyper-animated billboards, the concrete vivid dignity of a beautifully lettered and composed painted image would be pretty visually arresting.
posted by Miko at 10:18 AM on May 20, 2010

Okay you want some GREAT NYC trivia? Okay normally I do this in person but this is too good to pass up.

Okay, so see this hand -painted sign for Marc Jacobs? Neighborhood feature - West Village land mark, the tiles on the fence are all 9-11 memorial tiles. It's pretty well known. Now turn your head to the right a bit until you can see the side of the triangle....

Look familiar? There used to be a diner there. You may have seen it.

It's this one
posted by The Whelk at 10:25 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Miko, I'm seeing more hand-painted ads on brick in places like Williamsburg and the Lower East Side. They tend to be more imaginative then the billboards.
posted by The Whelk at 10:26 AM on May 20, 2010

I love the hand painted signs. When I was in Port Townsend two years ago, their murals from days long past were still fairly legible. Most buildings have been around for at least a hundred years, and businesses just seem to move in and out of the spaces instead of tearing them down (the balcony shown in the above photo is that of a bar nestled in the back of building overlooking the puget sound).

So, more murals like this, the better, especially if they keep the similar esthetic. Granted there probably wont be many for Bull Durham Tobacco.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:01 AM on May 20, 2010

FYI, this film project was comissioned by Stella Artois. The Ritual Project.
posted by d1rge at 2:26 PM on May 20, 2010

Wow. What a cool film. I love that it gives both insight into an unusual process and provides a slice of New York life - it has a lovely sense of place.

Thanks for the link to the ghost signs post, too, ocherdraco. I love the longevity of hand-painted signs - this one, in Baltimore, is one of my favorites. While it's not particularly stylish, it's very easy to situate historically. Every time I see it, I'm pulled out of the present for a moment, which is a pretty cool experience to have when I'm just walking down the street on my way to get a beer.
posted by EvaDestruction at 3:42 PM on May 20, 2010

I love old ghost signs. A town where I can see one instantly gains a ton of respect from me.
posted by toekneebullard at 7:23 PM on May 20, 2010

This ghost sign is just around the corner, and no one can remember what the word "push" was supposed to mean.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:10 AM on May 21, 2010

There's a brick wall I can see out of my window, and sometimes they hang printed canvases, sometimes they us a scaffold to paint the sign right on the wall. Including portraits of movie stars and such. One edgy urban design incorporated the underlying brick pattern as a border or hold-out. The bricks were painted with primer, so that bricks could be painted on them.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:23 AM on May 21, 2010

I love ghost signs too! It gives me a really good feeling to see some of these in my hometown.
posted by zcode7 at 11:10 PM on May 21, 2010

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