Fanatic Of The Old School, Derek McDonald

1. What’s your name and title/business name? Where are you located, city, state, country location? 

My name is Derek McDonald, I’m 36 years old and my sign shop is called Golden West Sign Arts.  I specifically make hand painted signs the old traditional way. I’m currently based out of Reno, Nevada in the USA.

2. What’s your educational and professional background, i.e., college, professional school, high school, apprenticeship, etc.? 

I’m pretty much a self taught sign painter.  I studied a lot of old books and trade manuals.  I also have spent time with some older mentor type sign painters but nothing formal or official.  Self taught is a tough road to take.  It’s easy to skip important fundamental stuff when you’re on your own.  I had to do a lot of backtracking later on and ground myself in the basic fundamentals of my trade to better my layouts.

3. Preferred tool(s) and medium? 

I work with all the traditional sign painting materials, so:  oil based lettering enamels, lettering quills, striping brushes, gold leaf, etc.  I paint signs of wood, glass windows, truck doors, large outdoor walls and any other surface that is paintable if a customer desires a sign to be there.

4. Where or how do you “recharge your creative battery,” i.e., books, blogs, music, art, exercise, meditation, prayer, hobbies, interests, etc.? 

I get inspiration from lots of different sources.  One of my main goals is to transport the viewers of my sign work to another place/time aesthetically when looking at the work.  I’m very passionate about vintage design.  I collect old advertisements, books, matchbook covers, county fair posters, old soda bottles,  postcards…the list goes on!  I love traveling around the U.S. and taking pictures of old signs and architecture for reference.  Watching old movies and taking screen shots of anything sign related is something I’ve found myself doing.  Theres a website called that is a fun source of inspiration.  Check it out sometime!  Basically, in my little world,  old school reference material is king!  When I’m not working on signs I relax by collecting records,  producing a weekly radio show here in Reno, playing drums in various bands,  driving my old 1941 Buick around and getting out into the desert for peace and quiet whenever I can.

5. Tell us something about you that might surprise or delight us. 

I’ve been in business for myself making hand painted signs now for about ten years and I have never designed anything on a computer.  I don’t even know how!

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