“This is sandblasted cedar with the letters finished with 23k gold leaf,” says Art. “The carved HDU bagel sprayed with automotive urethane with a dustpan full of shop floor sweepings thrown into the wet clear for garnish gives new meaning to ‘Everything Bagel’!”
Cut and layered PVC board with cut vinyl copy
Art sprayed the two-tone panel with urethane, then used 1 Shot lettering enamel and cut vinyl for the lettering.
The main copy is cutout 2-in. HDU board with PVC board backers and sprayed with an automotive pearl color fade. Secondary copy is cut.
Two layers of CNC-router-cut HDU board with lettering finished in 23k gold leaf
Cut vinyl film
Cutout PVC letters with 22k gold leaf vinyl faces and cut vinyl copy on clear acrylic backer with an etch-look cut vinyl panel. Cigar is PVC pipe with a fiberglass burnt end and tapered end, wrapped with brown floor protection paper which was then airbrushed with accents and sprayed with matte automotive urethane clear. The cigar label is an eco solvent digital print.
Cut vinyl film
Cut vinyl film
“This is my design for a new marketing campaign,” says Art. “It was sprayed in house with full-blown faded automotive urethane pearls and clear coat with the help of Waterway colleague Todd Bright. The lettering is all layered cut vinyl. Thirty done so far, twenty more to go this year!”
Deli and background panel are cut from 1-in. vinyl-faced foam board. The sandwich and woodgrain background are digital prints, and the sandwich is mounted on a PVC cutout.
Art’s design and lacquer paint job, circa 1987, with lettering by the legendary Russ Mowry
Cut vinyl film with a fade done with automotive urethane paint
Cutout PVC letters with cut vinyl faces on a brushed aluminum composite cabinet over a welded aluminum frame. The logo is a digital print.
Vinyl lettering on cutout ¾-in. overlaid plywood panel finished with enamel paint
Cutout layered PVC letters and cut vinyl secondary copy on PVC board panel over a welded aluminum frame. Posts and custom brackets are aluminum with masonry bases.

Art Amerman

Wyckoff, New Jersey

By SignCraft.com

Posted on Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

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Shop name:
A&A Signs

Shop size: 1400 sq. ft.

Age: 62

Graphics equipment:
Roland SP540 printer
Summa S-class 48-in. plotter
EMseal laminator
Roland EGX-350 engraver
Signlab software

Race cars and custom paint have led more than one person to a career in sign making. That’s the path Art Amerman has followed—learning the wide variety of skills along the way that make you successful in a custom sign shop. Ultimately it has brought him to a “day job” handling the graphics for the New York Waterway—the ferry boats, buses and informational signs for this very busy transportation system. We’ll let Art tell you how he landed there:

As a young man, I always had an interest in cars and trucks, but how they look has always captivated me more than what makes them run. My interest led me to spend many of my early working days in auto body shops. There I developed skills as a welder, painter and Bondo sculptor. I also spent a lot of time doing fiberglass repair and fabrication while working as a mold maker with an automotive aftermarket company.

I especially enjoyed the opportunity to do custom body and paint work, and it became pretty evident that this was the direction I wanted to go. My eagerness was further bolstered by the visual overload I experienced after seeing my first Bob Gerdes “Circus” drag car lacquer paint job, complete with lettering by the ever-stellar Glen Weisgerber. I felt like I wanted to eat that thing!

As I worked towards becoming a customizer, I had reasonable success. I did whatever show car projects I could muster, including a custom show truck I built for myself in the 1980s. It was a trophy winner and was featured in a national trucking magazine.

Long hours, low pay My enthusiasm was eventually tempered by the reality that cutting one’s teeth in the custom painting world often required painstaking perfection at “Earl Sheib” prices. (Do you remember, “We’ll paint any car for $39.95”?) It always seemed to be easier to make money repairing broken stuff than creating custom stuff, but that is what I really wanted to do.

On to sign work The frustration of that reality led me to the pursuit of another passion, my love of letterforms and sign work. I had an abundance of inspiration from New Jersey’s hotbed of innovative sign talent and SignCraft alumni I had become acquainted with: Jules “Mr. J” Braet, Rich Dombey, Russ Mowry, Glen Weisgerber, Bob “Cos” Cosgrove, Mike Frederick and Bert Quimby (who introduced me to SignCraft magazine).

After a stint in an electric sign shop, and armed with a ton of can-do naiveté and just enough money for my security deposit and the first month’s rent, I opened my sign shop in Ridgewood, New Jersey, in the fall of 1989. This was a challenging endeavor. I wrestled with it for about 15 years and eventually moved the business to my home.

A new gig In 2004 my fortune changed when I had an exceptional opportunity. I accepted an offer to become the Fleet Image Coordinator and crew leader with New York Waterway. This is the ferry company of Flight 1549 and “Sully” fame. The image department is responsible for all things that are visible on their fleet of 37 ferries and 52 buses.

This includes painting, cosmetic repair, interior renovation and all signage. It’s a union gig and a completely unique position for me. I’ve been able to utilize the assortment of skills that I’ve developed from the collision, fiberglass and sign businesses in this work. I also have a great benefit package that includes hospitalization, pension and paid holidays and vacation—all things that were hard to manage when I had my own business.

I have since relegated my sign business to a moonlight operation. This affords me the luxury of being more selective of the sign jobs that I choose to do and the ability to risk more in my selling prices, because I don’t have to worry about missing the job. My sign business has never been better or more profitable than it is now. Strangely, my largest volume sign customer, a family grocery store chain, became a customer of mine after I was on the ferry job for two months.

When I retire from the ferry biz, I plan to return to my sign business full time. I really enjoy that work. I often wonder if many other trades people feel the same sense of creative satisfaction that sign people are able to. Somehow I doubt it.

As for me, I am thankfully able to get that experience in my work. I’m grateful for my current lot in life and my wife of 41 years, Linda, who has hung in there with me through good and questionable fortunes.

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