Submerge's 10th Anniversary Issue 2018
Cover Design and Full Interview
1. I just want to know your background.
Where are you from and how did you end up in Sac?
I’m 35. I was born in San Jose and grew up specifically in the South Bay Cupertino area. Since high school, I’ve lived in Santa Barbara, South Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, Treasure Island and the Santa Cruz Mountains. Since 2001, I’ve been visiting the Sacramento area, my older sister also moved to Rocklin around that time. I’ve always had love for Sactown and in November 2016, decided to make the move from the South Bay Area to Midtown Sacramento and never looked back. A whirlwind of events has occurred since but I can honestly say these have been the best years of my life.
My friend Daniel Osterhoff aka DJ Whores, had a huge impact on my decision to leave the bay. We worked several of jobs together such as Jack Rabbit Brewing, Sierra Collision, and all our work for Art Street, including the “History Dies and Condos Rise” collaboration. We shared an art studio space together and really had momentum rolling in a great direction. His unexpected passing was devastating to this entire community and city. That void will never be filled, PERIOD. The quality of product and level of perfection he strived for will forever be an inspiration in Sacramento, Seattle, Portland, and beyond. Dude’s a legend on many platforms, RIP DANO!
How did you start doing handmade signs/murals?
I started doing paid aerosol murals in San Francisco around 2005 and the business owners would always ask me to include their logo or info on the business. After painting a few markets and liquor store’s lettering, I realized I had quite a knack for it. I knew I was a clean enough painter that this could become a feasible business one day.
In 2010, I was visiting my good friend Joey Nix in Seattle. While exploring around town he showed me hand painted sign work by Sean Barton and Japhy Witte. The work by these gentlemen really inspired me to pick up a brush and give Enamel a try. I began to study the craft seriously in 2011 and from then on was hooked. Ken Davis and the early New Bohemia Signs employees were also a huge inspiration and continue to be.
In 2012, I took a brush lettering workshop from Damon Styer at New Bohemia and that further pushed me to dedicate any free time to building my skills. That same year, I attended a gold leaf and glass glue chipping workshop from Ron Percell of Letterhead Signs in Petaluma, CA. This opened a ton of new doors, I knew then this craft was something you could spend a lifetime learning and perfecting.
2. Maybe you can tell me a little about your particular art. What’s the process like? What does free handing entail? I feel like it’s a rare skill.
So this particular trade is all about pure craftsmanship. The artwork is drawn by hand and transferred to the substrate using a pounce method then painted. The end product is something custom that no one else has, you stand out in the monotony of most signage you see.
Yes, it’s a rare skill but has made quite a resurgence in the last five years. With a Sign Painter, you’re getting solid craftsmanship. Most of the sign shops you see now are the complete opposite, “Signs NOW” or “FAST Signs” provide you with a quick and easy solution. As a business owner, if you take pride in the presentation of your business, hire someone who takes pride in their work. Most of the vinyl shops are in the business to make a buck, they’re not artists or designers; It’s all about turn and burn.
I’m not just on one side of the fence here, there’s plenty of jobs that I recommend vinyl, there‘s no reason to hand paint everything. Plenty of situations where vinyl is the way to go and I won’t hesitate recommending it.
3. You’ve done lots of work for everything from small businesses to large companies and even work on behalf of whole cities. What are some of your favorite projects?
I’ve had a wide range of clientele throughout the years. Both large companies and small businesses have their own perks. I get the most satisfaction from fully branding a small business, painting their signs and then seeing them thrive and succeed. It’s the best feeling and reminds me why I love my job.
With big companies, the exposure of my work can be vast. I recently completed a bunch of work for LYFT at their headquarters and hub in San Francisco. It’s reassuring to see that one of the largest rideshare companies in the U.S. wants quality hand painted sign work and would hire a small timer like me. I really enjoyed painting the mural in the headquarters and being in that work environment. Man, their cafeteria is something else, don't think I've eaten that good since, HA!
4. In the same vein as question 2, can you tell me a little about:
Your work in San Jose/Sharks
The “Welcome to San Jose” mural was a huge learning experience with the logistics of receiving a city grant and generous donations from the neighborhood association where the mural is located. I brought in my friend Jeff “Weirdo” Jacobson from Seattle to help and was very satisfied with the final product. It has since been featured on the megatron at Sharks games, multiple television commercials, magazines, etc.
The Water Tower and maybe your opinion on the backlash
The Freeport Water Tower in Sacramento was definitely another memorable job If not the most because of the controversy following the completion. Another one with crazy logistics and a situation where more of the work was around the administrative tasks such as paperwork, insurance, we even had to get OSHA certified to operate a 135 ft. boom lift. Big thanks to our contractor Edan Foster for taking on the brunt of that work. I know multiple people bid on the job so I was surprised we got it. Being 130 feet in the air trying to pull a straight line isn’t easy. I have to give it up to my man Jeremy Stanger on that one, I couldn't have asked for a more solid partner. You really need to trust the man you’re working with on a job like that.
Another interesting thing about this one was that I know the original sign painter that did it back in 2003. It was painted by Fernando Ocampo who I’ve met at Gilders Meets in Petaluma, he took on the job while working and apprenticing under Ron Percell, my Gold Leaf mentor. Ron was excited when I told him I got the job and I was determined to do them justice on the repaint. The backlash that ensued following was something we hadn’t expected, it really shows how much pride Sacramento has, how this city sticks together, Sac will always be the “City of Trees.” Whether we did the re-paint or someone else, it was going to get done. Politics aside, our job was to paint and do the best work possible.
Your shirt collaboration with Submerge
The shirt collaboration with Submerge has been a huge honor. I’ve always looked up to them. Consistently dropping a solid product and properly documenting the art and music scene for the last ten years. Congrats on that by the way! You can tell they have passion. It’s not about how lucrative they can make this endeavor.
5. Can you tell me a little about your work with Art Street?
Art Street was hands down the most inspiring exhibition I’ve ever been blessed to be apart of. Dano introduced me to Shaun Burner for which I’m forever grateful. Shaun’s contribution to Sacramento’s art scene is massive, him and his fiance Franceska Gamez are consistently raising the bar. To add to it they’re some of the most genuine and humble people I’ve ever met, this couples gonna do big things. The entire M5ARTS collective is RAD! So Dan and I were asked to paint the main logo outside, small directional street signs for inside, and then contribute with our “History Dies and Condos Rise” piece.
At the time, we had no studio space and actually set up a space inside the Art Street building to work out of. Man, those were some magical times! Thanks again to Shaun and M5ARTS!
6. You have your own business on J street, how’s that going?
After losing my first studio I shared with Daniel Osterhoff due to building code violations, I was presented with a big opportunity. A space on J Street next to my long time friend Lance Arnold from Leave Your Mark became available. I checked it out and immediately jumped on it. Things have been going great since. I’ve known Lance since 2001 so it’s pretty cool coming full circle and owning businesses next to each other.
We’ve been hosting joint art shows in our gallery spaces and the dynamic of a sign shop and art supply store in the same building work quite well together. It’s nice to finally settle in somewhere and I’m looking forward to many prosperous years at this location.
7. Any current projects/future endeavors?
We’ll see where 2018 brings me, lots of fun projects on the horizon. It’s already off to a great start. Special thanks to my girlfriend Jen who’s been my biggest supporter, all my clients and everyone that’s supported me on this journey. Huge thanks Submerge, here’s to another 10 years!