, Biographical Information - Michael Darch
...About the Artist

y interest in handcarved signs goes back to vacations during my childhood to Coastal New England. I was fascinated by the number of beautiful signs that seemed to be the norm in those areas. When vacation was over, it was back to the metal and neon of suburban New York. I had always wanted to carve a sign like the ones found in Mystic or Salem, but it seemed that realizing this dream was still a few years off for me. I like to think that those early impressions spurred me on to take up "Studio Art" as an elective course during High School. My instructor must have seen some talent in me, and I was encouraged to apply to the School of Visual Arts, when it came time for college.

Receiving a small scholarship, I attended the School of Visual Arts in the late 1970's. At that time, an overhead projector was the most sophisticated drawing tool I had encountered. The world was changing then, and fellow "old schoolers" - fine artists, painters, and sculptors; were wondering what the computer age would hold for them. I went "commercial" as they say; and decided to turn to wooden signmaking to generate an income. Most of the tools I used would have been familiar to a sculptor during the Middle ages.

I worked with hand forged chisels, and a wooden mallet. I was even laying out the lettering by hand. Lightly at first, in charcoal to get the size and design just right. I was fortunate to have found no lack of work once a few of my carved signs were out there, but I could only manage to produce about one per month. Oddly enough, the carving process was not the phase that demanded the most time. It was the other phases of the creation process; preparing proposals, creating designs and keeping records, that demanded the bulk of my time.

I was creating hand drawn design proposals for clients, on an 8 1/2" by 11" format, and then still wrestling with the projector when it came time to produce the full size layout. Any changes to the design during the planning phase would mean an entire re-rendering of the sign sketches, which were essentially small watercolor paintings. It was becoming clear to me that some form of computer design assistance was needed, but I worried that it would compromise the "look" that had created the demand for my work in the first place. And what of a woodcarver going "hi-tech?" Well, I was beginning to feel like a certain "folk/rock" musician (who likes to sue if his name is mentioned) wrestling with the criticism of "going electric."

Years have passed now since those days and I feel that I have produced many beautiful signs with design assistance from a personal computer. In fact, I am able to produce better signs now in much less time and have actually enhanced the "look" I was so afraid of losing.

Very often, the signs that I have produced for commercial clients have also included the creation of a unique logo. Now that much of my preliminary design work is stored "digitally," it is very easy to supply original artwork for other applications such as business cards, flyers, brochures, etc. One sign design that was adopted as a corporate logo, eventually found its way onto T-shirts and aprons.

If you haven't done so already, please visit the Gallery for a look at a few examples of my work.


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