Profile: John Lennig of Big Top Sign Arts
The first time I met John Lennig, he had flown into San Francisco from British Columbia and was standing on Market Street waiting for me to pick him up. We had corresponded by email and a few phone calls after meeting in cyber space. As we made the drive to the Mission District to our studio it was quickly apparent to me that John wasn’t an ordinary sign painter. His passion for the craft, his willing generosity to share his knowledge and his overall intellectualism was immediately exciting and infectious. We spent the day in our studio learning water gilding on glass, and by the time John had left I came away feeling like I had made a true friend and had a mentor to boot. It is with that enthusiasm that I feel privileged to feature John Lennig, owner of Big Top Sign Arts in Canada’s British Columbia Province.
TSM- How long have you been painting signs?
JL- I began learning the Art of sign painting at San Diego City College in 1963, taking a 9 month Showcard & Sign-painting course. It covered all aspects of sign-painting, some screen-printing, glass gilding. After the first week, I was totally stoked, built an easel bench in my room, and have never stopped!! (did get sidetracked with computers/vinyl for some years, but got back to Brush Only in 2000.) I was 18 when I started that course, I’m 66 now, a lot has changed, but for me, the Love of the Brush in my Hand is stronger than ever.
My family emigrated to Vancouver, British Columbia in 1965, whereupon i began working for a variety of commercial shops until 1982 when i started my own shop. By 1986 I had a Gerber 4B, and as the years passed, was doing less and less hand-lettering. In 2000, I sold the shop to my employee, Mike Day, and have pursued hand-lettering/no computer ever since. I also work in TV/Film as a signwriter part of the year (The Killing, Season 2 at the moment).
I also took up pinstriping seriously in 2006…(thanks Tramp Warner!) and love it!!
TSM- Who were your inspirations/mentors in learning the craft?
JL- for sure, Mr. Ron Maple, who taught the course in San Diego. Up here in Vancouver, years ago, John Kelvin, an Aussie from Adelaide, Jim Bosley / Screenguild Signs, Mike Boyer / Signmagic along with so many fantastic sign painters over the years in Signcraft Magazine…Chester Cunningham was a big eyeopener with his small book.
TSM- Advice for those wishing to learn the craft?
JL- First: it will take time, it’s not an App nor an Apple ha ha…find a compatible sign painter in your area whose work you like (if he/she is retired???..all the better) and work out an arrangement where you can learn the basics…brush handling/care, paints/layout/colour.. Practice is, of course, where it all comes together.
Find out where Letterhead Meets are, go to them, do not be afraid or feel “I’m not worthy….” you ARE, and you will find people there who love what they do and enjoy helping you on your way to Lettering Bliss…oh oh step back from the edge, sir…. ;o)
TSM- Where can we check out more about you and your work?