|Hello, my name
is Derek G. Nicholas
I am a sign painter
for over 27 years. Owner of Derek's Custom Signs,
located in Williamstown, NJ, about 35 miles from Atlantic City. I've learned
from the most experienced sign painters in the area, unfortunately most
of them have passed on.
They have left
me with their knowledge that was passed down to them through generations.
Before all of this, I was a graffiti artist in Philadelphia. Back in
Junior High school I tried to keep up with the crowd. I too defaced public
property until I got caught writing on a wall in school. The others got away,
but I got caught -- lucky me.
I had to scrub every wall, desk and chair for a month. That incident changed
my whole life. When I look back over those years, I realize it was a blessing in disguise.
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A few years later at my sisters graduation I met her classmate's older brother Richard Taylor.
He was a professional pin striper and sign painter. He explained to us how
difficult it was for him to find any young people interested in learning this
trade. So I took that as a challenge... and the rest is history! A few years later we moved to Jersey.
While residing in South Jersey Gilbert A. Still, owner of Gilbert Sighs in Vineland, NJ
Took me under his wing, teaching how to refine my sign painting skills, and how to deal with a wide array
of customers. Other mentors who contributed in teaching me the ropes, were Jim Barrett Signs, also of Vineland, as well as MJ Signs
in Northern, NJ
In the early 50's and 60's, Atlantic City was known for its excitement in
family fun such as the steel pier, the diving horse and amusement rides.
As you stroll along the board walk, you couldn't help but notice the artistic
flare on the signeage decorating the store fronts along the entire stretch.
Some signs were extremely comical with little cartoon characters inviting
you to sample their saltwater taffies, taste a free slice of pizza or take
a free sample bag of peanuts. These signs, displaying bright colors and
bold letters, help give Atlantic City its popularity. They were well designed
and memorable. The sign painters who painted these extraordinary works
of signeage were my mentors. All were former employees of " J.T Signs",
the largest sign company in the area, at that time.
sign painters taught me layout / design, composition / color combinations,
and a basic knowledge for a well-designed sign. "K.I.S.S;
keep it simple stupid", is what they said, but with a little
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New Jersey and