Interview: Signwriter Lana Alana
Published on 16.02.2016 by Charlotte
1. How did you come to be a sign painter?
I became a sign painter after watching my father paint signs at my parents home in Essex for most of my childhood. I spent years surrounded by his stacks and stacks of paintings, references, sketches and books as a child. He was always busy painting away whenever he was home, he even had a set up in the end of the living room he made so he could stand and paint whilst we all watched tv together in the evenings.
Anyway, growing up he always encouraged me to draw and sketch all the time. The first piece of hand lettering I think I did that he was impressed with, was write my full name (Alannah) in a script style on a safeways supermarket flyer!
I was always encouraged to draw and have been ever since I can remember… Which later led me to studying Graphic Communication at university. I always knew I wanted to do something creative and having studied graphic design, and gaining an even bigger appreciation for typefaces and lettering, I knew I loved to paint and so I began working on the two together, sign writing came naturally to me when I discovered my love for both subjects. I couldn't stop painting and I just fell in love with the process, then I just knew it was for me!
2. Why do you think traditional signwriting is making a comeback?
I think it’s because nowadays people are much more aware of the quality in the hand made, not just within the sign writing world but beyond that. Generally speaking, I've noticed in the last few years a real movement within younger makers and artists to step back and appreciate more traditional methods of working. After years of the production of vinyl signage, we are surrounded by thousands of signs and images every day…that, over the years, don’t age well. Having a beautifully hand painted sign shows that people really care about having an authentic and unique look, & I think that's what people are really beginning to look for after years of being surrounded by bad signage! It’s great as people have a better appreciation for older methods of design and the quality of the craftsmanship. People are again starting to realise that with a craft like sign writing you get something more unique and special.
3. How do you keep your ideas fresh and interesting?
I'm constantly making notes all over the place to record ideas and inspiration - phrases or words I've heard in songs, conversations with people, in films and books that I really liked… So I'm constantly listening to music, films, podcasts and so on, that I can pick words out of. I've got a whole list of pieces to design next! (Aside from commissioned work that is).
There are so many words and sequences of words that I really like about the english language. I love the hundreds of combinations and ways in which people use words, and I’m forever fascinated by dialect. I find it really inspiring to hear people using words as comparisons or creating rhymes & metaphors and so on, so clever. Words are awesome.
4. Which artists influence your work?
So many! Oh man, I love the work of so many artists & designers working in different creative fields, ranging from the greats such as Mike Meyer, Dave Smith, Lynes & co, Steve Powers, Colossal Media, Frank & Mimi, Dusty Signs and a London based sign painter I just heard about named Archie Proudfoot (who does some really beautiful work on glass). Typographers Jessica Hische and Gemma O’Brien, Street artists Faust, Etam Cru, Lakwena, Dabs Myla, Gary MSK, Amok Island, BMD… I could go on!
5. What is your favourite project to date?
I would have to say my favourite project so far has to be painting a large scale collaboration with my father at the Hoxton Arches gallery a few years back. We were asked to paint an East London inspired mural to celebrate Monorex Agencies 9th birthday. The piece was to be based on Rhyming slang, I loved that because it works perfectly with my love of rhymes in the english language! Plus I got to paint with my Dad, we had never painted a piece together before that so it was really fun to spend 3 days hanging out and doing what we both love!
6. Do you use the computer for any part of the process?
I use my computer quite regularly in my artwork, having studied graphic design. Often beginning the design process of a new piece of work by using Adobe Illustrator to create mock-ups or vector sketches, or to simply allow me to see what something may look like in different colour ways very quickly & provide this to clients.
As I often paint using spray paints with the studio that I run with two other designers, Animaux Circus, we sat through the long process of creating a colour book of swatches that match spray paints you can buy! … so quite often I will digitally create a mock up with hand drawn sketches for a large job using these swatches. I also create vector lettering on my computer for a range of projects, as well as hand painting them. But I always prefer to hand paint, its more natural to me, and I really enjoy the process so much more.
7. What is your favourite brush and why?
I really like the Sable Chisel Writer brushes. I enjoy the way the brushes create such beautifully sharp lines and watching the hairs follow as I'm painting some long strokes, it’s kind of addictive to watch the lines being formed as you go along! Lovely!
8. You've been buying brushes from Handover for a long time, what kept you coming back?
Before I moved over to Melbourne, I had a studio space in Stoke Newington & lived just up the road in Clapton, meaning I was always very close by. I loved to cycle down to Handover to stock up on supplies, there's such a great range of brushes and materials available, you guys always had whatever I needed when starting a new commission, it’s like being in a sweet shop for artists!
9. What would be your dream project?
I’d really love to paint one of those huge walls on the side of a tall building that you often see painted by street artists around the world. Or a nice high wall with some great big lettering - like the beautiful ghost signs you see dotted around old buildings in cities. To get up on one of those scissor lifts and paint really high up, that would be awesome. I love painting outside! I've painted a few large walls so far on some pretty dodgy scaffoldings that have freaked me out to balance on, but I'd still very much like to paint up high even after that!
10. Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to try their hand at signwriting?
For anyone wanting to get into sign writing they should check out what workshops, classes, meetings are on, chat to some painters and watch what people are doing. It always helps and gives you a little boost to chat to people about it! Get to know people with similar interests and pick up some tips off of…and just have fun painting.
Read about what other painters have created, watch tutorials and try to take in as much as you possibly can. It takes time, but it’s absolutely worth learning, and it makes you feel really good once you begin to pick up techniques!