Ansonia Apartments Building
West 6th St., Los Angeles, CA
Originally called the James Edmunds Hotel, the Ansonia was constructed in 1916 and designed by architects John Parkinson and G. Edwin Bergstrom.
Photo by RD Granados 2012
TA caught up with Dan “Dusty” Madsen, a talented 22 year old sign painter born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. With a whole lot of passion and lettering in the blood, Dusty’s got skills to pay the bills.
Questions: RD Granados
Photography: Mikyas Woldemichael
TA: As a third generation sign painter in your family, can you tell us about growing up around the craft and how long you’ve been doing it?
DM: Growing up I always remember playing in my grandpa’s studio. I would doodle my name and write him little notes with his calligraphy pens. Playing in his studio was my favorite thing to do when we went there. My grandpa’s job was medical illustrator and letterer. Every birthday we would get these amazing custom lettered and illustrated birthday cards from him. I think that’s what sparked my first interest about lettering. In 2007 my grandpa passed away. While going through his stuff in his studio I came across old sign painting books, photos, and materials that were originally my great grandfathers. Since then I’ve focused most of my time into learning and practicing sign painting and I really do enjoy it.
TA: Do you also work in the digital realm as well, graphic design, typography etc? If so, how’s working with the analog vs. digital?
DM: Most of the work I do is all just by hand. Now and again I’ll get a job helping someone design some lettering for a logo or a t-shirt design. I think its cool. Im always down to use lettering for things other than just sign painting.
TA: What do you like or dislike most about painting letters and making signs? What would be the ideal project for you?
DM: I dont know, thats a tough one.I really enjoy painting letters. maybe when a client wants a “fun” font and I have to convince them that thats now what I do. My ideal sign or project would be painting a large sign/ advertisement on a raw brick building. It’s more exciting painting outside of the studio.
TA: What would you tell a young graphic designer thinking about becoming a sign painter?
DM: I’d say if your hearts in it, go for it! we need more young sign painters out there.
TA: Do you sense a revival of the craft and more people taking interest in traditional hand painted signage?
DM: I do. I definitely think there’s a lot of people out there that enjoy things that are hand crafted and authentic. Thats exactly what sign painting is. The word just has to spread that sign painting is still alive and people are still doing it.
TA: Comparing your life working in the digital age to your family’s past in sign painting, what are some of the differences, advantages or disadvantages?
DM: Well now a days it’s definitely easier to market yourself and put you and your work out there. Although, as an artist back in the day, I think you had more of a personal connection to the work you were creating/ designing. There was no photoshop and illustrator short cuts, so everything you produced was 100% you.
TA: Do you listen to music when working, and if so, whats playing on your system?
DM: Im always bumpin some jams. I play Louis Armstrong, The Weeknd, Sade, Tupac, Stevie Wonder, Teddy Pandagrass, Otis Redding, and the list goes on. Although its also sometimes nice to work in silence. It all depends on how I’m feeling.
Contact/Site: Dusty Signs
The design profession doesn’t produce many larger-than-life figures. Robert Brownjohn -BJ, to just about everyone who knew him, and everyone did, was one. His gifts were immense, as were his appetites. Enfant terrible and visionary, he was both. Mick and the Stones wanted to hang with him. Of course it couldn’t last. Robert Brownjohn was simply too big for this world. He died in 1970 at the age of 45, a victim of his own excesses. Today, he is best remembered for his sexy James Bond credit sequences. But Brownjohn’s legacy is far more significant, and his story has all the drama and pathos of a Hollywood blockbuster. Now, for the first time, this extraordinary life and career is remembered in print, with all its richness and complexity.
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More San Francisco Signs: flickr.com/photos/fontshop/sets/72157623812970817
More FontCasts: fontcast.com