Meet my house sign which greets everyone coming to my door. I painted this just after I moved into this house and 23 years later—the anniversary of my closing is October 19—this sign is still greeting people and letting the world know that I like cats. My street is not numbered in order and my address should be farther up the street. I have no idea why this is but I can’t tell you how many times through the years I’ve said as part of the directions to my house, “There’s a sign shaped like a black cat right next to the front door.”
Years ago, before everyone went digital and we could get posters and banners and display signs in full color in a day, I painted signs. One of my first long-term freelance endeavors between jobs and then while I was also employed full-time, I had learned about the professional-quality highly durable paints and lettering brushes and base materials, and how to prepare them, from a helpful older man in the in-house art department at one of the companies I worked for in the early 80s, right out of college. He was thrilled to share all he knew before he retired, and I went right out and found the materials and paints and started practicing on scrap wood in the house I rented and was remodeling.
Though I had only done craft-type painting, I had always wanted to paint big things and looked for big painting projects; under the layers of paint in my old bedroom in the house where I grew up are two large and very stylized murals of sunrises in a very 1970s style and fluorescent color palette, and I painted some decorative patterns on our garage door. Other than that I never really had the chance to paint big until later.
I took it all out in decorative painting in that house I rented until I asked my local hardware store if I could order some specialty sign-lettering paints. It just happened that the person who had painted his paper signs for the store and for outdoors had quit painting, and I took over that trade. In time, he referred his commercial customers to me, all the landscapers and wall builders and remodelers and concrete pourers needed job-site signs. Today we use coroplast signs on wire wickets, but in those days it was a wooden or outdoor-grade cardboard sign on a stake, or a larger sandwich board, which I constructed. In addition to those I painted the side rails of trucks with logos and also a number of store signs for installation on street level or hanging from brackets above the door. In some cases I drew it out ahead of time, but after a few years of painting I could freehand just about anything.
I had painted a sign for the house I rented, and so began painting similar signs for others’ houses and other decorative signs for indoors and out. I wish I had photos of all these signs, but I never once thought to take a photo of them. I think of this fondly now because all that money I earned painting signs became the downpayment on this house, and this time of year reminds me of beginning to pack up my old house, sizing up the new one for my things, for my garden and for my cats while I waited for my closing date.
I had found this wooden cat-shaped cutting board at a garage sale I’m pretty sure. It was painted white with a checkerboard pattern on the front and it’s quite large—16″ tall and 10″ wide. When I moved in here I decided I didn’t want to use it as a cutting board because none of my counter space was large enough for something that size and put it aside to paint it as my new house sign for my new house.
Of course, my lead cat was my extroverted black cat Kublai, and I never questioned the sign would be black, like him, even though I also lived with a black tabby, an orange tabby, a gray tabby, a torbie and a solid white long-haired cat as well as that mixed-up long-haired tabby and white cat who had just joined us. Kublai was the boss of everything and the sign would make sure everyone knew that “black cat was spoken here”!
I have always loved and grown Heavenly Blue morning glories, and incorporated ivy patterns into many of my decorative painting projects though only grew it indoors as it’s quite the pest in the yard. I sketched up my designs, chose my favorite fonts of that era and actually drew the whole design up on tracing paper, then I actually transferred it onto the wood which I’d painted black, and went about painting in all the lettering. There’s an odd glare on the blue lettering and morning glories and I couldn’t avoid that, but they are all the same shade of cornflower blue.
Funny, I kind of think this kitty looks like Jelly Bean now!
I’m in business, my address is known by many, so I’m not concerned about it being so visible here. No, I don’t paint house number signs on a regular basis although I’ve considered going back to it especially since I miss woodworking as well and can just picture all those cat silhouettes, so if I do, you’ll be sure to see it here!
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Browse some rescued cats and kittens!
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