Awhile back, oh, say a year ago, I was searching for inspirational fonts to use for an upcoming project that needed that ‘hand-painted’ sign touch. Through digging in the web I stumbled across the website of an English sign painter with a slew of photos of his work. As I started scrolling through I began to brighten up as what was originally a quest for inspiration quickly became a sense of admiration: bold, bright, colorful, hand-stroked lines on just about anything – walls, windows, jackets, cars… and then… the motorcycles. The artist? A British born chap who goes by the name, “Ornamental Conifer.”
As time would go on I saw more and more of his work pop up in other places I tend to peruse. I started seeing tanks with bright bold lettering and beautifully confusing wordage for people like ‘Corpses from Hell’ and ‘El Solitario MC’.
The thing is, even at it’s silliest, the artist comes through in all of it. Whether it be signage for a large company like Ted Baker, the local fish and chip shop, custom graphics for clothing brand Kingdom Of Kicks, or a custom one-off motorcycle, you know it’s the ‘Conifer’s’ work. Like hearing only a single measure of a drum beat and knowing its a Zeppelin tune, the Ornamental Conifer (Nicolai Sclater) has found a way to have a powerfully recognizable style through building off the traditions of old-school sign painting techniques while bellowing fresh urban street art right through it. The result is a style that we absolutely love.
I sent Sclater an email about 6 months back requesting an interview and to my surprise he was psyched about being on TSCM. Unfortunately both our schedules began to run wild which led us to this point. We’d even joke about it back and forth over tagged photos on our Instagram feed. I was even hoping to wrangle him in at this year’s “Wheels and Waves” in France, but had to back out of the trip at the last minute.
Nonetheless, I’m happy to say that the new-found friendship that spawned out of my original intentions is far more entertaining. But in the spirit of this online mag of getting the story of the man behind the story, I present our original interview. Enjoy.
1) Where are you from / Where do you reside now?
I was born in the woods, but now I live in London.
2) What is your artistic background? Self taught or schooling?
I am a self taught sign painter who has always dabbled with brushes and paint. I have also done a degree in Graphic Design, mainly focusing on silk screen posters and wood block lettering.
3) What got you working in the medium you currently paint in?
My interest in hand rendered typography and the ability to place it on almost any surface.
4) What’s the strangest item you’ve been asked to paint on?
I have had no strange requests as of yet, although I am open to suggestion.
5) We see you’ve painted a couple motorcycle tanks. Do you ride yourself? If so, what are you riding and any story behind it?
I have a couple of bikes, a Triumph and a Honda called ‘The Sushi Eater’ I had to buy the Honda last minute as I was riding to Norway with my dad and the triumph would never make it. Honda’s are bullet proof and it always starts. I called it ‘The Sushi Eater’ in reference to the ‘Turnip Eater’ but with a bit of tongue in cheek humour. It’s also known as the ‘All you can eat Buffet Racer’ as I was starting to become a little bored with the term ‘Café Racer.’ My bike is most definitely not a café racer, it is my interpretation of a bosozoku styled turnip eater, only much, much cheaper. It cost me next to nothing to build. The way I like it.
6) What prompted the latest commercial work we’ve seen, i.e., the fashion ad campaigns?
I get approached by a variety of clients. If the project seems fun I take it on board. I try and only work with people/companies that I would buy from or endorse in some way.
7) How does a typical morning happen in your day – what’s your routine if any?
Coffee and cigarettes. Clean the studio. Then have another Coffee. Emails, lists, work.
8) Where do you draw your inspiration from? People, things, time-period?
I have multiple interests that keep me stimulated, there is no specific era or person that keeps me going. I try as hard as I can to keep my ideas fresh by not looking at what others are doing too much, obviously I check in on my peers from time to time, but mainly to watch there progression rather than to draw ideas form their work. I have always love modernist architecture, typogpraphy from all ages and mororbikes and cars that have character. As well as that I am a big fan of BMX. All of it makes me want to work, watching others do what they’re good at makes me want to progress and learn new things.
9) Hazards of being around sign paint that much? Lead etc…
That’s a question I should probably answer in fifty years when I am hunched over with a hacking cough and a blocked nose, with grubby knuckles and a nagging headache. So far I am still healthy, but I can imagine it may get worse. The paints they make today are far safer fro those in the past. I’m here for a good time, not a long time, apparently.
10) We see you’ve been painting more helmets lately. Any chance of our readers getting a custom-painted helmet from you in the near future, or is it just a phase?
I am open to all kinds of commissions, whether that be helmets, tanks, jackets, walls, signs, or even better, something weird so that I have a better answer for question 4. The only thing I ask is that I have a level of carte blanche with the work. Sure, people can make suggestion to a concept or theme, but I rarely take on work where the idea is dictated to me. Feel free to get in touch and we’ll go from there.
FOR MORE INFO VISIT THE ORNAMENTAL CONIFER AT:
*All photos provided by Ornamental Conifer
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