Back Issue__ Save on Signs: Dan Climan
"I say it outright that I am by no means a trained sign painter. I am an artist who has figured out his own formula to create works inspired by the hand painted signs of an earlier era."Words and photos by: Gillian Damborg
Down the street from Main and Hastings--a Vancouver BC area notorious for its dense population of drug users, prostitutes and homelessness--was a butcher shop that had been around for over 50 years. Save-on-Meats, was notorious for its giant rotating neon pig sign, and to those in the know, the best cheap burger in town. Changing hands a couple years ago, Save-on-Meats has re-opened their doors with a million-dollar renovation, a whole new concept and some great new signs.
Dan Climan is the young artist Save-on-Meats brought on to create the new signage for this historic location. Originally from Montreal, QC, Dan Climan got into painting signs, because of his interest in old school signage. He'd a proclivity towards painting signage since the beginning, and pursued his interest because he often could get vinyl banners on the cheap in the place where he lived. This also led him to create iconic characters and typographic imagery. He was the perfect fit for the new Save-on-Meats project.
We caught up with Dan, who gave us a tour of his studio (amidst construction), where he has been busy hand-painting the signs as well as getting inspired for his other projects. We talked about his work with Save-On-Meats as well as other projects on the go, including his apprenticeship as a tattoo artists. He skates, he drinks beer, he makes weird digital collages with R. Kelly in them, he tattoos, he paints, he draws...
Do you get annoyed when people think you are a frenchie?
It’s not that I get annoyed at being called a frenchie. I get annoyed when people think English is my second language. It’s my first language and in Montreal it is extremely obvious that I am English so it was weird when I moved tot Vancouver and people thought I was French. For the record pretty girls can call me a frenchie all they want.
What did you miss the most after making the move from Montreal to Vancouver?
The thing I miss most about Montreal is the architecture of the city. Montreal has a certain urban visual aesthetic that Vancouver doesn’t have. The mountains are beautiful but the architecture is pretty boring. It’s really inspiring to be surrounded by old brick buildings and a landscape that feels rich in history. I also miss my Bro my Mom and my Pops
Where did you get your formal training?
I went to Dawson College in Montreal for 2 years and studied fine arts then moved to Vancouver to get a BFA from Emily Carr University.
Tell me one important thing you learned at art school.
I learned that it is really important to look at work from the past that has similar ideas to the work I make now, in order to pick up where other artists left off and make work that is new and exciting.
Something that is on your bucket list:
Spend some time with R. Kelly.
How did you get hooked up with the Save-On-Meats Project?
I showed work in the Cheaper Show and at JD’s barbershop and in both occasions Save-On-Meats owner Mark Brand recognized it. My barber actually told me that he heard I was doing work for Save-On-Meats; this was news to me because I still hadn’t spoken to Mark Brand. The next day he called me up, we set up a meeting and I’ve been working at Save-On ever since.
What’s been the best part about it?
The best part is that the work I am doing is so closely related to my personal art practice that it doesn’t feel like work at all. It has been the most amazing opportunity to make art and paint everyday knowing that the end result will be to create the new visual aesthetic for the historic butcher shop.
This “old is new” style is super hot right now, you see it in a lot of branding and design. Do you think that is something that will change again as trends change, or is it something that will have staying power?
I believe it all depends on how the style is executed. I say it outright that I am by no means a trained sign painter. I am an artist who has figured out his own formula to created works inspired by the hand painted signs of an earlier era. I was recently contacted by Master Vancouver sign painter John Lenning who heard about the Save-On project on CBC radio. After hearing that there was a young sign painter re-doing Save On Meats he was curious to see what was up. John came by to meet me a few weeks ago and I explained my process to him and how the signs were being made. I’m proud to say that John was really excited about the signs and commended me on the overall aesthetic of the works saying that I was able to capture a certain layout that was being missed my many new sign painters. Back to the question, I think there will always be a place for hand painted signage.
When did you start getting into painting signage? Where does your inspiration come from?
I was originally drawn to signage when I started to notice all of the amazing mascots around the city of Vancouver. The Save-On-Meats pigs, Mr. Mattress, Juicy Chicken, Mr. Jumbo, The Only Seafood sign and a cast of many more. My inspiration comes from the Idea that these images that had the ability to connect with lots of people on so many different levels were slowly disappearing and being replaced by boring signage. The beauty about older signage is the hand made quality and the presence of the artist through style and execution.
What other projects are you working on right now?
I am currently working on some new personal artwork, lots of watercolors and more signage stuff. I am trying to push it in a new direction using everything I’ve learned working at Save On. I am also in the works on a publication documenting the artistic process of the Save On Meats project.
I know you are apprenticing as a tattoo artist, is that something you will seriously pursue, or will it take a backseat to your design work?
Tattooing is something that I will seriously pursue. Design work is fun but there is something so exciting about tattooing that I haven’t felt about any other form of art.
What about tattooing drew you to it?
I was drawn to the artwork and the whole process of tattooing. I think it’s a huge responsibility to design images that will live on people for the rest of their lives. I fee that part of my artistic process is having the ability to pick up on timeless imagery and appreciating hand skills. I hope I will be able to bring both of these qualities into my tattoo work.
What is the ultimate job for you?
The ultimate job would be to be in a position to make artwork with a huge budget and be surrounded by amazing creative people.
Do you think you will ever have a 9 – 5 job again?