Fort Worth, Texas
By SignCraft Magazine
Posted on Saturday, December 29th, 2018
1440 sq. ft.
Plenty of brushes and
airbrushes plus a Roland
On Facebook as Darren Wenzel
Growing up back in Australia, the walk home from school took Darren Wenzel right past the local sign shop. He couldn’t pass by without a look in the window to see what the sign painter was working on. That curiosity led to what would become a career in sign painting, pinstriping and custom painting.
“I decided that was what I wanted to do,” he says. “In 1987, I went on to do my signwriting apprenticeship in a big shop in Adelaide that did a lot of display work. This was before computers, so there was all this block lettering to be done with a brush. It bored me then, but I’m so glad I got the opportunity to do that. I wouldn’t be in the position I am now without that.”
After his apprenticeship, Darren worked with Rod Tickle [SignCraft, January/February 2014] for five years. Rod was doing more and more custom paint and graphics on trucks and motorcycles, and that suited Darren just fine.
“Back then, we were experimenting a lot with the airbrush, pinstriping and custom paint,” he says. “It was a lot of fun. In Australia, you have to be diverse. You have to know how to do a little bit of everything in the sign industry. But I’ve always loved doing vehicles and custom work the best.”
From there, Darren moved to Queensland, where he worked for several years. He wanted to visit the US and traveled back and forth to the States several times, meeting sign people and visiting shops. Eleven years ago he moved to the US to do custom painting, sponsored by Razor Custom Paint in Virginia. Eventually, it was down to Texas to open his own shop.
Now 47, Darren has been in Fort Worth for the past three years. At first he was doing mostly custom painting and striping, but lately he is back into signs—which now makes up about 40% of his work. He recently added a digital printer.
“When you work alone,” Darren says, “it can be extremely difficult to keep up with everything. I think others know what I mean. You don’t have any backup, so it’s easy to get behind. It can get pretty stressful when the work is stacked up. You don’t want to let people down, but you can’t always get it all done fast enough. You don’t want to turn work away, but sometimes you have to, because you only have so many hours in a day. It’s a juggling act, but you make it work.
“My favorite work is probably antique/rustic hand painted signage. I like to come up with a design and then execute it. I’ve also done quite a bit of teaching, and I enjoy that. I’ve taught airbrush workshops for several years, and now I’m teaching striping and lettering workshops. It’s a good feeling to get a student pointed in the right direction and to share ideas.”