Frisso: The Norwegian Sign-Painter from Denmark


Frisso (image courtesy of Make-Skilled Hands)

Carl Frederik Angell, more commonly known as ‘Frisso’, is one of the new generation of sign-painters that are making their mark on the walls and windows of progressive businesses, in cities around the world. After teaching himself to paint signs, and honing his skills for a year at Best Dressed Signs in Boston, he’s back in his homeland of Denmark. This week, he tells us about his life as a sign-painter so far:

My background is basically the fact that I’ve just been drawing my whole life. As a kid growing up looking up to my brother, I always did the things he did. When he was drawing, I sat next to him and drew the same things he drew and I think that helped me develop my drawing skills a lot. Then I just kept on drawing from there.

Typography Pencil Sketch

One of Frisso’s many typographic doodles

When I finished high-school I pretty much knew that I wanted to be a designer. My older sister was working as a graphic designer and my brother was studying furniture design at that time, so there was never a doubt in my mind that I was going to follow their footsteps. I just needed to find out what kind of designer I wanted to be.

Handpainted Thinner Can

Handpainted Thinner Can

I first got into sign painting when I was applying for an internship as part of the school program at Kolding School of Design. I stumbled across a video of Dan Madsen painting a sign for his shop and I immediately felt that this was it. I wrote him an email and asked if he would be willing to teach me this old craft as a three month apprenticeship, but he wasn’t able to because he was going on a trip to Europe at the time I was planning to do the apprenticeship. Fortunately I had also written to Josh Luke and Meredith Kasabian of Best Dressed Signs in Boston who were interested in having me as an apprentice. This was a whole year before I had scheduled to do the apprenticeship, so I bought some lettering brushes and 1-shot paint, and spent that year practicing so I was well prepared.

You did an apprenticeship with Best Dressed Signs in Boston.

My apprenticeship with Best Dressed Signs was an amazing experience, and from the moment I met Josh and Meredith, I knew that this was the right place for me. After a year of practicing and guessing my way through the process of painting letters, it was great to finally have a real sign painter to show me the right way. And Josh couldn’t have been a better teacher and mentor. They taught me as much as possible in the three months I was there, from making patterns to how you price each job. This gave me a great foundation to build on and keep practicing when I got home. You can’t fully learn how to paint signs properly in just three months, so I’m still learning and that will probably never stop. When you master a technique, there’s always something new to learn right around the corner.

Best Dressed Signs

Frisso and Josh Luke, of Best Dressed Signs, paint a wall in Boston

Do you have a favourite project that you’ve worked on?

I don’t really have one favourite project in particular, but one that stands out in my mind is a reverse glass gild I did for the vintage book store in Oslo, Cappelens Forslag. The reason it stands out is because of the freedom I got with making the design, and probably because of how nervous I was before laying down the first strokes, as this was the first real gilding job I had to do solo.

Frisso at work

Gilded Glass Sign

The Finished Piece

Another project is the last sign I did at the port of Kolding. It’s a 24 x 3.60 metre wall, that says ‘Welcome’, and it’s obviously a sign to welcome the boats and ships that enter the harbour. This was a very fun project because of its size and its visual impact on the area around the sign. Here’s a video of the project by Petter Spilde:

At the moment I’m working on some hand lettered quotes for a series of prints. I’m also starting on a storefront sign job for a coffee shop. Other than that, I just finished school so I’m trying to get some jobs here and there, and see if I can manage to make a living on just drawing and painting letters.

Nellie's Coffee Shop Signs

Are there artists or sign-makers who inspire your work?

I would say I find inspiration in a variety of artists. The Victorian lettering and glass work of David A. Smith. Stephen Powers‘ huge projects like the old Macy’s building in Brooklyn. Kenji Nakayama‘s beautiful styles of single-stroke brush lettering. Aaron Horkey‘s amazing eye for details. And my mentor, Josh Luke has been a major inspiration ever since I first got my eyes opened for the world of sign painting. There’s a lot of other great inspirational sign painters and letterers out there and I find inspiration everywhere.

Poster by Aaron Horkey

Poster by Aaron Horkey (image courtesy of Aaron Horkey)

You taught some lettering workshops in Berlin. Can you tell us about that?

I was contacted by Otto Baum and Elena Albertoni who are arranging Berlin based workshops and events. It was a two day workshop where I taught basic brush lettering. Started with Casuals, then Plain Egyptian and then we finished it off with some Script. Hopefully I will do a lot more of these kinds of workshops in the future, as it’s important to learn how to paint letters if you want to work with lettering. It’s the best way to develop an understanding of the structure of each letter.

Berlin Sign-Painting Class

Frisso oversees a sign-painting class in Berlin. (image courtesy of Make-Skilled Hands)

Signs by Frisso

Frisso Carved Stamp


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