Derek McDonald, Young Old School Sign Painter On The West Coast.


Meet Woody Boaters Derek McDonald sign Painter, and his side kick shop manager Tina Vines who are out on the west coast in Northern California. What struck us was how into it they are regardless of all the new technology there is. Derick says it right, just because you can skip to the modern way doesn’t mean you have to. There is an organic look and feel to his art, and it is art, that can be felt.

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One Shot is the go to paint for sign painters!

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Well, there ya go! He has a sign for everything

I suppose for some outside of the culture of classic boats, doing things the correct way by hand is a bit nuts and romantic. But there is a truth to it. Its why Varnish still is the only way to go on your boat. The same is for Derek. Jack Daniel’s did a fantastic video with Derek that captures it all.

If you are within a good distance of Northern California, Derek would LOVE to hand letter your boat the way Chris, Gar, and John would have wanted you to do!  You can visit his website Golden West Sign Arts HERE.. There are some very cool pictures on there. Worth the click for sure.

Gold leif

Old school gold leaf all the way! Neato!


Derek with some of his work.


 24 ct gold leaf lettering,  hand lettered, perfect!

So there ya have it, very cool old school sign painting for your business and slick gold leaf lettering for your boat! How about having Derek do your classic boat show poster. Or club house, or boat house sign. Man Cave.

WOW real gold leaf!


26 replies
  1. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:


    It looks like the letters are floating above the wood in the “Boat Lettering” sign.

    Very Nice Work Derek!

  2. WoodyGal
    WoodyGal says:

    Way to go Derek! This is becoming a lost art, happy to see you living in the past, with the rest of us!

  3. Jim Staib
    Jim Staib says:

    If we could find out what got Derek in to vintage signs maybe we could use that to get younger people into woody boating. Damn he looks good at it.

  4. Chris B
    Chris B says:

    Thats some nice work. we stuck vinyl on our boat as we could not find someone to paint it on. So happy he can make a living with his talented hands. too bad shipping a boat to the westcoast would make it cost prohibitive,

  5. Rabbit
    Rabbit says:

    The best investment I made when restoring my boat was finding a real sign painter to do real hand cut gold leaf. My restorer was suggesting vinyl but I insisted. And, yes, it says “Rabbit”.

  6. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    I love it, this is fast becoming a lost art. When I was planning to put the name on my Lyman, Ed Fairchild was doing some custom work on my dash, and told me about a lady he knew who hand painted transoms and did gold leaf. I was very interested, and after checking her work and doing a price comparison to vinyl, it was not that more, maybe a couple of hundred bucks more. She did a great job, see below.

    • Bartlomiej
      Bartlomiej says:

      Hi Dennis,
      Where did you get your brackets made for your swim platform? Do you have the specs on them at all?

      • Dennis Mykols
        Dennis Mykols says:

        Bartlomiej, The custom swim platform and Ladder cam with the boat when I bought it. You may want to call the restoration shop in Wayne, Maine, Androscoggin Wooden Boat Works, who did all the work turning a bare bones hull into a $70,000.00 finished beauty.

        • Bartlomiej
          Bartlomiej says:

          Dennis, Thanks for the reply and info. I am aware of Androscoggin so I will give them a ring! 70k wow!

    • Dennis Mykols
      Dennis Mykols says:

      The artist that hand painted my Lyman was Judy Drooger from Holland , Michigan. Anyone in S.W. Michigan need a talented artist to do Gold Leaf she is the person.

  7. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    Along the lines of Jim Staib’s comments: I don’t know how you get young people into old school skills like this? But I do know that there are some very few that are very good at it…and I treasure that and them.

    John in Va.

  8. Kelly Wittenauer
    Kelly Wittenauer says:

    Beautiful work! Happy to see someone carrying on this tradition. When I was young, dad would have Jake Dixson come to letter the family’s race cars. It was fascinating to watch. He could lay down a stripe barely even looking at what he was doing, just by following a contour on the car with his fingers.

  9. Bill Anderson
    Bill Anderson says:

    I lost my old sign painter and been looking but it is an art but also interior work is one of my problems,,good ones are too busy and there is no young people wanting to do it around here,,still have a good one but I am not used to being put on a list,,,Bill

  10. Steve Stevenson
    Steve Stevenson says:

    Love his work. I consider signs as a art form, I have a couple hand painted signs one is a fifties race boat starting clock and the other a Shell Lake boat factory sign. I like all signs as long as they are old and boat related

    • Martin
      Martin says:

      Are you from Shell lake WI? If so do you know about the UW band camps that were held them years ago? Or concert hall of some kind? Does that ring a bell at all?

  11. Carl Garmhaus
    Carl Garmhaus says:

    We are fortunate enough to still have some good artists in the SE Michigan area that still do hand lettering. You others who are looking might try your local “College for Creative Studies” (We have one near Wayne State University in Detroit). Your inquiry might spark some interest with the younger set. While most are very creative and talented they do not have a clue as to how to make money with their gift.

  12. rabbit
    rabbit says:

    Derek is exactly the kind of new blood the hobby needs: A young guy who appreciates craftsmanship and tradition. They’re out there.

  13. MikeM
    MikeM says:

    A little further up, in Portland we’re lucky to have a young guy with similar talent and passion for his art. Here is Justin Riede of Riedesigns…….

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