Holiday brush-ups

It’s been too long since my last post, and I’m well aware that I abandoned Zippy and Diddo somewhere just south of the Canadian border, but it’s for a happy reason: my signpainting business has taken off in the past few months. 

It’s the holidays, so everyone’s down for window painting, and word of mouth is my best pal right now. Nearly every day I’m getting another inquiry. I’ll post a few shots of my most recent art at the end…

J. took my profile photo as I worked on some gold flourishes outside Five on Black.
J. took my profile photo as I worked on some gold flourishes outside Five on Black.

My goal in 2017 is to do less hustling on foot, and more promotion via social media. To that effect, Sideways Gaze Signs is now on Instagram! So if you would like to see my work as soon as it appears, please follow me. And there’s now a Sideways Gaze Signs page on Facebook – so, same deal, please “like” that page too… if you like. I appreciate it!

Too bad that the busiest season of the year is also quite chilly, but c’est la vie. It does require 5.8+ pounds of cloth and rubber, by recent calculations. For painting in Montana in November, here’s my wardrobe:

  • Thrift store jeans with hundreds of little paint flecks. They’re Lucky brand… not superstitious, I just want to remind myself of how lucky I am to be able to do this. (In the summer, I wear a purple t-shirt that says “my happy place,” for the same reason.)
  • Darn Tough socks
  • White leg-warmers with gold flecks, also hand-me-downs – thanks, Emi!
  • Long underwear top & bottoms
  • Three of J.’s old work shirts
  • My down jacket. I give up, it’s got to be worn, splotch risk be damned.
  • Mismatched gloves, tragically thin, but that’s what you need for this craft
  • Flannel hand warmers filled with rice, sewn for me by J.
  • An eternity scarf – perfect because it doesn’t have any ends to dangle into wet paint
  • An old black fleece hat
  • Sorel boots, hand-me-downs – thanks, Mom!
The result being that I look as rotund as the snow-women behind me.

Fashionable I’m not, but cozy I mostly am. I also pack my dad’s old Thermos filled with hot tea or cocoa. Nonetheless, by day’s end, I’m often chilled through this time of year. The solutions to that could be a good workout, lots of layers and blankets on the couch, yet more hot tea, or ideally, snuggling up to J., who is like a hot potato in the bed. I like to look at weather sites and note the day when the average low begins to rise (December 29, if you’re wondering).

Despite the cold, the perks of being a public artist are significant.

I started the week doing the windows for Ruby’s CafĂ©, a diner that has been around forever,i filled with old vets, young hunter-looking guys devouring giant breakfasts alone, and couples who have eaten there perhaps since the 1950s. Heidi the waitress was so kind, keeping my Thermos filled with steaming decaf, and I had the satisfaction of taking a break, pulling up to the counter, and ordering a gigantic pancake with jam and syrup halfway through the day.


Ain't it a classy joint?
Classy joint!

The next day I moved down the street to Harrington Surgical Supply, chatting with the people who slowly made their way to the door, usually with wheelchairs or walkers or canes, oftentimes trying to muffle little oofs of pain, sometimes with helpers or a spouse. The ones who didn’t say hello, and seemed kind of stern, oftentimes would watch me from inside. I’m not sure they know I’m peeking at them beyond the tip of my brush. I hope the cheery snowladies, one for each of the women who work at the company, bring a little cheer to some folks who could use a bunch of it.

And I finally met one of my predecessors, longtime Missoula artist and signpainter Dirk Lee. He struck up a conversation as I painted imitation gold baroque frames around the windows at Five on Black, a little Brazilian lunch place downtown. He used to do all the windows and lettering downtown – you can still find it in spots – but said the advent of vinyl stickers cut his business years ago. We talked shop, I quizzed him, then asked for his card, which was super classy: block printed on ragstock, all lowercase, twice the size of a normal card. Later I looked him up and discovered his main art is erotica. (Check out this feature article about Dirk Lee from the Missoulian in 2005, if that piques your curiosity.) Here’s to honoring those who paved the way. And here’s to the rebirth of “dying” arts.

As promised, here are a few more windows. I’m sure demand will drop off in the new year. There will be plenty of time to sleep during the February doldrums. Until then, I’m riding the whirlwind, thankful for the way the biz is unfolding, with all the new people it brings into my life. Thank you all so much!

Five on Black on a blessedly sunny day
Five on Black on a blessedly sunny afternoon
Almost fifty unique, intricate snowflakes for Swoon Beauty Boutique
Almost fifty unique, intricate snowflakes for Swoon Beauty Boutique (left windows not shown)

P.S. I’m enjoying the idea of “evolving” windows. So far, the art deco fall windows at RP Ellis Fine Jewelry became, at Rich’s suggestion, Thanksgiving turkeys (and I couldn’t resist a few scalene-triangle chicks):



And at Copperopolis, I began with plain streetlamps… and a month later, “lit” the lamps, which also received fresh snow and a pair of cardinals:

After winterization!
and after winterization.

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