Sean Gregory Starr (born April 28, 1968) is an American contemporary artist, sign painter, graphic designer, published author, abstract painter, podcaster and founder of Starr Studios. Starr also had a short stint in 1998 as a Hollywood stunt driver for Ford Motor Company. He first became known with the release of the book You, Me and Morrissey co-authored with Colin Nasseri which was made an Official Entrant for the Pulitzer Prize in 2008, a book Entertainment Weekly labeled “Obsessive” shortly after its release.
He became widely known for his work as a sign painter after the 2013 international release of the book Sign Painters which featured his work along with two dozen other sign painters around the United States. He has worked for a wide variety of companies including Gap, Sony Music, NBC Television, the 2010 Winter Olympics, Ocean Spray, Indian Motorcycles and the Mayor's Office of San Francisco. He has also worked for a variety of celebrity clients including Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, The Toadies, Gogol Bordello and Irish band The Cranberries.
His work has been featured in dozens of magazines as well as the Discovery Channel, NBC Television and the Food Network, Juxtapoz Magazine, Art Forum, the Los Angeles Times, Fort Worth Magazine and This Old House.
Sean Starr was born in San Diego, California and spent his early childhood in the Polish-Ukrainian section of Cleveland, Ohio known as Parma Heights. In 1975 his family relocated to San Antonio, Texas. His father, Dale Starr (1941-1994), was a custom painter and pinstriper, Golden Gloves boxer and drag racer who started Starr Kustom Paint in San Antonio, Texas in 1977. His mother, Kathleen Clark, a native of Ohio, is a home maker.
Starr became first involved in art and custom paint in the mid-1980s while working for Starr Kustom Paint during summer breaks from school. He learned a wide variety of custom paint techniques, airbrushing, pinstriping and lettering during this time.
"Starr has created his own version of Abstract Expression, one that incorporates the immediacy of inspiration."
Agora Gallery, New York
Starr's first exhibition was held at the University of Washington, Tacoma January 21, 2006 which included multiple items on display at several locations at the University and the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce. The exhibition was arranged by local photographer Chip Van Gilder with assistance from Tacoma artist Jeremy Silas.
On January 28, 2006 Starr relocated to San Francisco's Mission District and established Starr Studios.
The 2006 Tacoma exhibition was followed by multiple exhibitions in Napa Valley, California at 11 wineries and a New York exhibition at Manhattan's Agora Gallery that opened on February 24, 2006 titled “Lyrical Abstraction” which featured 10 large scale pieces of Sean's work.
On February 3, 2007 Starr's solo exhibition titled “Morrissey Ruined My Life” at Workspace Limited Gallery opened with dozens of Starr's pieces on display and a large scale piece Starr executed live during the opening to the music of Morrissey and The Smiths. San Francisco Magazine named it #4 in their list of “Top 10 Things To Do In February” of 2007.
In late 2007, the book You, Me and Morrissey co-authored by Sean Starr and writer Colin Nasseri was released by Subculture Books and was selected as an Official Entrant for the Pulitzer Prize in Letters in 2008. On June 8, 2007 Starr and Nasseri were invited as guests to Morrissey's Hollywood Bowl concert in Los Angeles, California where they presented a copy of the book to Morrissey who placed it on display during the show.
In late 2008, Subculture Books released Starr's second book titled The Artist's Tao and teamed him up with Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hutz to create the cover artwork for the release of the classic Taras Bulba by Nikolai Gogol.
“...hand lettered signs represent a language that has crossed over into the world of fine art.”
Starr Studios' offerings of graphic design, sign painting and pinstriping work from the San Francisco studio led to working with a wide variety of companies and celebrity clients across California as well as exhibitions.
On January 12, 2012 San Francisco's Guerrero Gallery featured Starr's work in the group exhibition titled An American Language.
Starr's work continues to be exhibited at galleries including the Phsh Tank exhibition on April 20, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Matthew Hoffman's You Are Beautiful exhibition in Chicago, Illinois which opened on October 25, 2013. Starr's work was also included in Marcas Gallery's “Sign Painters” exhibition which opened in Santa Ana, California on December 6, 2014.
“Sign Painters” Book & Film
"A lovely paean to a vanishing art... Ms. Levine and Mr. Macon have hopscotched the country, interviewing many of the best remaining old-school sign painters and printing their best work... This book, with an introduction by the artist Ed Ruscha, is a funky and necessary work of preservation."
New York Times
Starr was one of the featured artists in the book and film Sign Painters by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon with a forward by artist Ed Ruscha. The book was released by Princeton Architectural Press in October of 2012.
The film of the same name had its debut screening on March 30, 2013 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, for which Starr created a vintage style, painted cloth banner to promote the film that was on display.
The film was released on DVD in January 2015 by Bond/360 films.
The Cranberries Ghost Sign Project, Limerick Ireland
“A Renowned American sign painter is to come to Limerick in September to work on a public artwork that draws on the music of The Cranberries.”
In September 2015, Sean and Kayleigh Starr were invited by the City of Limerick, Ireland to participate in the Elemental Arts Festival and to design and execute a large scale, original "ghost sign" project in association with the band The Cranberries which is on display in Limerick's City Center on the Brown-Thomas building. Starr also had work on display in Elemental Art's & Culture Exhibition tiled Love Letters from Limerick curated by Tom Collins, which opened on September 18, 2015 at the Limerick School for Arts & Design's FabLab Gallery.
In January of 2015 Starr launched the show Coffee With a Sign Painter which is a podcast that consists of interviews with other sign painters and some of the customers Starr comes across while operating his studio. The podcast was listed in the Top 10 in iTunes several times during 2015, with over 40,000 listeners in 85 countries. In April 2016 Irish sign painter Tom Collins joined as co-host. Sean and Tom perform the show from their respective studios in Denton, Texas and Limerick, Ireland. Some of the notable guests on the show are the members of the Irish band The Cranberries, The Toadies' Clark Vogeler, film director Sam Macon and Los Angeles Graphic Designer Mathew Foster.
Indian Motorcycle's Black Hills Beast
In July of 2015 Starr was commissioned by Indian Motorcycles to design and execute the paintwork on a 2015 Indian Scout motorcycle to pay tribute to Indian's history in hillclimb motorcycle racing. The bike was built by Indianmotorcycles.net and made its debut at the 75th Anniversary Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota on August 3, 2015 with an attendance that exceeded 1,000,000.
Toadies Heretics Album Cover
Starr's work graces the cover of the band The Toadies album Heretics which was released on September 18, 2015. The design was also incorporated into several pieces of apparel including t-shirts and belt buckles. The piece was commissioned by the band for the front cover art and executed on glass and features verre eglomise reverse glass gilding.
The “Sign Painter's Hot Rod”
In October of 2015 Rebel Rouser Hot Rods of Dallas, Texas began work building a shop truck to celebrate Starr's 25th year as a sign painter and pinstriper. The 1938 Chevrolet pickup truck was unveiled in May 1, 2016 at the Texas Truck Yard in Dallas, Texas at an event hosted by Lone Star Beer.
The project was co-sponsored by Lone Star Beer, 1 Shot Lettering Enamels, A.S. Handover London, Indian Motorcycles, Pinstriping & Kustom Graphics Magazine, SignCraft Magazine, Towel City Racing Tires, Full City Rooster Coffee Roasters, and Elfwerks.
- November, 2005: "Meet the Artist" and Studio Tour Tacoma Chamber of Commerce, Tacoma, Washington
- February 24, 2006: "Lyrical Abstraction" Exhibit Agora Gallery New York, New York
- November 9, 2012: "Lecture and Workshop" Texas Women's University, Denton, Texas
- September 15, 2015: "Lecture and Workshop" Limerick School for Arts & Design, Limerick, Ireland
- May 24, 2016: "AIGA Fresh Meet Series" AIGA Dallas, Dallas, Texas
- August 5-7, 2016: "WMC7 Guest Speaker" Weapons of Mass Creation 7, Cleveland, Ohio
"Perhaps the most interesting way to consider the exhibition, though, is as a type of thought exercise… the self-consciously almost-retro Sean Starr’s How Soon is Now?, 2012 and a second panel with a lyric from that song by The Smiths."
Artforum Magazine April 2012
- January 21, 2006: "What You Think, You Become" University of Washington, Tacoma, Washington
- February 24 - March 18, 2006: "Lyrical Abstraction" Agora Gallery New York, New York
- March 18, 2006: "The Napa Series" Frank Family Vineyards Calistoga, California
- March 25, 2006: "The Napa Series" Dominari Vineyards Napa, California
- April 1, 2006: "The Napa Series" Casa Nuestra Vineyards St. Helena, California
- April 8, 2006: "The Napa Series" Rocca Family Vineyards Napa, California
- April 15, 2006: "The Napa Series" Peju Province Rutherford, California
- April 22, 2006: "The Napa Series" Zahtila Vineyards Calistoga, California
- April 29, 2006: "The Napa Series" V. Sattui Winery St. Helena, California
- May 6, 2006: "The Napa Series" Markham Vineyards St. Helena, California
- May 13, 2006: "The Napa Series" Pine Ridge Winery Napa, California
- May 20, 2006: "The Napa Series" Corison Winery St. Helena, California
- May 27, 2006: "The Napa Series" Grgich Hills Estate St. Helena, California
- January 12, 2012: "An American Language" Guerrero Gallery San Francisco, California
- April 20, 2013: "Sign Writers" Phsh Tank Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- October 25, 2013: "Matthew Hoffman's You Are Beautiful" Gallerie F Gallery Chicago, Illinois
- December 6, 2014: "Sign Painters" Marcas Gallery Santa Ana, California
- September 18, 2015: "Love Letters from Limerick" Limerick School for Arts & Design’s FabLab Gallery Limerick, Ireland
- November 21, 2015: "Cedars Open Studio Tour" Full City Rooster Dallas, Texas
- July 30, 2016: "American Tattoo: As Ancient as Time, As Modern as Tomorrow" Museum of Street Culture/Full City Rooster Dallas, Texas