When I did Today


What an honour to have been asked to sign write the back of my friend’s boat. Ben Jackson created this version of a 1908 Dark Harbor, an American yacht, from scratch, working on it diligently ever night after a day of, well, building boats. It’s his work and his love. He’s such a talented craftsman and it shows in every aspect of this boat.

I have quite a few years of hand painting boats under my belt but sign writing is a craft in itself that I have only dabbled in.  I took it upon myself to research fonts of the late 20’s and see what other boats of the era have. The workable space is really small so something overly calligraphic would have been too much.  Sketching out some custom letters, he took a liking to one in particular and I set out about laying it out.

I drool over sign writing videos on youtube. How those chisel brushes leave perfect corners, the perfection of curves and drop shadows,  it really is amazing stuff to watch.  I was fortunate to pick the brain of my old work place’s official sign writer to see how he goes about it.

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His white chalk outlines become confident strokes, and given a layer of gold leaf.  The single black line sets it off against the mahogany.  We talked about brush control, brush size, layout and nuances like feeling the weight of the paint on the tip of the brush to know how far to pull the paint.

Well, after a few test pieces I knew it might be slightly out of my skill set. However, graphic design is all about problem solving, and I found a way that would still achieve the desired result.  Tape. And lots of it.



I played it safe. Looking at that photo now it almost seems like I cheated. However, I knew my limits and my strengths and really wanted to give Ben’s boat the quality typography it deserved.  Freestyling the name in pencil, the tape allowed for adjusting curves and making non permanent mistakes.  The length and sweep for the tail of the y took more tries than I can remember.

I was prepared for outlining it in black but as Ben and I examined it, we agreed the nature of the boat was minimalist, humble yet elegant, and that those qualities should be reflected in the name. A bold outline would have been too much, making the light and airy gold and white colour scheme heavy.


A great challenge and a beautiful boat.  A full gallery of Today can be found here: http://www.floatsjackson.com/#!portfolio/cscm