On the last Tuesday of every month, I feature a fellow type lover from the Richmond, VA area.
In recent years, Richmond has (thankfully) come to appreciate and encourage street art and murals. There are colorful painted walls on every block and even on the vehicles that line the streets. If you've ventured anywhere around the area, you've probably seen the work of Brad Bacon. Specializing in painted signs, murals and the occasional vehicle, he also incorporates awesome illustrations into his work. Read on to find out more about him and his process.
SARAH BARTON: I saw that you went to VCU. What did you study there? Anything art-related?
BRAD BACON: I went to VCU for a couple years for art, but dropped out before I started a major when I realized I didn't really want to do fine art in galleries, and there weren't any courses for the stuff I was getting more interested in (sign painting, etc.). I also started getting commissioned jobs around that time, so I decided to skip the whole student loan thing hanging over my head and just see how it would work out doing things without a degree.
SB: What drew you towards letters and typography?
BB: I think the earliest thing that attracted me to letters and typography was probably some of the logos for metal bands. I couldn't tell you how many times I drew the Poison logo in elementary school haha. Following that it was comic books, then graffiti, and eventually sign painting.
SB: What does your creative process look like from start to finish?
BB: My creative process may or may not actually exist. Most of what I do is the ideas of whomever is paying me, especially with the sign painting stuff. A lot of times I just reproduce an existing logo or typeface and they have everything picked out down to the colors. I do enjoy it more when I get more input as to design, color, etc.
When I do have to actually be creative, my process usually involves coffee, overthinking everything and procrastination.
SB: Many of your pieces are large walls and vehicles. How do you go about getting your art to that size? Do you freehand it or use a different method?
BB: Laying out large scale paintings really depends on whether or not the image is something that has to be exact (like a logo) or something where I am the one designing it. For logos and things like that, I will measure out the space to be painted, project the image, and make a pattern with an electro pounce machine usually. When I have more freedom to do what I want, I will just sketch it straight on the wall/panel/vehicle.
SB: Most of your work is painted. Do you prefer spray painting/air-brushing or using a regular brush and can of paint?
BB: I let the project dictate the medium unless someone wants it a different way. I love using spray paint unless it is a really small area to work with; then it sucks. Airbrushing can be fun, but it's a pain in the ass dealing with a compressor and keeping all the paint bottles and the airbrush clean. Years ago I said I would never airbrush again because I really started to hate doing it. That didn't really work out, cause people still hit me up to airbrush things.
A paint brush really ends up being the best tool for most of the lettering projects I do. Lettering quills for smaller stuff, and house painting brushes for the larger stuff.
My favorite is just pen/ink. No clean up or prep work!
SB: What's something that would surprise people about spray painting large-scale pieces like buildings or buses?
BB: Apparently the biggest surprise for a lot of people is that it's gonna cost you more than a couple hundred bucks.
SB: You incorporate a lot of illustration into your work. Did that come before or after you got into letters, or did they go hand in hand?
BB: I think lettering and illustration have always gone hand in hand for me at least. I feel like a lot of people take more interest in an image when it's not just lettering.
[CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE.]
SB: What has been your favorite project and why? Hardest project?
BB: I don't know if I have a favorite project, but the best ones to me are when I get to do my own style, and nobody tries to talk me down on the price. Sabai was a good one. I also did some stuff for a guy in Ashland that makes gun silencers (TBA Suppressors) that was excellent as well.
Hardest project was probably when I was working for a friend in NYC doing hand painted ads. Colors had to be exact matches mixed by hand, images had to be exact, and sometimes we would paint in below freezing temperatures 12+ hours a day on ladders after shoveling ice and snow off the sidewalk. That was not fun. There's a bunch of people that do that every week up there. Mad respect, but not for me, I'm soft haha.
SB: Where do you get inspiration for your work?
BB: Old signs, engravings, books, friends, Instagram
SB: Who are some fellow Richmonders that inspire you? Non-Richmonders?
BB: Tough one, since people that inspire me locally aren't necessarily just lettering people. My friend Marshall Higgins has some fantastic lettering, but that's not all he does. Jim (Barf) Callahan always does great stuff, some of which is lettering. Nick Kuszyk who used to live here is inspiring to me, although he's not a super letter nerd.
SB: If you had a list of ‘best-kept secrets’ (websites, books, tips) you’d recommend for the type of work that you do, what would you include and why?
BB: If I told you, it wouldn't be a secret! But really, I feel like if anyone really wants to find out how to do something they can just look it up on the internet. It's aaaaaaaall on the internet these days. Just gotta use the correct keywords in your search.
SB: What do you love most about being a creative in Richmond, Virginia?
BB: Being able to not have to work every day to live comfortably is pretty nice. I'm really good at taking a day off cause I want to go hang out with friends or go to the river or something instead of working.
SB: What can we look forward to seeing from you in the next few months?
BB: Next few months I should be on the road with my buddy Marshall for a good chunk doing murals in trampoline parks (The BounceHaus movement). I've been lucky enough to get on that gig with him traveling around the country painting these places and eating at the finest Ihops/Waffle Houses/Denny's the suburbs have to offer.
SB: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
BB: Don't do a $50 t-shirt design for a friend that works at a bar that gets bought out shortly after t-shirts were made, and then uses your $50 t-shirt design for their logo and all branding/advertising. I'm looking at you The Camel.