Michael Leventis – lettering for the artist

Lettering the fine fine art painting

This lettering commission was really unpredictable with the canvas and different absorptions affecting flow of sign enamel.

The letters actually flowed on beautifully… but the real drama was getting them on in the first place.

Normally the layout drawing traces down onto the surface easily and one uses the chalk line draft as a close spacing guide.

This drawing and trace down decided to completely fail for some unfathomable reason.  It was at that moment I realised there was something special in the way he applied his paint.

”Only oils with turpentine he mused..”

But as I gave up the normal route I realised I had to do it differently and without hesitation.

I grabbed a pair of rusty studio scissors and started hacking out the letters with reasonable accuracy and rising panic… after a fairly desperate activity I laid the drawing back up and flicked chalk across the now newly chopped stencil.  In 32 years this was a first and not without desperation.

I never use the drawing as a final mark… I always take my brush and allow it to command the structure and curves.  The drawing gets you spaced accurately but after that it can get in the way.

At last my pallet was loaded and brush charged to the canvas the chiselled sable went and with a tip led technique I found myself flying around the text!  Ocassionally the canvas sucked in the mix and cause tiny errors, spiders and runs…  I zapped these with tissue at hand and re cut the glyphs.

The font itself was a contrived New york wharf type of 50s font – chunky and hard. Standing back with line one done it looked really hard and perfect.

I was amazed!!  This was good.

After 30 minutes they were done and it was solid… no need for an outline as originally planned.

The painting had taken on a new dimension and talked it’s own poetic message.

Masking the 10mm box line was a job every bit as accurate as Damien Hirst job nay more so… involved taping registers for marking out … marking, straight liner tape as offset guide, then Frog tape, tracking the straight setters… corners all needed re tape cut ins because impossible to razor trim tap for obvious reasons… Frog Tape ruled again with only 2 tiny bleeds.

Curious as I usually am about my clients, I had a number of fascinating kick-back chats with Michael in his fab Rauol restaurant in Maida Vale and talked about his past present and future aspirations..

I can recommend the salmon and avocado sandwich by t’way.

”I started out working with my father… he didn’t want me to head in the ‘wrong direction’ (art college) and so in my early twenties I found myself in the USA … we had a number of businesses in the states… one of which was a bottling plant for Cocoa Cola… ”

But it wasn’t until I met Francis (Bacon) years later and quite by chance on Ios that I realised I had to paint again… Francis demanded I return to England and found me a studio… how could I refuse that?

” You see my father died of lung cancer… and the chap in the Marlborough adverts died of lung cancer too… so it’s deeply ironic.

I physically winced when he told me that.

”How devastating… ”

Michael kep his eyes fixed in his sheltered yet poised way.  he struck me as a tender hearted man and a gifted painter.

Getting up close to his image on the canvas was quite a surprise because at a distance these graphically rendered images seem rather slick. Up close is a different mater.

They are beautifully painted… crafted across the carefully selected shifts and divisions.

Divisions they depict and play with.

TBC shortly



Ben Jones designs: Heavenly Bodies Bridal

Posted 22 hours ago

By Ben Jones

Earlier this week I mentioned that a logo I had designed for one of my clients, Heavenly Bodies Bridal, was going to be hand painted onto their new shop front, by the talented Nick Garrett.

We had originally hoped that I would pop down to film the process, but unfortunately, I was unable to make it down to the store for the time of painting. So there is no video, boo 😦

I do have a photo however! yay!

photo curtesy of Nick Garrett – pilfered from his website

I think you will all agree, it looks VERY tasty!

You can check out more of Nicks work here: www.nickgarrettsignwriter.com


Master craftsman Dan Seese: Colorado Sign, Glass, gilder and creative decorator

The genius of Dan Seese: Sign, Glass, gilder and creative decorator

Every so often one bumps into simply astonishing people on the net…

Just the other day I chanced upon US (Colorado) based Dan Seese http://www.danseesestudios.com, and extraordinary craftsman with a huge passion for not only what he does, but for what others do around him.

Talking to Dan was different though… here was a bloke absolutely brimming with ideas and knowledge that I felt a strong kinship toward – like I felt toward Dave Smith. It’s a brethren thing we all cherish.

Sign writing and gilding is making a revival because of the peripheral knowledge and sightings of Dan’s beautiful workmanship and others like him.

His work is alive!

In this article he describes how to create the illusion (and reality) of frosted glass. Now while I don’t normally promote the use of vinyl screens and treatments, I read on and found his understanding of the materials and hand cutting made the difference in both aesthetic design and client satisfaction.


Nick Garrett NGS


TUESDAY, JUNE 5, 2012 AT 9:45PM

Sometimes a project calls for concealing the view through a window. There are a number of ways to create obscure-glass, always driven by the needs of the situation.  A solid sandblasted panel allows the light to come through but nothing can be seen on the other side of the glass.

Glue chipping creates beautiful random patterns in the glass which maintain some clarity but which distort the light so that everything is blurred.

Ashaded etching will have gradations of clear and etched areas – similar to airbrushing.

All of these options can be done in the studio and later installed, but when an existing window needs to be obscured on-location, the options are limited – especially if completely replacing the window is not in the budget.

On several occasions I’ve found that applying a transluscent vinyl film which simulates etched glass to be a perfect solution.

Obscure Glass: Mr. Moonlight, using “etched glass” films

Recently I had a client who wanted the window in the master bathroom to be fully obscured. The window beside the tub looked out onto the private deck of the home, but it was completely clear, providing no privacy without drawing the shade.  Together we established a theme and I created a playful drawing, inspired in part by a moon face in a children’s story book. The end result gave the bathroom a whimsical ambiance allowing plenty of light during the day and no need to draw the shades at night.

I covered the entire glass with 3m “Dusted Crystal” film and then, after cutting the illustration out of 3m “Frosted Crystal” film, I applied it as a second layer.  I combined both computer-aided cutting with my plotter, as well as hand cutting.

The main caveat in this method is that I try to round corners and also instruct the customer to take care when cleaning the surface so as not to catch the corners on the design elements and cause it to lift. 

This application is obviously not the same as if you were to permanently alter the glass through more traditional methods, but over the years I’ve found it to be an appropriate approach to creating obscure glass where the situation calls for it.

Some previous projects with similar treatment: 

Obscure Glass: Etched film on window above bath tub

Obscure Glass: Etched film on entryway window

Dan Seese Studios, Inc.

3830 Capitol Dive, Fort Collins, Colorado 80526






Antique sign – gold leaf & smalts (click image to enlarge)

Recently, historic restoration specialist Tom Tisthammer of Wattle & Daub Contractors was showing me his collection of antique signs, drawing my attention to one of his favorites – a sign with an “aggregate” background. As I examined this little gem, an office-building sign identifying the “Acousticon Neumeyer Company”, I saw that it was a prime example of …

Click to read more …


Starting an Art Guild or Co-op

Starting an Art Guild or Co-op

Many people are interested in starting a guild or art group, but don’t know where to start. Groups provide a good setting to exchange information and to socialize. They can also accomplish things that individual artists can’t, such as sponsoring workshops, organizing group activites, or operating group facilities, studios, and galleries.

The purpose of this paper is to share the experiences of one group of artists in forming a guild.

The Orchard Valley Ceramic Arts Guild is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley. (We chose the name “Orchard Valley” to invoke the heritage of California’s past, rather than referring to a particular geographic area.)

The group was started informally in mid-2000; we began signing up members in January, 2001. By mid-2003, we had 168 members, and lots of activities going on. We were fortunate to be in an area with a lot of active ceramic artists, so we were able to grow quickly, but we know of groups with as few as 9 members that are still able to accomplish a lot by working together. We hope that our experiences can help other artists get together!

Getting Started

First, you will need a core group. One person can be the catalyst, but it takes a lot of work to get something like this started – you’ll need a group of people who are excited about the idea, and willing to put in some work to make it happen. In our case, we eventually had a group of 7 people who met regularly to plan, and who each put in a little seed money ($30) to get things off the ground.

We started out by creating a mission statement, which is just a short statement of what the organization is all about. We wanted to create a supportive group, where members work together to help and encourage one another, so this is emphasized in our mission statement.

Under the umbrella of the mission statement, we then decided on the activities we wanted to offer, and we put a person in charge of planning each of these activities: newsletter, website, regular meetings, workshops, and sale. (We later added special events like group pit firings.) We wanted to have some activities in the works when we started recruiting members, so we could tell them what they would get in exchange for their membership dues!

You will need someone who is comfortable with budgeting and spreadsheets to act as treasurer. The treasurer, working with other members of your core team, will develop your first budget, This means figuring out what your activities will cost, estimating how many members you can recruit, and setting your dues to cover your expenses (with a little left over for future projects).

We identified local places where we could reach other potters: schools, clay suppliers, etc, in preparation for our public “launch.” One of our initial team members was responsibility for recruiting, and she put together a nice brochure for us to distribute. It also helped to do a lot of personal networking! We kicked off our recruiting drive with a party that we organized, and we invited every potter we could find. At the party, we ?talked up? the guild and tried to convey our excitement? we actually signed up about a dozen new members that night, and another couple of dozen in the first few months. We now have a meeting every other month. Meetings always have refreshments, usually a guest speaker, but plenty of time to socialize and chat about clay stuff. Members often bring new work to show, or questions for other members.

By the way, the owner of our local clay store has become an enthusiastic supporter. He lets us use his shop for small workshops, post flyers there, and so on. If you have local art suppliers and shops, get them on your side as early as possible!

The rest of this page contains some lessons we’ve learned over the past couple of years.

Professional Appearance

We were lucky to have a professional website developer, and a professional graphic artist, among our early members. From the start, our website, membership brochure, and newsletter looked very good. We didn’t realize how important this was until much later. Once we all got to know one another, many of our new members told us they joined because the group looked professional – they were proud to be associated with it.

So, although it was a lucky accident for us, we’ve learned the importance of a professional appearance. When deciding who will do your design work, don’t just take the first volunteer! We actually held a competition for our logo design. We have a committee review event flyers and other material to make sure it meets the group standards and conveys the image we want to promote. I hope this doesn’t sound too fussy – we just found that if you want people to join you, then you must look like a group they’d want to be part of.

Website and E-Mail

Electronic communication is becoming critical to the visibility of any group!

We found our website to be absolutely essential. I don’t think we could have succeeded without it. It’s the one place members and the public can go for up-to-date information about the guild and guild activities. When you meet a new potter and tell them about the guild, you don’t need to have a brochure handy – just give them the address of the website. If you forget the date of the next meeting, check the website. Want to sign up for the next workshop? Go to the website.

We publish a paper newsletter 6 times a year – people like to get something tangible. But between issues, we send out news and announcements to a mailing list of our members. More than 90% of our members have e-mail addresses – this may not be true in your area. We established a buddy system, so people with e-mail pass on important news to the relatively small number who don’t use e-mail.

Our website now gets about 30-40 visitors a day, and we see big spikes (extra visits) before our events, so we know people are using the website to get information.

We’re also starting to use e-mail to reach customers.

Our guild has built up a mailing list of regular street addresses, which we use to send out postcards before our sales. We won’t abandon that any time soon – it works quite well for us – but we’re also starting to collect e-mail addresses from our customers. We have about 4000 street addresses, and so far just 500 e-mail addresses on our customer list. We send out postcards, and then send out a “reminder” to our e-mail list. But in the future (perhaps a few years from now), I believe we will rely on e-mail to promote our sales and events. So, we’re working hard to build up that e-mail list!

Legal Structure

We initially organized as an informal association. In other words, we didn’t have any legal standing. We found a local bank that gave us a free checking account. That was fine for the first few months, but it started to be a problem as we grew:

  • When we tried to rent facilities, we found that our local community center and other places didn’t want to deal with us unless we were a legal corporation. They also had much lower fees if we could show that we were a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation.
  • Our postage bills started to get pretty high when we publicized our sales and workshops. Again, the postage rates are much lower for non-profit corporations.
  • Our officers started to worry about liability. If someone got hurt at a group event, and decided to sue the organizers, none of us wanted to lose our businesses, savings, etc.

So we ultimately decided to incorporate, and apply for 501(c)3 status from the IRS. We bought a do-it-yourself book from Nolo Press to learn about the process and get started. Ultimately, we decided to hire a lawyer, but by reading the book first, we were able to lay the groundwork and ask our lawyer the right questions. We had a fund-raising drive to come up with the almost $2000 needed to have a lawyer do it for us. That includes the various filing fees, plus the lawyer’s fee. The incorporation process and costs vary from state to state, and I’m sure our California laws are more complicated than many places. My advice would be:

  • Think seriously, in advance, about the need to incorporate
  • Read the Nolo Press book
  • If you’re not completely comfortable handling the process on your own, start networking to see if you can find a lawyer who will help you out for free or at a discount!

Note that, if you apply for 501(c)3 status, you will need to show that your group provides a public benefit, so you’ll want to include public education (or charitable contributions) in your mission statement and activities. (It’s a little easier to become a 501(c)4, or member benefit corporation, but you don’t get all the advantages of 501(c)3 status. Your lawyer, or the Nolo Press book, can explain the differences.)

At any event, it was a long road for us, but we are now a tax-exempt public benefit corporation.


If you are starting a co-op studio or gallery, you will need contracts with your members. The contract should clearly define the rights and responsibilities of both the members and the co-op. It should also clearly define how the contract can be terminated by either party. Finally, it should specify a process for resolving conflicts. I recommend that the contract require binding arbitration through a properly accredited arbiter. Otherwise, legal costs arising out of conflicts can bankrupt your group, even if you win!

You may also need to create contracts if you are hiring instructors for workshops, or running sales or other types of programs.

You can write up the terms of your contract in clear, understandable English, then have a lawyer draft the “legal” wording for you. Be sure the lawyer understands your intent, and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand the resulting contract, or if you don’t think it says what you wanted. The leaders of your group will probably need to go over the contract many times with prospective members, so be sure you understand it!

That’s All for Now!

This short summary of our experiences should give you a lot to think about, and probably raise many questions!

ArtChain will be expanding the Resources section of the website in the future, so if you have requests or ideas for additional content, please use our Contact page to make your suggestions.



Numerals and door insignia are an incredibly important statement for any home or business… the very first message that we have arrived.  So they have to be made just right.. and doing that is a particular art.

They are not simply numbers but beautifully important objects.

Writing numerals needs a fair bit of consideration – it’s a tight mix of typeface design, craft and architectural art.  

For this set above, which adorn a 9 million pound hotel, my brush and little pot of black paint had to reflect that value.

I first needed to establish the perfect match in sizing and position and immediately set off down Cranley Gdns with tape in hand.  Fairly straight forward I hear you say… nah… every number and every height setting was different.

Measuring the heights, from deck of immediate neighbours nos 2o and 26 I found whopping 20mm difference in height positioning –  I decided on placing 22 in the balanced mean between the two of c51” H and 24 a shade higher.  

Font sizes and styles also varied considerably up and down the street as they were all written by different hands over the past 30 years or so. This final numeral set I made was traced from 2 neighbouring lettered pillars and tweaked making them my own: distinctive, classic, yet beautifully modern.

In the end I measured every pillar numeral on Cranley Gardens in order to know with full certainty, my final measure.

Not only do we have to craft up a fine letter (often on a rough surface) but we need to marry them to the era, feeling and style of their neighbours.

It was quite nostalgic: as if decades of West London’s finest writers surrounded me as I wrote.


Restoring original fonts numerals

NGS ‘s Mat made the sketch and final artwork,  for this nice gilded restoration numeral in Muswell Hill, London.


Gothic Sans serif – Dishoom Shoreditch

Mock up for Dishoom

Contemporary fonts – Ampersand hotel 10 Layout

Photo: Numbered... www.nickgarrettsignwriter.com




Heritage NGS Cornhill Collection

I am starting to collate some of the finest carved lettering and numerals from the Cornhill in City of London. These will be converted into paintable fonts thus continuing the fine tradition of my 3 generations of family letter carving.


If you need a fine numeral, you’ve got my number…

Best,  Nick Garrett  07951509238

Dishoom Shoreditch NGS Case

The new Dishoom is really a spectacular blend of rich, quirky on retro trend design and slick gastronomy.


And if you think that’s a mouthful wait till you see the menu… and our signwriting!!

In the heart of London this hand painted window set is a stunner with the original vintage 1920’s Bombay font extracted by Nick Garrett from an vintage cafe sign (below) and embellished into it’s new typographic context. Some of the new characters I created taking reference from the original but launching into the quirky eccentric.

Above:  artwork prepared by NGS for the production of full sized layouts (Output – Original Copy Center Lond UK )

Double trouble

But it’s been really tough… arriving on site to hand paint the glass the dimensions supplied were all slightly out affecting one lay out and the windows were 25mm double glazed!

That meant the drawing we would use to trace our lettering was 32mm away from the surface needed to be written on the inner pane of plate glass… in effect we were writing on an invisible floating plain inside the shop unable to line up to the drawing!


The normal brush controls went out the window! Literally … and after serious eye-strain, double vision and a panic attack Mat and I found things gradually improving as our technique accommodated this incredibly odd and challenging work environment.

A half day into the writing  and gradually the mind had made adjustments – we started to even enjoy the fruits…

Traditional Signwriter Nick Garrett FROGZ Brick Lane London

FROGZ Brick Lane London Signwriter Nick Garrett

JULY 13, 2012

FROGZ Brick lane London Signwriter Nick Garrett

The whole brand developed over 4 days in paint on ladder!

Frozen Natural yoghurt arrived on day 3 and needed serious sampling so we all leant a hand … had to help out where we could.

My favourite was the vanilla…

Frogz open on 21 July!! Be There the tastes are awesome a the shop is suberrr cool!

JULY 13, 2012
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