Deco encounter #26: Tristan Gesret, the letter painter
Quark has gone to meet Tristan Gesret. This is a craftsman letter painter. In addition to doing an exceptional job, he has the merit of learning this trade on his own. We are happy to highlight a talented French craftsman.
Can you introduce yourself and your activity as a letter painter?
My name is Tristan Gesret and I am 32 years old. I am Breton and I live near Vannes. For 3 years I have been a letter painter.
I have an atypical background. I was not at all predestined for a career in the arts. I never knew what to do. So I listened to my parents. I did an S baccalaureate. And I went into medicine because there were a lot of opportunities.
Afterwards I did real estate. I even got a license in real estate law. Afterwards I got fed up so I did some experiments on my side such as trips. Then, four years ago, I accidentally discovered painting in letters. It was a revelation and I threw myself into it.
Is it an art or a craft to be a letter painter?
I consider myself an artisan. There is a lot of theoretical learning such as letter sizes, proportions, typography, color combinations... I don't let go during my projects.
I also make signs, so I work a lot with wood.
Where are you at with your projects right now?
Since I started 3 years ago on my own: it has grown. Fast enough. My girlfriend joined the company. It is she who manages the communication. This is why we are productive on social networks. We also have a part-time employee who is a graphic designer. It relieves our work. Because ultimately we have a lot of work to do on the computer. There are plenty of them who sublimate the profession of painter in letters. But, even if we excel, we cannot do without the computer. So we use it to make models, inlays and many other things.
At the time, the restorer called the painter in letters, then he wanted the restaurant to be noted on his facade. Possibly with a specific color. Then the letter painter did the lettering directly, with a small sketch.
Now customers are more demanding. In addition, today, there are requests to be made to the APS, architects of buildings in France or other people. So you have to make several proposals on the computer, several inlays, the exact dimensions, find the right color. As a result, it takes longer than before.
Today we have a small workshop at my house, in an outbuilding. It is very small so we are quickly overwhelmed in the workshop. But, from next fall, we are moving into a 200 square meter workshop!
Afterwards concerning the workshop projects, we work on all of Brittany, all of the Great West. Our projects are quite varied, I can paint for restaurants, schools, shops, bars, institutions or even individuals who have vintage vehicles.
What was your biggest challenge as a letter painter?
One of the projects that made me famous is: a facade that is 9 meters high and 6 meters wide.
I had just started painting in letters so I wasn't really comfortable yet. Then it’s impressive to find yourself facing this big wall. But we succeeded. We got to the end, and we were happy. We would really like to develop this type of project. Painting on large facades as at the time in Le Havre. I really wish it would come back up to date! I'm sure it will come back.
Especially in an era where everyone takes a picture, everything goes through the image. It would be great for a company to start communicating like that, it would create a huge buzz. But unfortunately it costs more than a billboard.
It's part of my future challenges. I am ready to travel all the roads of France to persuade a company to do this.
Then we did another cool project. This is the Grain de Sail boat. It is chocolate that is sold in supermarkets. They created the first transatlantic cargo ship that fetched cocoa from South America. And they return to Brittany by sail to take part in the French market. So, there is an eco-responsible approach thanks to a low carbon footprint.
They asked me to paint the name of the boat. I was on a swing with ropes above the water. It was impressive. Also, it was windy. I had to stabilize myself. I don't think I've ever had so much aches after a construction site.
Your favorite tools?
In terms of hardware, it's really very varied. When we tackle large facades, there we have very pleasant large brushes. I use rechamp brushes. I'm really starting to love this brush. Then there are also flat brushes and small spalters.
On the other hand, for small signs where precision work is required, sable hair brushes are used. These are very long and soft natural bristles. You really have to take care of it. It allows you to take a large paint load to make large lines without discontinuity. The goal is to make as few passes as possible.
In my left hand I have a cane and in my right hand I have my brush. My right hand is resting on a cane that I hold with my left hand. It allows me to be stable and it's my left hand that moves the rod in order to have more precise strokes.
How do customers approach you?
They use Instagram a lot, now we can't live without it. Then there is also a lot of word of mouth. As soon as you arrive in a new street, since the work is visible, traders spread the word.
What stage does a project start at?
I ask “what are your expectations? ”. I want to understand the style, to give my advice. We offer typography, effects and colors that are in keeping with the desired style.
Now there is the graphic charter which is present almost everywhere and which must be respected. This represents two thirds of the projects. In this case, we adapt the graphic charter to the facade.
And finally, I like projects starting from a style as much as those with a graphic charter. Because projects where you have to create a whole universe are very energy-intensive. And in reality I won't have time to do just that. And then reproducing an identical graphic charter is rather a challenge. In addition, it allows me to work with graphic designers who really have talent.
In concrete terms, I like a carte blanche from time to time.
How is a project organised?
We are very organized so as not to waste time. We start with an on-site meeting with the client. You have to immerse yourself in the place. Because it's not just "painting a facade". It has to fit into the street and into the architecture. So you have to understand the customer's expectations.
We make small sketches by hand until we understand what the client wants. Then, we give regular feedback on the progress of the project. This validates each step. We cannot arrive with a finished project when it does not suit the client.
How does a project end?
My job is great because generally we have the same way of seeing things with clients. This is another state of mind because it is a financial effort on the part of the customer.
We very often come across friendly, open-minded customers. What is impressive is that we sometimes develop friendships with clients. We are coming to the end of the construction site so it is generally the final touch. Customers are often delighted, they no longer have work in progress and are ready to open! It's all about good vibes.
Are there difficult sides to the profession of letter painter?
Yes, and it is important to underline this. I am very much in demand for internships because there are plenty of them who want to become a foreman or something else. It's a bit like Instagram's problem. Because everything is beautiful, everything is staged. While in reality there is a lot of preparation work, the climate in Brittany is: wet and cold.
Sometimes you have to travel for miles, or climb the scaffolding. Stay for several hours in front of a facade to write small letters.
It's about patience and physical work and where you must not let go of your concentration.
I take on as many interns as possible because we have to show the difficulties of the job.
Do you have fears in your job?
I'm always afraid of not being able to do it. I still have a lot to learn. There is no more training as a painter in letters. So I learn on my own. That's why I'm never 100% sure of myself. Despite this, each time it goes well. But I still have this fear of messing up my line. Thanks to my experience, I am more and more comfortable. Then once I'm there, the fear fades quickly.
When I start to paint I come into symbiosis with my brush. I'm almost in meditation. Time passes very quickly and I empty myself.
Do you have Instagram accounts to share?
He is a carpenter who creates surfboards, skateboards or even cutting boards for restaurants. I work with him regularly. Besides, he's practically my neighbor. We live only 500 meters away as the crow flies. We mainly collaborate for brands.
David is a craftsman who lives in the same town as me. He is a luthier. His talent has won him several awards. He loves his job and is a real enthusiast.
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