This week, we’re launching our Jesse Stuart print designed by Bryan Patrick Todd, a kick-ass Kentuckian and expert hand-lettering artist who worked his magic with the iconic quote “If these United States can be called a body, then Kentucky can be called its heart.” On Friday, August 8th we have 250 limited-edition hand-pulled screen prints going on sale at 10am for $30 each. Get them while you can because these prints won’t last long. Before you get yours, it’s time to tell a little tale about the designer himself.
Louisville-based artist Bryan Patrick Todd may have a weakness for Kentucky bourbon and barbecue, but his passion runs toward lettering, and, particularly, vintage-style signage. For his line of work, Todd explains, new designs can be located in the everyday: “For inspiration I love looking at old signage wherever I go. Getting my mind away from the workspace has always proven to be the most helpful way to get myself out of a rut, or get hit with a good idea.”
Since he began teaching himself how to become a designer six years ago, Bryan Patrick Todd’s public and private work has flourished in Louisville, a vibrant city full of incredible food, drink, parks galleries and music. The feel of the city has very much shaped the type of work Todd has been able to create and his general professional trajectory, “It’s a city that takes leisure time seriously, and I mean that in the best way. I very much feel a part of the creative community. People from here are really proud to show the city off and I think that’s definitely shown through in some of the work I’ve done.”
Bryan also feels that the distinctive identity of the larger state of Kentucky has had an impact on the way he creates art and thinks about architecture, history, and culture. As Todd clarifies, “On one hand, Kentucky has a lot of history. Lots of traditions, beautiful architecture and great stories. On the other hand, people throughout the state are doing amazing new things pushing to redefine the face of Kentucky. It has the sweet spot where old meets new, and I love drawing from both.”
When he first began designing independently, Bryan had no idea how his work would expand in type and character; securing a position at a local sign shop allowed him to create a foundation upon which he could build. Todd also committed himself to taking “any and every freelance project” and treating each as a chance to learn and improve. Bryan did not begin as a letter-artist per se, but, as he explains, “Over time I found myself focusing more and more on the titles/lettering of each design in my freelance work. Eventually more and more people were coming to me for lettering. Whether it was for magazine covers, advertisements, campaigns, each project presented a chance to try something new.”
Though Bryan Patrick Todd felt supported by his city, part of a creative community, and inspired by his state, his success wasn’t necessarily immediate – his evolution as an artist required time, focus, and a large amount of tweaking. He explains it best: “There’s a great Ira Glass quote about creative work, when you start pursuing something you’re passionate about, you have a strong opinion or taste about what is truly great. But the things you start out making just aren’t that good. That’s what my story was like…I had to make a lot of ugly work before things started clicking. Over time, I found I was starting to make designs that just ‘felt’ right. Slowly my voice and vision started coming through in the work I was doing. When that happens it’s a pretty great feeling.”
His first large-scale Louisville mural project came together with the encouragement and collaboration from Kirby Stafford, another talented sign painter. Since that project, they’ve done several others with more on the way. With the murals, Todd explains, “The response to each new mural has been overwhelming, both in Louisville and on the Internet. For me they are a tribute to the city I love and it’s neighborhoods.” These projects freshen up the cityscape while also hearkening back to the days of yore, reminding Louisvillians of the ghost signs that lightly linger on the surface of older buildings.
Bryan reinforces that sentiment: “One of the things I enjoy about older and ornate lettering is that it had a real use in the commercial space back at the first part of the 20th century, which mostly wouldn’t fly today (though it creeps back in from time to time). You see ghost signs fading on old brick buildings or gems found in antique stores, but the lettering really grabbed people’s eyes and attention. It could make a simple product or service it was selling seem more bold and grandiose. It’s fun to use that as inspiration in the work that I do now.”
Bryan Patrick Todd’s interpretation of Jesse Stuart’s epic words can now be yours this coming Friday August 8th at 10am. Let the sentiment ring true, Kentucky: “If these United States can be called a body, then Kentucky can be called its heart.” 250 prints. Printed on French Paper Company paper by Tim Jones. $30 each. Bryan Patrick Todd. Jesse Stuart. Kentuckians kicking ass.
Words by Hannah Legris. Print photos by Stanley Sievers. Photos of Bryan Patrick Todd and murals provided by Bryan Patrick Todd.