On this week’s podcast, Marcus sits down with Andy Scott with New Hand Signs. From his brother’s findings of some old sign painting brushes to getting to create art for businesses all over Mobile, you’ll want to hear the stories of how he has been inspired as an artist. Tune in and listen or read on MobileAL.com, Spotify, or iTunes.
Andy: I'm Andy Scott and I'm New Hand Signs.
Marcus: Yay. Welcome to the podcast, Andy.
Andy: Thank you guys for having me.
Marcus: Yeah, so I'm super excited to have you on. I'm a huge fan of your work. We'll get into that just a little bit. We're going to tease people. We'll get into what he actually does here in just a bit. But tell us the story of Andy. Where are you from? Where'd you go to school? High school? Did you go to college? Did you graduate college? What'd you major in? Are you married? 21 more questions, they're all coming your way, so yeah.
Andy: So native of Mobile. Lived here my entire life, went to Murphy High School and went to South Alabama BFA prep design and minored in sculpture. Which at the time, the sculpture there was really weird. Had a teacher that learned how to weld, we did iron pourings, it was pretty cool as far as that goes. I have a wife, her name's Laura. Son, Otto, he's four, and then I have a new baby girl on the way.
Marcus: How's the spelling of Otto?
Marcus: Very cool. Yeah. So I mean you have an art background, so it's not ... I mean it's no surprise that you ended up where you, with the business that you're in. So why don't you tell everybody what it is that you actually do.
Andy: So it really started out as just me being interested in things. Normally how that is with me. And it's hand painted signs, traditional sign lettering, and also gold leaf, pin striping, just kind of the old school style lettering you would see everywhere back in the day that you don't see anymore that signs have been taken over by digital printers and vinyl cut, things like that.
Marcus: So you don't drink coffee?
Andy: I actually drink a little bit, but yeah. I have to kind of-
Marcus: I was going to say. You gotta have a steady hand to do the things that you do.
Andy: You definitely do.
Marcus: I think the first time I saw your work was some friends of ours, Chalore, had you do some gold leaf on their previous location. And when I saw that I was just completely blown away because I've not seen ... I mean like you said, its kind of very old school, the art that you practice with.
Marcus: And so I mean I was just kind of blown away that there was somebody still practicing. Recently I think we met because we're looking for some new signage for the new building.
Marcus: But yeah, I mean how did you kind of fall into this?
Andy: It's ... I didn't realize at the time, but for years and years now, little pieces have come together to where this has happened. As far as I worked in a sign shop. I've been working in sign shops for almost 20 years now. And then my brother, he gave me some pin striping brushes, I got into pin striping a little bit. Then at a thrift store one day I found this sign, modern sign painting, and it was from the 1940s. Got really into that.
Andy: Yeah. Modern for 1940. But the things is is that everything is still translate. I read about that. But the biggest thing that happened was my brother's friend, they were cleaning out a house. He buys houses. And he was cleaning out this one house and he found these old sign painting boxes. They didn't know they were sign painting boxes. So he brought them to my brother and my brothers was like, "I think Andy might really like these." So he brought them to me and I'm looking through these things, literally time capsules. It's this wooden box from Hollywood, California. And you open it up, pictures of the guy's kids, his business cards, his brushes, his paints, he's got sketches in there. I mean it was a working ... This is how this guy made his living.
Andy: So it really ... I kind of dug into that box to try to figure out all the little tools. What did he do with this? What was this for? And that's where it kind of sparked off into me painting ABCs at the kitchen table for months and months at a time. So it just kind of spiraled from there and I kind of got obsessed a little bit.
Marcus: No, I mean it's really cool. So now let's kind of backtrack, because I have other questions here. So what was your first job? And normally this is like flipping burgers or doing something along those lines. I mean do you remember what that was for you?
Andy: Yep, I was a lifeguard and it was the just typical high school kid lifeguard job.
Marcus: Now do you remember anything from that time? Were there any lessons or anything that you learned from that?
Andy: I mean it taught me how to ... you know. You had to be on time, a responsibility as far as you couldn't really slack off being a lifeguard so you really had to do your job.
Andy: As far as that. And then they had on your break you would do the cash register and things like that. Snack bar.
Marcus: Yeah, it's just interesting because sometimes we find that there are lessons that we've learned from previous experiences that are now still with us as entrepreneurs or as business owners.
Marcus: So but now do you remember the first time that you ... Maybe not at the kitchen table, but the first time that you showed this to somebody, your work, and they were kind of like, "Oh wow." And maybe the first sale that you made or something like that that made you think, "Hey, maybe there's something to this."
Andy: Yeah. Well the first job I actually did I just dove headfirst into this. The brushes, there are specific brushes, things that you need for sign painting and they're kind of hard to find. They're not that cheap either, so I didn't have any supplies at all. And right down the street from where I used to live there was a barbershop and it was old hand painted lettering on the window. It was just rough, super rough, and the lettering was bad. So I went in there, it was this old lady in there. I said, "Hey, you want your sign painted? Re lettered?" And she was like, "Yeah, how much?" And I have her the price of how much my materials would cost, because I just wanted these brushes and stuff, and she's like, "Yeah, that sounds great." So I did that and I was so excited to do this. So I'd go out at night. It took me two nights. I freehand sketched everything, repainted, and she loved it. Gave me the money, and as soon as she gave me the money I was like, "Whoa, I just made money doing this? This is pretty cool." So that was kind of the spark that I was like, "I could probably do this."
Marcus: Make something of this.
Andy: So from there I just went out and didn't advertise at all but just searched out things I wanted to do. If I saw a business and I was like, "I'd love to do something like that with these guys," I'd go in there and kind of pitch it to them and make it happen.
Marcus: Yeah, that's really cool. Now if you were talking to someone that wanted to get started in running their own business, is there any wisdom that you would impart to them? Anything that you might say?
Andy: Definitely being passionate about what you do. Not just it being a money maker. As far as I'm concerned, I think, I don't see how people could spend a lot of time with their business if they weren't passionate about their business.
Andy: So I think that's a huge thing.
Marcus: And what are you ... Is there anything that you're currently working on with the business?
Andy: As far as growing it or?
Marcus: No, I mean just in general. I mean it could even be something as simple as I'm really trying to learn this one specific skill.
Andy: Oh yeah. Really learning sign writing more. Sometime I'm designing a lot and I'm doing a lot of pattern stuff, large scale stuff that I'm designing. But those old school guys that were sign writers that would come out and they would look at something and they would lay it out and then freehand everything. There's nothing, no guidelines. That is such a skill that is few and far between and that's something I'm working towards.
Marcus: I would imagine. I mean there's not any ... Are there resources for you to learn this stuff? Or is it-
Andy: Honestly, sign painting right now has kind of taken a resurgence a little bit.
Andy: With the younger generation that is very DIY.
Marcus: Those hipsters, man.
Andy: Yeah, no, it does kind of seem like that. And I go to letterhead meets where it's a bunch of older guys and then there's some couple new guys, so you get to learn some stuff. But it's all these underground magazines or zines and just stuff like that. But Instagram is huge because there's some guys that I thought were like rockstar sign painter guys and you can just message them and talk to them, you know.
Andy: About stuff and they're really open to different ideas.
Marcus: It's just curious to me because I mean I see it as an art form that needs to continue on.
Andy: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Marcus: Right. And I guess my fear is that there's not, there aren't resources. I don't know. Maybe there is. That's why I asked the question. But there doesn't appear to be resources out there like we would do. Everybody thinks digital, so when it comes to graphic design or web design or something like that, there's a ton of resources out there for that.
Marcus: And so it'd just be really cool. Maybe I'll plant this in your brain, maybe it's you that is the guy that is the resource that rewrites those books for the modern age.
Andy: Sure, yeah.
Marcus: Because, you know, I would love ... I love the art form so much that I would love to see more people using it and taking part in actually doing it and stuff like that. I think it'd be really cool and I would hate to see it lost for generations.
Andy: Absolutely. That's kind of ... And I've, when you do have to find this information you have to really dig for it. And looking at books from the 1940s and stuff, which is really cool because a lot of that stuff is lost, that information was kind of lost and you're kind of re digging this stuff back up.
Marcus: Yeah. Well my next question I usually ask. What's the one person that motivates you from the business world? But I'll give you an out. If you want to answer that specific to what it is that you do. Like is there one person in your genre that really you kind of look at his stuff and you're like, "My gosh, how does he do that?"
Andy: There's so many different guys. There's one guy, Mike Meyer, that he's become almost the ambassador for sign painting.
Andy: And he actually, this company actually gets him to travel all over the world and just basically endorse sign painting to people. He goes to letterhead meets, he does little workshops, stuff like that. So his stuff is awesome. I got to meet him a while back. He actually lettered my box for me and just a cool guy, you know? He just comes, hangs out, and puts a cool vibe as far as sign painting goes.
Andy: Which, I don't know, a lot of people probably wouldn't consider sign painting cool, but-
Marcus: No. I mean, obviously it is, it's an art form.
Marcus: I mean we get that. So even when we're dealing with design, like we're ... I don't know when this is going to go live, but November 8th we're having a nationally renowned designer come in and I'm really looking forward to actually just spending some time with him and getting to know him. I hope that doesn't freak him out too much. But you know, I mean he just puts out a really cool vibe and I just would love to kind of hear some of his stories that he doesn't tell from the podium.
Marcus: So, yeah.
Andy: That's how I kind of was getting to meet him and see him, but just actually having a beer and hanging out with him is a totally different thing.
Marcus: Yeah. Now are there any books, podcasts, people, or organizations that have been helpful in moving your forward?
Andy: Like I said, Instagram is one of those things where I can meet, I can see stuff, ask questions, and there's a lot of information behind the scenes that I think happens with that. But the old books, all of these older sign materials. There's one specific, it was I think from '86, it's called Mastering Layout and it's by Mike Stevens. That book is awesome. And it's not just for ... I feel like any designer need to see this book.
Andy: Because it's not just a ... It's based off a sign painting, but I mean sign painters, how they laid things out, nothing's really changes as far as layout goes. I mean it's just, this is solid layout.
Andy: You know? And so learning that is huge, I think.
Marcus: Yeah, there are cues that are [inaudible 00:12:32] and timeless.
Andy: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.
Marcus: Right? And so just understanding what those are. Let me go back just a little bit. You've graduated with a BFA and then also some sculpture, but I mean you've taught yourself design, I'm assuming illustrator and Photoshop and all those tools.
Marcus: I mean what was that like? And is that of any use? Is there kind of an interweaving of the sign as well as the design and all that other stuff?
Andy: There is with me because I'm used to that and I've worked with digital sign shops forever. That definitely plays into me designing ... I might design some more high end type sign stuff through illustrator and then kind of switch it over into sign painting from there. But, you know, I'm trying to give a balance of some on the spot hand lettering and some of that design work. But, you know, logos and things like that, people want their logos to look correctly. You don't want to be just eye balling a logo for someone.
Marcus: We know a little bit something about that. Yeah, we're a little specific when it comes to how Bluey appears on things.
Andy: Definitely. Yeah. People, you know, that's a huge thing to be cohesive with your brand.
Marcus: What is the most important thing that you've learned about running a business?
Andy: Like I say, it comes back to trying to just enjoy it. It's one of those things that you just got to kind of push. I do this all hours of the night, sometimes when I can't sleep I'll go paint. It's just something that I love, but it is one of those things that you have to put some work into it.
Marcus: Do you still paint on canvas?
Andy: No, not really anymore.
Marcus: So it's really mostly just the ... I mean it's glass is mostly what you're painting on, right?
Andy: Glass, wood, I've started painting a ton of brick buildings, so that's another thing.
Andy: A lot of-
Marcus: I can't imagine the amount of paint that gets soaked up in painting a brick building.
Andy: It's ... You got to use special pig hair brushes called fitches that you can really ... They say it's like stabbing paint into the brick. Like you're literally getting them into the grooves, you know.
Andy: So but then other times a lot of people want their lettering to look old, they want it to look like its worn and it's actual lettering, not, you know. So if that's the case, you can go a little bit quicker over lettering and it looks, it gives it that kind of-
Marcus: Aged look.
Andy: Aged look, and that's easier.
Marcus: Yeah. You drive around Mobile and there's some new work that's appearing but there's also a lot of old stuff. So the building across the street and kind of down a little bit, there's this old sign for some school that used to be down here.
Marcus: I mean I just see stuff like that and I mean that just goes to show that character of Mobile and the history and I love seeing that stuff. It's part of the thing, one of the things, that I love so much about being downtown besides the food.
Andy: The food's great.
Marcus: But seeing all that texture, all that character, I mean you're adding to that, right?
Andy: Yeah, that's what I kind of feel like when I do that. But I love that stuff. I sometimes will break my neck driving down the road and I will see a sign or a letter that I've never seen before and I can kind of pick out lettering now, like if it was hand lettered, and I'm always looking. Like I feel like my head's always looking.
Marcus: Yeah, that's really cool.
Andy: My wife always says to keep my eyes on the road.
Marcus: Dangerous, dangerous, dangerous.
Marcus: Now tell people where they can find you.
Andy: Really, I have done a horrible job of marketing.
Marcus: We know some people. You want some help?
Andy: I'm on Instagram and that's it and it's kind of been that way just because it's been one of those things where I've just shown my work and it's been all word of mouth. And that's really, yeah, my only place is Instagram. People message me but then I, you know, email address.
Marcus: It is the mechanism by which showcases your work.
Andy: Exactly. Yeah.
Marcus: Okay, I'll take the two seconds and say you probably should be on Facebook, too.
Marcus: I mean not just your personal account, because I know you're on there as that, but yeah. It's ... Facebook is an extremely powerful tool.
Andy: It really is. And it's one of those ... Some people didn't even know. They knew me but they didn't know I was New Hand. I was doing New Hand as almost like a graffiti tag.
Marcus: So I have to ask, what is the New Hand, what's ...
Andy: It was as simple as thinking these are new hands doing something old as far as sign painting. You know? So ...
Marcus: Glad I asked. That's really cool, dude. Well I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast. Wrap up, any final thoughts or comments?
Andy: No, I don't think so. I appreciate you guys so much, I'm really blown away that people like you guys ask me to come in here and do this type of stuff.
Marcus: Absolutely. I would highly recommend that anybody that's listening to this and if you go and look at his work, I mean it really is absolutely stellar. So I mean the artistry behind it is just incredible.
Andy: Thank you so much.
Marcus: Yeah. Well I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner and entrepreneur. I've only said that like 120 times. Am I going to get through? You leave this in. Okay? I'm screwing this up, I'm telling Jarrod ... What's your name again? Andy, I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner and entrepreneur. It's been great talking with you, man.
Andy: Awesome. Thank you.