A Talk with Will Sears

Signpainter Will Sears

Will at work (image courtesy of Maine Project)

Once again, it’s back to Portland, Maine to meet up with Sign-Painter Will Sears. In our post about Gritty McDuff’s, Will shared some of his musings on Portland’s signage, past and present. Will undoubtedly has a good knowledge of the history of sign-painting and lettering, and this respect for the past shows in his work.

Growing up around my parents who were both self employed in creative fields was a big inspiration to do something that was a skilled trade and could be done independently of a big business. I stumbled across sign painting in particular by way of graffiti. Growing up in Philadelphia, it was hard to ignore the influence that Steve Powers had on the graffiti world. His tone that he set, along with Margaret Kilgallen that one could be doing their art, but also be doing a service to other small businesses and the community was a cool idea to me.

Steve Powers Street Artist

Steve Powers at work (image courtesy of Arrested Motion)

I’ve been making signs for about two years now, with no real formal training, but I’ve tried hard to really look into the traditional side of the sign game to guide my work. It’s been a humbling experience with a big learning curve for sure.

Will Sears

(image courtesy of Maine Project)

I had no real plan to end up in Portland. Right after school, I did a sculpture residency here in Maine with a good friend of mine from Philly under John Bisbee, an artist that I really look up to. Before I knew it, It felt like home. I like nature and the coast. Feels good to see the ocean everyday.

Portland, Maine has a really strong sense of “Local” pride which is great as a trades person. Its easy to get to know people who are in need of signs who take an equivalent amount of care and pride in their own work.

Pounce Pattern

(image courtesy of Maine Project)

Along with sign-painting, I also do fine art. The two go pretty great together. My studio is sort of set up as a hybrid for both. Luckily I use a lot of the same techniques so it feels like one is practicing for the other and vice-versa. The only down side is that they both demand a full time commitment. But I’m figuring out a balance day-by-day.

Sign Art

Will’s art happens to be very typographic as well, blurring the line between signage and fine art (image courtesy of Best Dressed Signs)

For inspiration, I feel like I borrow from everyone, and if I start naming names I’ll leave someone out, but in particular, I’ve really gained a lot of insight just from studying New Bohemia painters, Josh Luke and Kenji Nakayama of Best Dressed, Frisso, all the PVS people really – Those folks are killing it. It’s been a pleasure to meet and talk with some of them. I’ll try to catch up and represent – also Steve Powers, Margaret Kilgallen, Barry McGee, and all the nameless regional painters through out the years that painted rock-solid Egyptian, casuals and script that haven’t necessarily gotten any real “fame” from it but do really classic, simple work.

Barry McGee Street Artist

Barry McGee (image courtesy of Jaunted)

At the moment, I’m working with my good friends at Oxbow Brewery up in Newcastle, making and painting a menu board for they’re tasting room. Also, continuing with an ongoing project with them, hand lettering label designs for their barrel aged beers, that Mason Miller from Checker Press converts to plates for letter press. A lot of fun working with these guys, They’re artists in their field and provide a lot of inspiration.

Hand-Lettered Beer Labels

Bottle Labels for Oxbow Brewery, Lettered by Will Sears (image courtesy of Oxbow Brewery)

Handpainted Brewery Sign

A sign for the brewery, also painted by Will (image courtesy of Oxbow Brewery)

Working with Broadturn Farm, painting their van was probably my favorite project so far but as soon as a sign is painted its done and its the process that’s my favorite part.

Hand-Painted Van

The side of the van Will painted for Broadturn Farm (image courtesy of Broadturn Farm)

Sign for Broadturn Farm

A Larger Sign for Broadturn Farm. This one is a collaboration with local muralist Tess O’Brien

The recent feature in Traditional Sign Maker Magazine generated a lot of support and love from friends and fellow painters. Thank you to them and my supporters!

Sign Painters Will Sears and Josh Luke

Will Sears and with Josh Luke (image courtesy of Best Dressed Signs)

Workshop of Better Letter Handpainted Signs

(image courtesy of Best Dressed Signs)

Hand-Lettered Alphabet Posters

(image courtesy of Best Dressed Signs)




Hand-Lettered Signs

(image courtesy of Maine Project)