“I lied my way into my first real "sign" job and figured it out by the seat of my pants.”
Co-founder of Blackout Signs & Metalworks, plays with fire, works with his hands, makes unreal signage and hunts for satellites in the night’s sky.
Tell us about your path to becoming a metal worker / sign maker.
Legos… seriously, spent every dime I had as a kid on legos, always getting in trouble so got to spend a lot of time in my room building spaceships and race cars and taking apart all of the cool stuff you could get at Radio Shack… Later in life it turned into skateboard ramps, then old cars that broke down all of the time, and playing in bands and the whole DIY thing. I became fascinated with sign painting, and the work of folks like Jim Phillips, Robert Williams, Von Dutch, Ed Roth, Robert Crumb and all of the head comix at Oat Willies. At some point it clicked that SOMEONE made all of this cool stuff.
I started off painting some really TERRIBLE signs, but I couldn't let it go. At this same time, I was building race cars with big motors, making parts to make the parts fit. I kept going by and showing Gary Martin all of my terrible signs and trying to figure out how to get the damn brush to do what I need it to do! I lied. I lied to some car dealerships and sweated my ass off pin striping brand new cars and trucks. I lied my way into my first real "sign" job and figured it out by the seat of my pants. It was then I realized you could build the sign itself and then paint it, illuminate it with neon or light bulbs... and get the shit shocked out of you!! It was heaven, pure heaven.
Who or what inspires you?
I am inspired by old skateboard art, old cars, Harley Earl, Smokey Yunick, Reddy Kilowatt, old signs and advertising, well built anything… I am inspired by clients who push us and give us the opportunity to make some really cool stuff.
Were you creative as a kid?
JG: Oh yeah, got it from my mom. She taught me calligraphy when I was a kid and used to make these insane cakes for people. I was always doodling on my schoolwork and making something. Boredom was the best gift I have ever been given. The only TV we ever watched was Saturday morning cartoons… the rest of the time was spent romping.
What do you like about living in Austin?
I grew up in Austin. Like everyone else says, it was so different "back then" but it has bloomed into this insane, pulsing, vibrant, ever-evolving creature. There is no other place like it. The crazy, creative culture stokes more creativity…. I think it's the river running right through town. I've been to every other spot in Texas and Austin is just this oasis in the middle of this big ol' badass belt buckle.
What is your typical day like?
Wake up way early - 2am - and drink a Coca Cola. Sit on my back porch and try to see satellites, stare at the stars and catch one exploding or turning off and think. Just let the day come to me. Follow that up with some emails and sketching or catch up on work. Lay back down and zone out on TV. Drink a cup of joe around 4am and start getting ready for the day. Shake the kiddos outta bed around 6:30am and head out to the shop… Do work!
What's your favorite food?
Breakfast tacos. Egg, bacon, potato and cheese. Rice and beans with a side of pico. Bottle Coke and a glass of ice, por favor… para aqui.