Studio Visit

Will Lynes

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
25th of April 2014
Details at Will Lynes' Sydney Studio.  Photography - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
Studio details.  Photography - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
Will preparing to gold leaf one of his custom signs.  Photography - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
Intricate details using gold foil.  Photography - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
Studio experiments.  Photography - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
Portrait of Will out the front of his studio, with his own custom made signage.  Photography - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
Today we meet Sydney based decorative artist and designer Will Lynes, who specialises in traditional hand-painted signwriting, and a custom painted finishes. As you'll learn from his responses below, Will takes his craft very seriously - you could call it an obsession!  His passion has taken him around the world studying and improving his skills. You'll find him in his studio seven days a week, because like every passionate creative, when he's not working on a commissioned project, he's tinkering away on a personal project, forever perfecting his craft.  As he says below 'even on my days off from work I’m still mostly in the workshop practicing or painting a glass panel for myself, I still can’t get enough of it!'. After studying graphic design and the Design Centre Enmore in Sydney, Will took a painting job for a week with a friend's father.  One week turned in 10 years working in the decorative arts field, where Will learned many specialist painting techniques and a wide variety of faux/decorative finishes. Will assisted on a great variety of client work from woodgraining panels in private residences, to Italian plaster work for Hermes!  He later went on to train under one of his idols, UK based traditional glass artist Dave Smith. Will has worked across Australia and overseas in mediums including reverse glass signage, gilding and metallic effects, wood graining, marbling and many more specialist paint finishes. His extensive portfolio of work spans personal projects, private residential commissions, to larger scale work in some of Australia’s most prominent bars, restaurants and retail stores.  His impressive client list includes QT Hotels in Sydney and Queensland, Sydney restaurants 55 Riley Street, Mr Wong, and The Grounds of Alexandria, and NYC-based Colossal Media to name a few. Will's business is Lynes & Co.  DO check out his website and blog for a detailed look at some of his previous work - his skill and meticulous attention to detail must be seen to be believed! Will is represented commercially by The Jacky Winter Group.
Tell us a little about your background – What path led you to becoming a sign painter and artist, and to the style of work you are currently making?
I’ve always been in to creating things with my hands from as young as I can remember. I experimented with so many different media, from photography to oil painting to acrylics to airbrushing. It took me years to narrow down exactly where I wanted to take it, and the path I ultimately wanted to follow. I studied Graphic design at the Design Centre Enmore, and although I was pretty slow on the computer and always preferred working by hand, it did give me a good understanding of the industry and looking at letters in a different way. For the first year out of school I was just working in bars messing around. Then a good friend’s Dad needed someone to help him out with some painting for a week, and I thought why not?  I proceeded to work with him for the next 10 years, working in the decorative arts field and producing a wide variety of faux/decorative finishes. It was an awesome experience, and really gave me such a great understanding of how different paints worked and reacted together, and also different work environments. We worked on projects from woodgraining panels in private residences, to Italian plaster work for Hermes and so many in between. During these 10 years I would travel to the states quite a lot and always had a massive fascination with the natural ageing process and documented this frequently. I loved seeing all the old ghost signs and run down grimy old buildings, there was just so much character to it. It’s something that’s hard for me to explain in words, but it's what I found beautiful. I met my partner in the states and have spent a lot of time in Philadelphia. I love walking around random neighbourhoods and coming across compositions that have been created totally by the natural ageing process. I guess this is where my love of signage really came from…. The old worn signs encompassed both my love of lettering as well as my love of the decorative finishes. I began to try and recreate these old ghost signs to try and relay what I found so beautiful, putting it in another context. People walk and drive past the most amazing signage and texture on a daily basis and don’t notice it, but taking these paintings and putting them in a gallery setting totally changes how people look it. I guess this journey is all evident in the work that I’m creating now.
How did you originally become involved with art of sign writing – in particular the fine art of gold leafing. Was it taught to you or are you self trained?
I can’t quite remember exactly when or where it was, but the first time I saw a hand painted/gilt glass sign it blew my mind. It was something I was instantly drawn to and had to learn one way or another! I started out by teaching myself several years ago and reading as many books as I could and just got down to practicing. And then more practice! I came across a guy by the name of Dave Smith about two years ago, and his work was flawless! I got in touch with him and went to see him in Torquay, England and did some training in Decorative Glass Art. Definitely an amazing experience! I learnt so much and now consider him a good friend. TDF_WillLyons_RachelKara_15
Will finishing off a custom design with gold leaf.  Photography - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
Can you give us a little insight into your process? How do you go about starting a project or commission? What materials do you use? How long would an individual project take to complete?
This is a question that could have so many answers. I have clients that just want me to paint their existing logo, and clients that want me to come up with a design/concept and everything in between. Most of the projects that I design start off as a pencil sketch. I prefer working by hand as opposed to on a computer. There’s something natural about it. It’s a very rewarding feeling creating something totally by hand. Some see imperfections in hand painted letters in a negative way, but to me its human. No computer could ever produce something as visually vibrant and brilliant as a decorative glass panel. I work in both acrylic and enamel paints, and both have their place although I probably prefer enamel. When working with glass I primarily use 1 shot lettering enamels and a variety of gold leafs from 23,18,16,12 karats and even abalone/mother of pearl shell. The list could go on for a while. In terms of how long a project takes to complete, again it really depends on the project and how intricate it is. Some projects can be completed in a day and some of the more ornate glass panels could take months to complete. TDF_WillLyons_RachelKara_12
Old school use of golf leaf in sign writing.  Photography - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
What influences the style of your work? Do you look to old signwriting techniques, or other creatives working in your field here or abroad?
I think life in general is the biggest influence. Every little interaction with people the environment, my partner, my mates, influences my decisions and how I view things creatively. Reference comes from all over, it really depends on what the project is I’m working on. I like to travel and collect reference. I’m constantly taking photos and collecting books, old prints, ephemera etc. I’m definitely constantly reading old sign writing books and looking at the techniques used, some are still very evident in the trade and some are non-existent. It’s great to be able to experiment with some of these techniques written by a sign painter in a book that’s over 100 years old. I also think there is a healthy competition amongst signpainters the world over. I have a bunch of signpainting mates in the US and Europe, and seeing the work they produce is super inspiring! They influence me and push me to keep trying to progress and perfect something that ultimately can't be perfect as it's done by hand! TDF_WillLyons_RachelKara_6
Some of Will's inspiration and research material.  Photography - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
COFFEE, can’t get enough of the stuff! Normally I'm at the shop from 6.30am. If we are on site it’s getting everything ready and out the door. We finish up most days anywhere from 7pm 'til, well, anytime really. There’s always paperwork and drawing to be done, I’m lucky to have such an understanding supportive partner! Even on my days off from work I’m still mostly in the workshop practicing or painting a glass panel for myself, I still can’t get enough of it! I love the process of signpainting, the smell of the paint, the mixing of colours, the way the light reflects on the glass. It’s awesome! At least I think so. TDF_WillLyons_RachelKara_13
Will at work in his Sydney studio space.  Photography - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.
Can you list for us 5 resources across any media that you turn to regularly for creative inspiration?
I regularly check out Instagram, then there are a numbering of lettering forums that I frequent including Dmote, the rest of the resources I use are mostly books.
Which other local artists, designers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
I work with Nathan Pickering, who is a long time friend, on a daily basis. We constantly challenge each other. He gets me amped to better myself. Chris and Kara Town from AHD Paper Co. These guys are also long time friends and have established their own paper goods business producing some awesome cards and wrapping papers. They are both super creative, and I really enjoy any time I get to spend with them, as it always inspires me in my own work in some way or another. Luca Ionescu consistently amazes me, his type skills are off the hook. Sibella Court always inspires me, she’s an amazing stylist. Her work ethic and drive are second to none. I don’t know how she fits it all in.
What is your proudest career achievement to date?
Working with Colossal Media was a project I was pretty stoked on. Those guys are so on point with what they do, and working on such a large scale is pretty damn impressive! They commissioned a bespoke reverse painted glass panel for their office. I was given creative freedom, which was cool, and went all out on it. The artwork was all hand drawn. The Panel consisted of 23, 22, 16 and 12 Karat gold leafs with mother of pearl inlays and finger blended letters. It was shipped over in a crate to NYC, and made it there in one piece!
What would be your dream project?
It’s to do with an idea I have for an exhibition I’d like to do, but I can’t quite give you any details on it yet. Hopefully it won’t be too far away!
What are you looking forward to?
Getting married in Mexico… only a few days now! TDF_WillLyons_RachelKara_3
Will's workspace.  Photography - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.


Your favourite Sydney neighbourhood and why?
Alexandria, it’s still a little untouched and hasn’t become too trendy yet! I like the old factories and the little pockets that look like they haven’t been touched for decades.
Where was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?
Buon Ricordo.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
In the workshop, seven days a week at the minute. Even when there’s no work I’m still normally working on a glass panel in the shop. It’s a curse and a blessing at the same time. If I didn’t have a partner I’d probably live in the workshop. TDF_WillLyons_RachelKara_4
Some of Will's own work in his studio.  Photography - Rachel Kara for The Design Files.

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