Katie Anderson

Artist based in South West Scotland; interested in people, places, materials and collaborative practice.

Tag: Always Hand Paint

The Art of Sign Writing

At the end of last year, I took part in a series of workshops that laid the foundations for the Dumfries Women’s Signwriting Squad, a fledgling team based in the town with a collective love of the hand painted word. (Follow us on instagram, here)

My interest in hand lettering and sign painting has been developing over a period of about four years; it grew from a collective ambition within the Stove Network to impact on, and start a visual communication with, the High Street.

Street sign montage_DOWNTURN_lowres

Taking the time, taking care and learning the basics of a beautifully sophisticated craft, allows us to change the look, and then the feel and the attitude towards our town centre space. It set’s us apart from the chains and larger businesses, allows us to act playfully, quickly, responsive to new ideas and changing seasons, and to ‘refresh’ as often as we like.

As an artist working predominantly in object based or installation practice, this element of two dimensional craft/skill fit’s into a sort of awkward space with my other work, but the physical act of making/painting has a lot of similarities, and the end goal – to interact with the space and those who pass by, live and frequent the space. This is a craft that is built on a long-learned skill set, and once you begin you only continue to realise what you do not yet know.

The more you look the more you learn.


The first signs we made were provocations – questions, hints, instructions, demands – that broke with the generally accepted language of signs into an ‘other’ category, this is not a shop called ‘in//between’, or a cafe called ‘DOWNTURN?’, a hidden sign in plain view that instructs the reader to ‘play’ in the close, ‘blether’ outside the vacant building or ‘laugh’ by the flowerpot – these signs are outwith the rules we expect our public spaces to play by.

However, increasingly the signs I take on look less like ‘art’ signs, and more in the vein of traditional signs – signs that communicate the business, indicate to open the door, cafe menus or opening times. These might look to muddy the waters of ‘signs as art’, but form an interesting example of where the artist can begin to infiltrate the language of the town centre – next level in. By opening up the invitation to work alongside business owners, we allow the dialogue about the visual language of our town centres to grow.

Many businesses aspire towards an ethos of care, quality and distinctive identity that is easily lost amongst the faster paced design and print options available, particularly when so many businesses are working to tight budgets. By creating opportunities for artists to work directly for businesses in this way, we can look to gradually impact the town centre, in collaboration with other users in a much more homegrown and grass roots approach. In other countries across Europe, many town centres have retained an identity, a sense of independence and unique offer provided by the local businesses, that is less apparent in many parts of Scotland.


The further I delve into the world of sign writing and lettering art, the more it becomes clear that my ambition is not to become a full bells-and-whistles sign writer: the level of skill required, the depth of knowledge of design, both digital and by hand, and the finesse of detail goes beyond my level of interest. But by introducing the hand lettered approach, I hope to create more space for the dialogue to begin.

Dumfries already has a vast collection of A-frames and temporary signs vying for space of the High Street, ranging from the beautifully considered to barely legible scribbles, and the competition for blackboard space continues – I’d definitely love to see some more hand painted signs appearing about the town.


Mapping Time

It’s been a busy few weeks in the studio, finishing the last of three major commissions for the new hospital in Dumfries. This last project, is the most immersive of the set, due for both A+E and the Maternity departments. The base layer, the ground coat if you like, was applied directly to the walls in November 2017 and are familiar to anyone who is a regular user of these spaces.

These are a series of maps

a series of scales,

mapping variations of scale in place.




The scales of the infinite.

This final work – as yet untitled – shares an illustrative approach to a series of maps; of places through a contour maps, of trees through the mapping of tree rings, and of people, through chromosome mapping of the human genome, layers of a place and depth of being. As a playful abstraction of data, they are all open to (mis-) interpretation, and I hope they will be in situ soon for you to experience.

Each piece has been hand painted and features 52 colours, with additional mark making and lines drawing using pyrography – etching the marks in using a burning pen. There are seven in total, headed to five different waiting rooms throughout the new hospital, so keep your eyes peeled!

The contour maps on which the circular maps will eventually be displayed.


After a hectic couple of weeks, a series of five wall murals have now been completed for the new Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, with huge thanks to painters Louise Todd and Kirstin McEwan for all their help. Each one is hand painted in colours complimenting the existing ward and departments palette.

The murals, which will form the backdrops for the main artworks to arrive in the New Year, have been placed in both A+E and Maternity, and are based on contour maps of various locations around Dumfries and Galloway, from Kirkcudbright, to Galloway, Annandale to Criffel – I’ve hopefully gotten a reasonable spread across such a large region, and happy with how they are looking.





This project is part of Staying and Waiting, a commission by Dress for the Weather to create new artworks for the waiting areas around DGRI, with support from the Holywood Trust.



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High Street Neighbours


Describe neighbourliness.


What might a High Street community look like?


Who, or what else, lives in the town centre?

neighbour usage decline

The usage of the word ‘neighbour’ has been in steady decline since the 1840’s.

It’s been Guid Nychburris (Good Neighbours to all of those not originally from or local to Dumfries), this week and the Stove has been exploring ‘neighbourliness’ as part of our current Conversing Buildings project. The building has gone a little Christo inspired, in what is definitely the brightest and boldest we have gone with celebratory decorations so far.

The sign board has also had a make over, prompting our latest favourite anagram game.



High Street Neighbours is part of our TAKEOVER theme, a series of events and activites focused around community takeover and creativity. Stay tuned to the Stove for more details.