Signwriting Lessons at NGS – About us
This page tells you why we do this and how - with some useful links.
Always by hand – Learning with Nick Garrett Fine Signwriting of London.
NGS produce some of the most refined, classic writing in the world. Let’s take a look at how I have enabled the passing on of these skills…
This craft must thrive… and you can too. Here’s how.
Nick Garrett was absolutely amazing during his sign-painting course this weekend. London is amazing, sign-painting is an actual profession here and I learned so much over these past 2 days and met some great people.
Kaja Poule, Paris
Above: Lettering artist Kaja Poule of Paris refining her fab technique with me in 2017
This is a big healthy step up toward the summit. It will take time… it’s that good.
Learning the nearly lost art of Painting Letters with one of London’s foremost signwriters, Nick Garrett.
My mission is to teach the truly great culture of hand painted letters and the give new artists the opportunity to make an Independent Arts based living, doing what they love.
I know exactly how it works starting out, making headway out there up the ladder. I started out at 21 with no formal training and made my way just like you are. I thumbed through the Yellow Pages and made the jump best I could.
You have to take calculated risks.
For you the first jump is probably deciding who to train with.
IMHO right now all sign training programs need to take a good look at themselves. Dave Smith awesome, Wayne Tanswell is great, Joby Carter too.
I work hard on the content of my study roster because it is now 75% of what I do. I listen to criticism test it and develop day in day out.
NGS are a short step away from launching a first ever diploma level study in February 2017. It is deservingly yours… the new student learner of the art.
We’re all sharing a revival of authentic craftmaking turning into a heyday. The early 21st century will be remembered as a gateway into a new era of creative making. Just where this can go is down to you and up to our shared creativity and trust. It’s also down to a new breed of instructors.
No one can offer a 5 year apprenticeship today I believe it is not necessary in any case. I trust the ambition of the newbies to cross the bridges and make the jumps.
In order to ensure the ongoing future and depth of this art, more trainers are needed with a new focus on the academics of the craft.
It’s time for signwriters to read up, sharpen up new ideas and engage with teaching the next generation.
Tobias Newbigin at work – will guys like him help share the craft? I think so.
Creating new artists
There are a few young writers out there today like Hannah Matthews, Jack Hollands and Tobias Newbigin who have shown that with this special self trust and self determination the craft can be developed to it’s highest level aside from the old guard formal process. They now inspire the masters and why shouldn’t they.
If you go out and become a writer with no formal training or apprenticeship you should be celebrated not lambasted for it.
Age and knowledge has been long used as a means to control trades and it is an era that is happily over. Your collective determination and talent has proved the idea of art-based enslavement as wholly wrong.
Women in the arts – 80,000 years of women in design
Craftswomen of Aboriginal Australia wove baskets in black and yellow reed to keep insects and vermin away from their catch… women of the Roman era created much of what we see in that early architectural model – they built the place alongside men and slaves.
During the wars women made the signs only to lose the work on resumption of peace. That surely is not why we stand tall and fight for so called freedom. Freedom is equality.
It is a right for all to be able to create and earn a living from it. Not just that bottom line, but the right to be admired for their own particular creative voice and expertise. Irina Shestakova, Hannah Matthews, Chloe Garrett, Alice Mazilli, Chloe Tickner, Daisy Emerson to name a few new, great letterers who have gone on from my studio are deserving of that and continue to grow, lighting the way.
NGS supports wholeheartedly the equal opportunities of all.
The lettering arts, of which writing on walls is one of the earliest forms, deserve to be shared in order to make our places of living more effective and enjoyable. They deserve to be taken to those who claim they have no talent and shared in order to show all just how creative we all are… we are born free, and creative after all. So why not learn to express it professionally?
We are taught to doubt the value of art as a mainstream career and in the words of Picasso ”I just didn’t give up painting…” and in doing so (as he liked and loved) he became a living legend.
It tells us something about the nature of success and satisfaction. They go together when you find them in yourself… and work at it.
It also tells us that that act alone is seen as anti establishment. So our first hurdle is to ignore those that deride our fresh ideas. Even if they are partners, loved ones, friends or family. An artist has to be prepared to go it alone… if necessary.
Mechanics over Philosophy and the clown
Yep the brush skills are Zen… but Zen Taoism is patriarchal lacking too. It was designed to use wordy excuses to control and subdue women and ordinary people… at its worst… at its best it is now used by Insta nerds to prove points, passive aggressive jibes, and generally try to meme themselves toward the status of philosophically Facebook superior beings. Taoist addicts are everywhere and it actually filters deeper thoughts and ideas about important personal stuff and learning processes.
Easy fit all Taoism, thugs life and madcap humour is not up to the task of modern day sign design thinking.
The idea for example of a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step is so fanciful nay weak, it’s lost before it starts. Any journey starts with planning and thought. Deciding on a direction and how to get there. To encourage people to just take a step and you are on your way is really irritating. It was designed originally to occupy the tillers.
I teach people to really plan the initial stages of training or a project for example and to prepare properly for each task. And to also think through the production roll through in as much detail as possible. How ‘fatigue verses familiarity’ will fight it out midway through a big project. How final finish and clean up processes will pan out under pressure, failing light and fatigue on any project large or small.
How to dissect problems and choose the chunk that cures… how to say do the opposite to figure out a solution is dumb. How specifics need to include flexibility and options. How the unexpected innovation must be allowed to happen.
Where we need to be most of the time is with sound, crafted mechanics.
As you grow more successful you will encounter competition and trolls and snipers.
Even the much loved greats confide in me about the devastation they suffer via Instagram and Facebook ninjas. The best insulation is to create a circle from the studio days and keep them close.
Remember the most important fact is that by concentrating on your hand you make the brush truly mighty. The heart will take care of itself.
Be courageous and never be afraid to tell someone to get lost.
Sign writing is something connected to our deepest self from eons gone by. It’s why we are fascinated by the act itself. To watch voices being formed by the brush or pen certainly is a magical thing. Our letters rise up in the minds of the viewer and remain there for a very long time.
Welcome to your first beautiful steps.
You can’t go too deep into this – you can only go too shallow.
This course is different to the others… it’s more focused, technical. Not just about painting letters. Alice Mazilli
Kind words thank you David Smith.
“This is the difference… you not only know what your doing but you are a bloody nice bloke and have passion off the Signwriting scale!”
David Adrian Smith, Glasswriter, Gilder and Carver
You fancy making great painted letters? Watch this reel…
Some of the basic techniques we can teach you will stay with you forever. The secret of setting out quickly and making simple strokes turn into great letters.