Who: John Downer
When: Monday–Tuesday, June 20–21, 10:00am–5:00pm
This consolidated two-day workshop will be held a week after John Downer’s annual sign painting course. Students will use lettering brushes, but no prior experience with a brush is necessary. Much of the coursework will involve drafting letterforms, learning about their proportions, and cutting templates. Proper structure and workable color combinations will be addressed, as they provide a foundation for understanding each system.
Half Block is a sign painters’ style of block lettering which includes no curves. All of the letters which would ordinarily have curves are reduced to angled strokes. The outer contour of O is an octagon, which is ideal when reversing the figure-ground relationship.
Full Block is also a sign painters’ style of lettering. It is based on Half Block, but it has slab serifs. No curves exist in this style, either. Full Block was used extensively on 19th-century wall signs, most of which were painted on brickwork.
Bevel Edge letters are seen in traditional sign painting. Bevels can be either monochromatic or polychromatic. The illusion created by bevels helps make the face of the letter appear to be in low relief, above the surface of the background.
Mock Block is a special treatment seen in sign painting, but not in printing. It’s a way of giving a letter a two-tone “close shade” (which makes the letter look as if it were cut out of thick material) and then a “cast shade” on the opposite side. The resulting shade on the underside is in fact the background color.
Students should bring the following course materials:
Card stock and tempera paint will be provided. A lettering brush can be purchased for $10, or alternatively borrowed and returned after class.
Mr. Downer has been a journeyman sign painter since 1973, a freelance typeface designer since 1983, and a crusader for designers’ rights his entire adult life in the lettering game. He has written about type and type history for various publications, and he is widely known as a perceptive type critic. His typefaces have been published by Bitstream, Font Bureau, Emigre, House Industries, and Design Lab. Stylistically, his designs refer to various eras of history and means of letterform production: 19th- and 20th-century American sign painting and show card writing; 19th- and 20th-century American chromolithography and wood type; 18th-century European book types; 15th- and 16th-century Chancery cursive writing styles; 15th- and 16th-century Venetian printing; and 2nd-century Imperial Roman epigraphy.
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