Meet Archie Proudfoot, a self-taught artist and traditional sign painter who creates custom signage for some of the biggest brands in the UK. His practice emerged from an interest in street art and a love of great typography. We met him and chatted about his method, his approach to freelancing and the importance of confidence.
Definitely. Once somebody’s told you the basics of sign painting it’s then a case of finding out through your own hands. I found a few YouTube videos and practiced day by day, mostly alphabets and repetitive actions because that’s how you really get the muscle memory down. I tell people it’s similar to playing an instrument. You’ve got to learn the notes, tempos and scales before you can express yourself. Eventually, things begin to click, like how you pull a curve in an S.
A family friend saw one of my practice pieces, and before I knew it I was painting the sign for his antique shop. It was my first real chance, it was also January, cold and an incredibly long name – “The Society For The Protection of Unwanted Objects”, a real baptism of fire. It’s still one of my favourite things I’ve done.
It’s been great! I get told by locals how much a sign adds to an area and that’s big part of what I love about sign painting – the opportunity to add something to a space, to make a street feel nicer, an area feel softer and more human as opposed to plastic and reproduced.
I use it for inspiration and research more than self-promotion. When you go on Instagram feeling happy with your own work, it can be great to find new techniques and styles. The flip side is that when you’re not feeling too great about your work, social media can heighten those feelings; we all get insecure doing this kind of job. You’ve got to be able to take the right things from social media and not become too dependant on it.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own anxiety of doing a good job. You’ve got to remember if you’re on the path to doing the thing you want to be doing it’s always good, and you’re always learning. Try to keep confident – no client wants to see an anxious artist.
Are you freelancing? Share your experiences and advice in the comments below.
Written and photographed by: Josh Fray