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We gathered a handful of Los Angeles sign painters together at the Outpost for Contemporary Art to view their work, talk about the craft of sign painting, and discuss the goals of the Full Dollar project on York Blvd.
The group of sign painters we spoke to was as talented as they were diverse, including Rodolfo Cardona, originally from El Salvador, and Agbey Hommey, from Ghana. Some of them are self taught, while others attained a degree from the well-known L.A. Trade Tech sign painting program.
We even had a female sign painter at the table - Kimberley Edwards, a.k.a. Window Goddess. Kimberly is a rarity in the male dominated world of sign painting.
It has become clear that most sign painters consider themselves artists, and in most cases their profession is just a way of funding their real artistic projects, whether it be murals, watercolor, or sculpture. We touched on this topic when we interviewed Richard Ankrom, who also talked with us at the roundtable.
We discussed the rise of digital sign printing as an fast and affordable alternative to the hand painted signs. This is a topic we spoke about with Ecuadorian graphic designer Juan Lorenzo Barragan, who described the loss of hand painted signs to a more commercial, digital identity in his country as a pity. While the L.A. sign painters acknowledged the rise of digital signage, many of them stated they still receive enough requests for their services that it has not affected their craft.
We ended our discussion by speaking about how Full Dollar might affect the businesses and community of Highland Park. Walking down York Blvd. or Figueroa St., hand painted signs clearly serve an important role in identifying the community. However, many of them have lost their value and splendor from years of neglect. Take Jesse's Upholstery for example--housed in a beautiful 1950s building whose old painted sign has faded and chipped over the 13 years the business has been there. The sign painters agreed that it's vital for the community to find a way to revere these types of buildings' historical character while brushing new life onto them.
We will be introducing the Full Dollar sign painters and their individual stories to you soon. Keep your eyes open!