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Ches Perry: An American Sign Painter

I hold a special place for sign painters in my heart. It’s an art form that I have never really dove into on account that deep down I’m terrified of it. It brings back memories of art school and trying to draw these huge still-lifes on big, white, empty pieces of paper. A wall is just a bigger, more empty, white canvas of terror!

Obviously that means I’m fascinated by all sign painters and their abilities. I have spent years looking at type, learning the intricacies of letter spacing, type anatomy, type classification and the list goes on. But to try to not only design the typeface WHILE I’m trying to spell, letter space, be creative, and in a medium that does not include apple + z, well you can imagine it takes a brave soul to attempt such creative feats!

In my quest to learn more about sign painting, I came across Chicago-native Ches Perry who has been sign painting for 40 years. Now that’s a career. He co-founded Right Way Signs and while sign painting is only one sign service the company offers, it’s the part that Perry embodies. As I am finding true in many of these newly documented stories of masters in various crafts, Perry thought he was taking a commercials arts class and ended up in a lettering class and just stuck with it. I for one am very grateful he did.

On a broader view, I am so glad that videos like this one are starting to pop up. I’ve watched seemingly similar videos on people and their craft ranging from letterpress, woodworking, bookbinding, cloth makers, cheese making, and the list goes on. It’s a beautiful thing to capture the work of these people. Their dedication and mastery of their craft is a sight to behold. I also always find it amusing that an often held sentiment by the subjects of these videos is that they just do what they love and it’s not all that special. I’m glad there are people out there that recognize these people’s worth and ignore their grumblings of dismissal. Our culture is inspired and richer for knowing their stories.

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