Oshkosh man

Oshkosh overalls from Powerhouse Museum photograph

I find this picture and the Flickr set it came from rather awe-inspiring. The art of sign writing has pretty much disappeared. Except for some artisan exponents, a few of whom are still around. As for the signs themselves, if any are left on buildings, they have been reduced to faint rubbings. Yet there are those who collect those memories, too. As I write, the Ghost Signs Flickr group has 14, 422 images in it..

The Rousel Flickr set is a real rarity, I’d think. Rousel Studios in Sydney were top notch practitioners of the sign writing art, the Powerhouse tells us.  Their work certainly suggests so. And apparently the Rousel’s were proud enough to sign their work and the name ‘Rousel Studios’ appears on the bottom corner. Unusual in the commercial art of sign writing, that.

The sheer size of this advert gives it a surreal quality. And the chap, so proud of his Oshkosh overalls and shirt, is all that is manly in his pose. A somewhat dry pdf on the Powerhouse Museum website, describing the collection, appreciates him too: ‘The sign features a picture of a muscular giant wearing a white work shirt, dark overalls and work boots. At his feet are five tiny figures all dressed in the same outfit.’

Powerhouse Museum sign writer photographThis is another awesome image in the set. The painter is named as Stan Denford and he is painting a portrait of film star Ruth Chatterton. Never seen anything like this image. It is super.

I have a few books on sign writing, but mostly they cover the art of painting smaller wooden signs and shop fronts. Nothing on this size. I guess because our signs in England would very rarely have been executed on this scale. These paintings are on a scale which really wouldn’t look out of place in the original 1933 King Kong film. Made about the same time as the Rousel’s were scaling their own heights.



Never mind getting a tattoo of my qrcode I might well commission a sign writer to do some secures for me. Do you think I could get an Arts Council Grant to do this if I say it will increase public engagement in the arts!

shelf appeal

You might need to do that in a proper city. As opposed to Southport, which doesn’t have a big wall does it?


We still have some of these in France… I remember a gigantic portrait of Zinedine Zidane looking over “La Corniche” in Marseilles.
Quite unable to remember the name of the sponsor though….


In York there’s a huge painted sign advertising “Bile Beans” as being good for you. I think it was painted in the 20’s-30’s. My grandma who was around at the time remembers them being advertised widely as a slimming aid. The rumour was that they actually contained a tapeworm!


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