Sign Language (Paperback)

A Painter's Notebook

By John S. Paul (Photographer)

Three Rooms Press, 9781941110041, 90pp.

Publication Date: November 11, 2014

List Price: 15.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


In photos, drawings and words, Sign Language pays homage to the lost art of urban outdoor sign painting. In a working environment both novel and ambitious, author John S. Paul found success, noting, "No other job gave me such a direct impact on the urban landscape, or such physical engagement. Painting signs over Broadway in 1984 was a rare look down from the elevated height of a heroic messenger." Few books have ever provided such an insider perspective into this unique livelihood of days past. In 40 photos and 30 poems and stories, the author creates an immersion into a rarefied world on danger and beauty, raising the sense of the importance of moments and blurring the boundary between public and private space.

About the Author

John S. Paul came to New York City in 1972 from Chicago, and is still Midwestern at heart. He studied at Washington University, St. Louis, where emphasis was placed on craft, grounded in the canons of German expressionism and the Bauhaus. He went on to Yale for an MFA, where modernism was key. Later, in San Francisco, he attached himself to a drawing group with Elmer Bischoff, Joan Brown, and George Lloyd, where he focused on mural sized landscapes of California scenery. Relocating to New York, he turned to portrait and simple genre painting: still life, interior, bathed in the beautiful New York light that Matisse spoke about. He associated with fellow downtown artists Fairfield Porter, Alex Katz, and Larry Rivers, and shared a loft with Ilya Bolotowsky. In the eighties John Paul worked in the novelty world of outdoor advertising, billboards and wall signs. This job exposed him to a different, sharper and more practical kind of talent and craft and took his eye to crazy heights, gothic viewpoints of skewed angles and verticality. And danger. These "danger" moments sharpened his eye as the observer, and trained him to be on the lookout for beauty. Today, he devotes himself full time to art and writing. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.