About a year ago I met Roderick Treece at his shop along
with Gibbs Connors and Hiroki Kataoka. I dropped off
some hats and t-shirts and hung out while they did their
workshop. I have been in contact since then with Roderick
and finally got a chance to ask him a few questions and
see some of his recent work. The guy has so much knowledge
it’s unreal. Enjoy.
How long have you been painting signs?
I started painting signs with my dad when I was about 11 so about 49 years.
Who were your inspirations/mentors in learning the craft?
My Dad, Big Daddy Ed Roth, Bob “Sniffer” Melfield. Charles Lang.
Did you have an apprenticeship?
I had one with my Dad growing up for 20 years.
Your work is very unique and seems to fit the business that it represents well.
What are your most used references for lettering and layout?
Most of the time I am using art work someone gives me. I’m not a great designer. A lot of the personal mirror project I work on are basic layouts that I just come up with on my own. I have always been very lazy about using reference material for inspiration.
When showing clients your ideas, how detailed are your sketches?
Small job are very basic and more complex one are more developed. I try and do a rendering that gives the client as much information as possible to show what they will be getting.
What is the hardest part about being self-employed?
Bookkeeping, Telling my wife we can’t go on a trip because I have a big job.
Do you think it is possible for individuals who want to learn the craft are able to be self taught and have the correct fundamentals without working in a sign shop or doing an apprenticeship?
Yes of course. If you have the motivation to do you can.
Where do you see sign painting in the next 5 years? Is it going to be the
new tattooing fad where there is a sign shop on every street corner?
I don’t think there will be shops on every corner. I admire all of the young people getting into it these days but we will see what the market will bare.
What is an average day at the shop?
I don’t really have any average day’s .I’d say I putz around in my studio all day from about 11 am til dark. I may work on a project from 2 to 10 hours in a day if and when I do have a job. I’m semi retired now so I might work about 4 to 8 days a month now.
Do you have a favorite sign, or job that you have done in the past?
Anything on glass, anything for Ralph Lauren. I also have a client in Chicago that I love working for.
What is the perfect job/client for you?
My favorite client brings me great art work and want to do something special. They also don’t worry about the cost.
Do you get tons of emails asking for apprenticeships and things of that nature?
I get more and more all the time. After the sign painter book and movie came out more people contacted me. I would love to have an apprentice in the shop at this point in my life. I do have a loose association with a young local sign painter now. He’s very independent though so I wouldn’t call it an apprenticeship really. We basically help each other out when need be.
There seems to be some debating going on with the older generation of sign painters on social media about what qualifies a person to call themselves a “Sign Painter” or not. Like with proper training or apprenticeships. Do you think their is a definite line that marks wether or not you are a sign painter?
If you paint a sign and call yourself a sign painter I think your a sign painter. That doesn’t mean that I think your a good sign painter. The proof is all in the work.
For the self taught folks. Is there a point in their career when one can say, “ I am a Sign Painter” and
receive the respect and admiration from the old timers who were professionally trained? Does it even matter?
Again it’s all going to depend on the quality of your work. If you painted a shit sign , then called me and said hey I’m a sign painter what do you think?, I’d be the first one to give you shit for it. If was an amazing sign I’d be praising you for it.
What percentage of the work that you do now is drawn by hand?
Almost none of my work is hand drawn. I might do a very crude drawing to start but most of the time I will do my drawing in Illustrator. I love it for sign drawings.
I learned to do layouts and drawing by hand from my Dad. In high school I fell in love with graphic arts ,got into type setting and printing on a platen press. I also learned to do Cut & Paste graphics. When I was about 20 I met these two guy’s my age that were and still are amazing sign designers. They turned me on to rub off letraset type sheets so I integrated my cut & paste with rub off lettering then blew that up on a projector to make patterns.
What is the best way that you have found to get your name out there to get exposure and to get more work?
Build a web site, hire a great SEO ( search engine optimizer) Get some great photos on there with good key words. Write articles for on line magazines and do videos of your work.
Sign painting and lettering books are essential for good reference. Do you keep a digital reference on computer or 3 ring binders as well?
Growing up with my dad I have all of my original books and now his library as well tons of old binders with great stuff. As I said before I have always been very lazy about using reference materials for ideas. When I was young I went out of my way to try and do what I thought were cool layouts but most people wanted something basic so I think I just got lazy about it. That’s why I work better from someone else’s layout. I do have a few great Mike Jackson books I use quite a lot and 100’s of type styles on my computer.
For those that are just starting their sign business, do you have any sound business advice or practice
you would recommend?
Keep your overhead low ! Go out and sell yourself. Don’t sell it cheap and have fun.