From Pencil Sketch to Pristine Logo

"Stu" from Pristine Video Productions

Event photography is always difficult – trying to capture every special moment at a wedding or graduation without ruining it – any photographer will attest to that. There is a skill in capturing the image before it passes. But if snapping beautiful pictures is an art, creating nice video footage is pure genius (I know this from the many hours it took me to create a very short and rough YouTube clip). But that’s the daily grind for the crew at Pristine Video Productions, in Narooma.

Unlike their stunning flicks, however, their corporate logo left a little to be desired. In May, Lorraine Boggs contacted us about creating a new brand mark that was a “fresh, light and breezy”. She had seen our logo and signage for the Amooran Hotel and wanted us to try our hand at a new logo for Pristine Video.

Amooran Oceanside Logo

The logo we created for Amooran Oceanside

At first, we juggled a few different concepts around – the Glasshouse Rocks (a landmark of Narooma), a purely typographic wordmark, a “play” button – I filled several pages with quick-and-dirty pencil sketches before developing a few concepts.

Pencil Sketches for Logo Design

Pencil Sketches


A Jon-Contino-Style hand-drawn logo concept



A concept based on the Glasshouse Rocks


After plenty of discussion, we decided to pursue a “tree of life” concept, rather than the Glasshouse Rocks, which – although locally relevant – may not be familiar to clients further afield. Lorraine sent a few images that inspired her and her husband Stuart:

Tree of Life 1

Tree of Life 2

Original Artwork by Artist Chris Chun


Tree of Life 3

Tree of Life 4

Here’s the first tree design we came up with:

Pristine Logo Concept

Pristine Logo Concept

Although nice and clean, this concept looked a little too “dead”. Lorraine wanted something more leafy and alive. This time we started with a painting:

Tree Painting

and developed it into a logo:


Yes, this is a vector (if any graphic designers are wondering)

Lorraine and Stuart were happy with this final version. For the lettering, we used the typeface Carolyna Pro. It has a certain “wedding” look to it, which was just right for Pristine.

Carolyna Pro

Just as I was working on this project, the liquid amber (sweet gum) tree out front began to look a lot like the symbol on the Pristine logo. Unfortunately, I didn’t capture the moment, but here’s what it looked like after a rain in the night:

Liquid Amber Leaves, Oswald Street, Inverell

Street Art & Sign Art

John Claridge Photographer

John Claridge

“I’m for Street Art but not the defiling of beautiful things”

Said London photographer John Claridge. I have to say that I agree with this sentiment, as many of us would. A creative wall mural – whether commissioned or not – can brighten a derelict warehouse or a forgotten concrete wall. But when a beautiful building or sign is used as a substrate for a hastily scrawled tag, something is amiss. Since ancient times, sign-makers have had little tolerance for graffiti, especially when it adorned their own work.

Today, however, the line between sign art and street art seems to be quickly blurring. I first noticed it a few years ago, walking down King Street in Sydney’s bohemian Newtown district. A colourful tag caught my eye. When I looked closer, I noticed that this was not a artist’s tag at all, but the name of the cafe “Istanbul on King“. The lettering has all the hallmarks of graffiti, but technically speaking, this is hand-painted signage as much as anything else is. Although I’m a traditionalist when it comes to letterforms, I must admit, there’s skill and artistry in this highly embellished type style.

[John Claridge] does not see any absolute distinction between graffiti and graphics, both are representations of language – whether graven on walls or painted on fascias
Spitalfields Life

Graffiti-style Lettering, Istanbul on King

In a recent chat with graffiti artist Christian Griffiths (he prefers to be referred to as “Sauce”), we discussed signage, murals and graffiti. I asked about the ‘gentrification’ of graffiti:

There is absolutely a growing acceptance of graffiti-style art and typography. That’s the idea with my studio in Murwillumbah. If you walk into Ikea, you can get graffiti-style photo frames. It’s everywhere. Of course, our Australian cities are quite far apart from each other, and there are big differences in attitude. Melbourne is definitely the most open to this style of art. I have friends down there who keep telling me “Come to Melbourne, you’d make a good living here”. The graffiti scene is part of the tourism down there. Murwillumbah is a fairly large town, but I can only think of two shops with hand-painted signage, and one of them is mine. Everybody is switching over to the digitally printed stuff.

Christian Griffiths (also known as "Sauce")

Christian Griffiths (also known as “Sauce”)

A far cry from a spray-can-wielding vandal, Griffiths is one of the new breed of graffiti-artists who use their skills for a wide range of professional work, from signage to murals and even logo design. He’s just as adept with a brush dipped in acrylic artist paint, as with an aerosol can, although the name of his business – Aerograffix – gives a hint which medium he prefers.

I first came across Christian’s work after seeing this rather unusual message on one of our notice boards for a Queensland school:

Strange – I thought – they normally keep a lower profile. And what was a graffiti artist doing at a school?

 I go to a lot of schools and do workshops. At high schools, this often involves painting a mural, but with primary schools I paint the mural and it often tends to become a demonstration exposing young creative minds to an art form they may not have witnessed in the flesh.

But how does he steer this creativity and enthusiasm towards legal activities?

We have to ask the question ‘Why do young people want to do graffiti?’. The authoritarian approach [to reducing vandalism] doesn’t seem to be working. I think it just pushes the scene underground. Creative young people really need an outlet to express themselves. Numerous studies have shown that when they have a legal outlet for their creativity, the illegal activities are greatly reduced.

I often make the comparison that a lot of towns have skate parks now. If you like skateboarding, that’s where you go on the weekend, but what if you like painting? Is there a place for that? For me, painting is my profession. I’m just as happy using an aerosol can as a brush, and I keep pretty busy.

Everyone is familiar with the artist known as Banksy, but who does Christian admire in the mural world?

I enjoy the work of Daim from Germany, John Pugh from the USA and Marc Spijkerbosch from New Zealand

DAIM mural in Germany

One of DAIM’s recent works

And now, for some of Sauce’s work:

A Mural at a Queensland School

Mural at a school in Queensland

A Mural at a Queensland School

Graffiti-Style Sign

Is it Graffiti, mural, or signage? I think it’s a bit of all three.

Sauce also designed the identity for Mooshka Restaurant, in Sunshine Beach:

Graffiti Logo on Fridge

Mooshka Graffiti Mural

Mooshka Restaurant Sunshine Beach Queensland

Mooshka Restaurant Graffiti Menu

To end with, I had to include a final example of “high-end graffiti” (by Artsigns, in Toronto Canada):

Graffiti-style Wall Letters

A response to this post from muralist John Pugh:

With the exception of Academe, I attached a few more recent mural images — might be good to use newer murals (I would like that). Good luck with your blog. – John

Blank Concrete Wall

Blank Concrete Wall


Mural in Process

Mural in Process

The Finished Work

The Finished Work


Thanks, John!

Making Signs out of Old Horseshoes

Mark's Workshop

Mark forms the word “Welcome” out of used horseshoes.

For Mark Rees, it takes an effort to form words. A lot of effort. That’s because he forms them out of old horseshoes. Each letter is heated, beaten and welded together in his snug little workshop in Columbia, Kentucky. His business is simply known as Mark’s Custom Horseshoe Art, and his creations are sold across the United States. I first came across Mark’s work when a prospective customer of ours explained that she wouldn’t be able to place her order for a handcrafted sign for her barn. The reason was sensible enough, in the meantime a good friend of hers had presented her with a sign as a gift. She was considerate enough to send us a picture, and what a unique sign it was!

Lynne's Barn Sign

The sign

I had never before seen lettering made entirely of horseshoes. Undoubtedly, it falls squarely into the category of dimensional signage, although Mark has never thought of it that way:

I never really paid much attention to the variety of signage that I see every day, I looked at your blog and seeing the variety in one place is pretty neat. I think a horseshoe sign would fit right in to the mix.

I couldn’t agree more. Hence, today’s blog post. Though more a man of action than of words, Mark took a few minutes of his time to explain, albeit with humour and wit, what made him choose this unique profession:

What started as “I want to learn to weld and I have steel horseshoes to play with” eventually led to taking my ‘creations’ to craft fairs and farmers markets and Facebook and a website. Most of the designs for my early creations were shown to me by a horseshoe artist in Florida and a retired blacksmith in Virginia and the designs used with their permission. Then I started coming up with my own designs for critters and objects that I thought would be fun or neat to make. Some things I do are fun to make but there is no way anyone would pay for the time invested, so they become gifts. When I am feeling creative, my wife, Anita, gets lots of gifts.

I do not want to be accused of stealing someone-else’s idea, so I don’t spend a lot of time looking at what others are making and selling. Anita runs the business and marketing, I do the cutting, welding, forging, bending, and finishing.


I asked Mark how he goes about cutting and bending an object as tough as a horseshoe:

I started cutting the shoes with a hand hack saw but that was hard work and I would pretty regularly end up punching the vise which is hard on knuckles. I eventually found a well-used metal cutting band saw for a very reasonable price and have been using it ever since. The easiest way to bend shoes is using a forge to heat them. I have a small propane gas forge that does a pretty good job of heating as long as I can get whatever I want to heat into the fire box. Some shoes I will bend cold if it is a small bend, but you are correct horseshoes are tough. A large hammer, big vise and heavy anvil help though.

Where do the shoes come from?

We have 3 shod horses and get additional used shoes from farriers and horse friends. Most everything I make is from used shoes, or has used shoes incorporated into it. Used horseshoes are a great deal! They are usually full of nails, horse poo and rusted pretty good by the time I get them, but they are usually free. I spend more time pulling nails and cleaning the shoes than it usually takes to weld them.

I have to pay for new shoes and they have mill slag on them and that has to be removed before I can work them, so I guess it works out.On some projects I need a bunch of shoes the same size or shape and it is easier to use new shoes than sort through piles of used ones looking for matches.

How’s business?

As far as how the business is going, It was crazy before Christmas, I was in the shop for a few hours pretty much every day starting in late Oct. As Christmas got closer the days got longer. I think it finally slowed down just after Christmas. I think we did almost twice the business for Christmas 2012 as we did in 2011. Right now we get 1 or 2 orders some weeks, some weeks none, but that is fine, horseshoe art is not our primary income. We make enough to pay for the website, gas for the forge, gas and wire for the welder, and all the other misc. supplies we use. As someone pointed out, my horseshoe art is a great self supporting hobby that I actually make a decent profit from.  Right now most of my orders are for signs made from horseshoes.

How did the “Lynne’s Barn” order come about?

The order for the Lynne’s Barn sign came from my best customer, LeAnne, she apparently likes my work and has ordered a bunch of goodies for herself and friends from me and has the patience of a Saint. One of the signs she ordered was too long for my paint drying box and I fixed a tent with halogen lights to keep the sign warm so the paint would dry, but the weather just didn’t want to cooperate, it was cold and/or wet for 2 weeks after I got the sign made. LeAnne was patient and has continued ordering things, so I guess she understands mother nature doesn’t always work with me. Someday maybe a bigger paint drying booth… For the Lynne’s Barn sign the weather cooperated and I got it made, primed, and painted in a week or so. Letting the primer and paint cure are what drag the time out.

I have had a couple of requests for prices on signs from people in Oz, the world wide web is a great thing, but the shipping charge for 4 or 5 kg of horseshoes was a bit ridiculous and they rethought their purchase. For Lynne’s Sign We shipped the sign, I think it cost about $21 from Ky to Ca. I don’t remember the weight though.

I like customer feedback, so I can try to give people the best product I can for a fair price. I also like other people who see my creations opinions and feedback, I get some really good suggestions on doing things better, easier, or faster (Helps my ego too).

Blacksmith grinding a horseshoe

heating a horseshoe red hot

One of Mark's dogs watches attentively as a horseshoe is cooled in water

drying paint on horseshoe art

Lizard made of old horseshoes

The T-Shirt

Rustic Garden Sign made of old horseshoes

Another typographic creation, for a client’s vegetable garden

To the Coast of Africa

Having just come into the business here at Clover Signs I was pleasantly surprised to receive a request to design a sign to be presented as a house warming gift. In further inquiry into the design we found it to be headed for the coast of South Africa to a house overlooking the Indian ocean. The sign was to reflect the beauty of the view and the patriotic feelings of the intended recipient. Here is what we came up with after some back and forth with the benefactor.Wavecrest

If your looking for a special sign as a gift, or for a property of your own, visit us at Clover Signs and we’ll be glad to help.