I’ve always been intrigued by the intersection of commerce and art [I think I’ve even said these exact words here before—and probably will again]. It’s one reason I find Walker Evans’ photography so interesting, with its many depictions of often hand-painted signs on storefronts and buildings. And why I find signs like this one in my new neighborhood so charming.
One thing that charms me with these lovingly but amateurishly produced signs are the sometimes unintended results—the oversized, steaming hot dog apparently being a cause for concern rather than delight, for instance.
These commercial artists come from a long and proud tradition. Limners were anonymous itinerant painters of 18th-century America who usually had little formal training. They were primarily portraitists, and their work was generally characterized by flat, awkward figures in richly detailed costumes. Between portrait sittings, many of them also filled in as sign painters to make ends meet.
I for one hope the tradition continues. There is plenty of slick marketing blandness in the world. Keep the homemade stuff coming.