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An artful old “Private Parking” sign

October 30, 2014


By themselves, there’s little to distinguish many of the Fairview neighbourhood’s old three-storey apartment buildings, aside from street addresses and the colour of their latest coat of paint.

But apartment buildings are all about people, inside and out and people can’t help but leave their unique mark where ever they go.

One Fairview apartment building — a typical “postwar” stucco box with windows all around and doors front and back — stands out from its neighbours in the smallest way — it has an interesting hand-painted “Private Parking” sign.

The apartment building itself went up in 1956, making it 58 years old but it’s well maintained and doesn’t look a day over 30. The strip of parking behind the building looks brand new because it is; within the last year it was completely ripped up and repaved following an excavation to remove an old oil tank.

The little bit of parking lot is guarded by an equally modest “Private Parking” sign that was hand painted 41 years ago. I know this because the sign painter signed and dated his work.

A sign of professional pride


The sign is simple black and red brushwork done on a painted white surface and it has a simple message illustrated with a thickly drawn scene of a car being towed away:

“Private Parking. Unauthorized vehicles will be towed away at owner’s expense”.

The sign was painted in 1973 by someone named Wolf Lincke.

It has the practiced, work-a-day flair you would expect from a professional sign painter of the 1970s — with perhaps more pizzazz than usual, given that it’s signed.

It was dashed off freehand with brushes — at least two different thicknesses. The painter may have used a length of wooden doweling held end-down on the work surface as a guide for long straight lines such as the tow truck’s wrecker boom.

There are no periods or commas. The only punctuation is variations in the weight, style and colour of the lettering.

When every sign was a work of craft if not art

Before the advent of computer-driven sign making, getting any kind of little sign meant getting an original work of the sign painter’s art. Every sign was a bravura performance dashed off quickly but always displaying the  sign painter’s unique style. judgement and experience.

The building owner would have indicated at  least what size of sign was needed and what message the sign needed to convey. Almost everything else though, the composition, lettering styles, perhaps even the exact wording, would have been left to the judgement of the sign painter.

When I was growing up, the world was filled with hand-painted signs, each one conveying a little bit of the sign painter’s individuality. And as a young illustrator and designer I was necessarily a student of both lettering and brushwork.

These days the only new hand-painted signs I’m likely to see are messy graffiti tags, so I’m understandably drawn (cough) to any surviving examples of the old sign painter’s trade.

I rather think that this 41-year-old example, with it’s goofy oldtow truck, should be in a museum or perhaps an art gallery. Or framed and protected in the art gallery’s parking lot. Click the images to enlarge them.



From → Art, Fairview

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