August 18, 2016

Archie Proudfoot, sign painter and artist

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.

Archie Proudfoot Business Cards

Were you predominantly self-taught?

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.

Archie Proudfoot painting

What was the very first signs you produced?

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.

Archie Proudfoot cleaning paint brushes

What’s the response been to your work?

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.

  • Archie Proudfoot's business cards

How do you find social media influences you as an artist?

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.

A smiling and happy Archie Proudfoot

Any tips for somebody looking to go freelance?

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

  • Patricia Poland says:

    I love seeing an artist like Archie willing to learn and execute the ‘old way’ of sign painting. My father was a sign painter (avocation) and like Archie, self-taught. In his prime he did beautiful work! Yay for Archie – keep on!

  • Matt Wilson says:

    Great work Archie, with the digital printing, vinyl cutting and CNC routeing sign world as it is today, it’s awesome to see people sticking to the traditional skills and values. I hope that there will always be room for both.


  • Dan Porter says:

    I’m not freelancing but I found this inspiring nonetheless. Partially because I think typography and signs are super cool.
    This has inspired me to dedicate my 6 to 11 to typography and CAD.

  • I enjoy producing interesting and unique artwork using iPad apps. People gave me very positive feedback on my results. Could I go anywhere with this concept?

    A redundancy package from full time employment gave me a chance to try building a business as a freelance artist in 2012. Now or never.

    This was, I discovered an exercise in confidence and working very much outside my comfort zone, giving talks and presenting my work. I had a chance, after one of my works was recognised by the Lumen Prize, to take part in an exhibition in New York in 2014. My work was well received with one of my paintings being chosen for the exhibition poster.

    Since then I produced two Welsh solo exhibitions, displayed in many top Welsh public places and galleries, including the Celtic Manor. My work has sold all over the UK and Internationally in addition to being commissioned to produce work for both private and business clients. It’s still a constant challenge, but one I very much enjoy.

    I discovered Moo business cards fairly recently from another artist. I love the quality of the cards, but the USP for me is having fifty separate images on the reverse of the card. A great way of introducing my work at networking events!

    I hope to take part soon in a London exhibition, and I have work being considered (in ballot) for an exhibition at the Houses of Parliament.

    Christopher Langley.

  • I am freelancing right now. Doing mostly comic book pages and comic strips. I tell you, it is a difficult task to continue when you have a family, house and a day job but I try my best to squeeze it in and at the same time make the clients happy. I do wish I could make a living out of it, so I will continue to expand in my experiences and hope that one day that door opens up when I can be doing this as my day job.

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