Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Art of Sign Painting: Dan Giddings

From time to time I like to pay tribute on out blog to the now nearly extinct craft of sign painting (for instance: see our post dated April 5 2013).

This month in the San Geronimo Valley Community Center's Del Mue Gallery we're hosting an exhibit by a master sign painter--Dan Giddings.

Dan made this signage especially for the show
Dan Giddings, now retired, is a native of Marin County. Dan and his wife, Joanne, have lived in Forest Knolls since 1957. Dan grew up in Corte Madera and Larkspur and majored in advertising art at the College of Marin in 1952. Later he joined a leading Marin sign firm and spent five years in a union apprenticeship.

Dan has worked on signs on windows, boats, trucks and exterior walls of buildings. He was required to be proficient working in a vast array of mediums including with wood, metal, gold leaf along with carved, sand-blasted and routed signage.  He ran his Marin based sign painting shop for 40 years.

Dan painted this Lucas Valley Milk ad on the side of the Lagunitas Deli in the village of Lagunitas many decades ago.

Lagunitas, Marin county
Dan refers to such faded remnants as ‘wall ghosts’. Almost no one hand-paints signs anymore. The profession has given way to computer generated sign making ‘systems’ that cut letters out of sheets of vinyl.

Dan Giddings work has been “exhibited” on public surfaces all over northern California for decades. He has also exhibited in the Senior Lunch Group Art Show and at the Bohemian Club.

Here’s his work for show and a couple of shots from the reception.

Lisa and Dan Giddings chatting athe reception
Joanne Giddings and friend
Classic old school hand painted lettering

Reverse lettering painted on glass
Hand painted boat lettering

Joanne is wearing a T-shirt drawn by Dan
Close-up: Drawn for an abalone group

You can see an interview with Dan about his career on the Marin TV program “Seriously Now” at:

(His interview starts about 19 minutes into the program)

More on the art and craft of sign painting. There's a great new documentary on the subject at:


  1. I always wondered who did the Lucas Valley Milk sign on the side of Lagunitas Grocery. Now I know! For a while in the late 1960's, on the building just east of the post office in Lagunitas where the veterinarian clinic now is was a huge sign "no smoking", which was the name of a gallery and hippie hangout in that space. I lived with a roommate just above. Our landlord was Spec McCauliffe who ran the Irish Coffee saloon, just to the west of the post office. The Irish Coffee sign was a good one too.

    1. Great to read your stories. I've heard a little about the old saloon as part of Valley lore but I wasn't living in Marin in those days.

      The San Geronimo Valley seems a pretty colorful place today but I suspect it doesn't come anywhere close to the wackiness of the '60's.

      I'm always curious about 'wall ghosts' (and the Lucas Valley Milk signage in particular) so it was great to actually meet the creator of one.

      Thanks for checking in.