Signs, Murals & Gilding with Doug Aldrich

September 15 2023 – Jack Stutfield


Where'd you grow up? Were you artistic growing up?

I grew up in Syracuse, NY which is in the Central/Upstate New York region of the state. Growing up and throughout my early years at school, I was drawing all over notes and homework, but I didn’t have much formal guidance in art. By my early teens, I was redrawing a lot of logos and lettering of my favorite bands and skateboard/bmx graphics. I definitely didn’t see that as a career or have the foresight it would translate to the work I make now, but reflecting back it all seems foreshadowing. 


(If you did) Why did you initially move to NYC? and what made you stay?

I initially moved to NYC to study art & design at Pratt, which I have to thank my best friend growing up, Kevin Farrell convinced me to take art more seriously and apply at Pratt where he was going at the time. NYC was the center for much of my interest in art and music, so it took one time visiting him to know that’s where I needed to be. 


Hand-painted signage is a traditional art, how did you get a start? Were people willing to teach you or was there a lot of gatekeeping?

I was always drawing letters even as a kid, which evolved into painting graffiti and eventually logos for businesses. My earliest introduction of sign painting was when I got my hands on Espo’s (Stephen Powers) book, and I discovered that his graffiti took a backseat to sign painting in Coney Island. I knew I had to figure out how to follow that sort of trajectory and started looking for any old sign painting books I could find. At the time, I didn’t really know anyone personally doing it aside from my buddy Will Van Zee, so we clicked early on. For me starting out, there was definitely a lot of gatekeeping from the older heads and social media wasn’t really the tool/portfolio it’s become today, so I was relying heavily on old books. You really can get a lot of information and inspiration just off instagram that I wish I had access to starting off. I sort of felt like I was navigating in the dark with some imposter syndrome, so I didn’t feel right calling myself a sign painter until several years of painting letters. I still sort of feel like an imposter. 


Your work spans murals, signage, gilding - have you got a favourite? Are you pushing more in any one direction?

I think the balance and variety is important for me because I’ve never liked getting boxed in and get easily bored. I find they all can coexist in my work. I’d like to pursue more mural projects as I think there’s a bit more freedom for creative compositions than I get with say a window. Ultimately, I’m grateful for all the work I get asked to do, especially the ones that lend more creative freedom on my end. 


Which do you think you battle the most with over the years?

I would say gilding for sure. There’s more steps than with just paint, and it can be a finicky process. I think the end result is unmatched in elevating a sign; with the way it catches light, but it’s also not appropriate for every project. It’s similar to how not everyone chooses to wear jewelry. There’s a time and a place. 


Do you get much of your inspiration from traditional NYC signage or do you search for it in other cities/places?

I get inspiration from signage everywhere I go. I am constantly seeking out and documenting signs or architecture whether I’m on the road, or working in a new neighborhood. NYC has so much history that there’s always something new to me to discover, and I feel this urge to constantly capture something I see because as I’ve witnessed, nothing will exist forever and one day that cool sign will end up replaced by something with less character or soul. 


Given New York’s notoriety for shoebox apartments and high rent, I imagine a home studio was never an option - Can you tell us a little about your spot? how long have you been there?

I started working out of my apartment and did that for years until I felt I could afford or keep up with a separate work space. I just moved into a new studio, which is a first floor walk-in, after almost 7 years in a large mixed unit building. NYC costs of living really make upgrading and expanding difficult, so I have to remember to appreciate the work it took to get me here. 


Any sign writers past or present that we need to check out and why?

First person to come to mind on your side of the globe is Will Lynes (Lynes & Co) Out of Sydney for his gilding work. He’s doing some really beautiful work  and applying some cool techniques in contemporary ways I find interesting. 


Are you much of a historian? Any NYC icons/characters that you've learnt about from the early signwriting scene?

I do love history and looking through old street photos from the times when everything was hand painted or seemed to incorporate neon. But as far as cool NYC trivia, I love that Jerry Seinfeld’s father ran a sign shop out of Long Island which was referenced on the show as Karl Signs. It gives rewatching Seinfeld a whole new experience if you look out for all the cool signs in the show. 


Favourite piece of yours? Have you got a pic? 

My most recent favorite piece has been the storefront for my buddy’s new pizza spot called Decades. I got full freedom to design the branding and signage for the entire storefront, which included a ton of gold leaf and a neon version of the logo made by Moon Signs. 

See more of Doug's work here: @dougaldrichofficial and


Photos by Michael Danischewski: @mdanischewski and