Profile: Patrick Smith

I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Patrick G. Smith a few weeks ago over some lunch. I was quite excited to meet a local sign painter and one who knows so much about the business. His knowledge and experience is truly impressive and the more he talked, the more I learned. From Vietnam as an Infantry Mortarman, to Senior Sign Painter for 7 years at Disneyland. Patrick Smith has experienced many things, and I am proud to say that I have had the experience of meeting the man himself.

Do yourself a favor and check out his work. This man holds many talents.

Here is some more detailed information about Patrick Smith.

My name is Patrick Smith and I’ve been painting signs since 1970, when I started working at Nair’s Sign Co. in Whittier, California. In 1972 Kenny Nair decided to sell the sign shop and go into Christian ministry full time. I offered to buy the shop. At the time I was married and had a 6 month old son, and loved the work I was doing with Kenny, and decided to go it alone.

I have always had a love for letters, art and music. I started reading Speed Ball lettering books while in my early teens and practiced calligraphy and hand drawn letters. I knew nothing about sign painting with a brush or of signs themselves.

While in the seminary during my freshman year I learned about block printing and linoleum cutting, mosaic art, and uncial letters. I had an art teacher who seemed to have a vast knowledge of all these disciplines and shared it with all of us who were his students.

But it was while I was serving in Vietnam that I actually painted what I later found out to be ‘signs’. Of course I did other art work like lettering helmets, caricature show cards for the officers and jeep wheel covers. Thinking about it, I remember doing some posters for my CO while in Advance Infantry Training at Ft. Polk, Louisiana, for a couple of different events they had.

I took a mail order course from International Correspondence Schools on my GI Bill. Edward J. Duvall was the one who wrote the course. It covered about everything you’d need to learn to be a sign painter. I was so ‘fired up’ on lettering. My early influences were E.C. Mathew, Chester Cunningham, Bob Fitzgerald, a couple of local sign painters and the Speed Ball Lettering Books. I also purchased books on font type and using color in the graphic arts and advertising.

I was told by two friends of mine who worked at the Disney Sign Shop that they would be hiring new sign painters to help with the work at Disney’s California Adventure, when I was at the 25th Anniversary Letterhead Meet in Denver in 2000. I didn’t think they would hire me because I was 54 at the time, but went down there anyway and met with an HR rep. They hired me on the spot. The time I spent at Disney and the sign painting I did would cover more space than you have here, but in all it was a fantastic experience and a dream come true for me. As a boy, growing up with the Disney influence, I always wanted to work for Walt Disney. I left in 2007.

I’m still painting signs and in the past year I had a website created to help promote my work. No matter how long you’ve been in business, each new customer has to be sold on the idea of a new sign. I always like to quote a saying I heard on TV long ago; ’You can’t make money giving people what they need, you got to give them what they want’.

I’m so glad to see a resurgence in the sign arts. Learning a craft takes time, practice and experience and asking a lot of questions and reading a lot of books. Today we have youtube and the internet, and I use them both extensively for instruction and reference. I still file photos etc. in a computer ‘morgue’ file. I also draw and design in CorelDrawx6. And yes I still letter with the brush. I’ve been a Letterhead since 1985, and attended all but one of the California Conclaves hosted by Rick Glawson in Wilmington, Ca.

Thank you for taking an interest in my story. Forty years is a long time and it seems just like yesterday when…….

Patrick G. Smith

California Conclave is hand lettered on mdo plywood. CherriesOnTop is a 'blade' sign in Downtown Orange. FrontierLandInsideSign OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


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