Inside Track: McLemore’s artistic skills make messages pop

Randy McLemore’s hand painted signs add a certain touch to the current group of neon lights and
LED messages. Courtesy of Randy McLemore

Most of the works of art are exhibited in art galleries or at private openings. Randy McLemore’s craftsmanship can be seen along highways, sidewalks, storefronts, interior signs and more.

Four years ago, McLemore launched its Flourish at Grand Rapids! Sign Painter, putting his visual skills to good use thanks in part to his graphic design degree from Western Michigan University in 1989, where he learned how to make visual communication clear, concise, and aesthetically pleasing.

After college, McLemore worked in computer graphics for a number of eclectic nonprofit and profit organizations, including Grand Rapids First Church in Wyoming; Barfuss Creative Services; Grand Rapids Community College; and Flashes of Allegan. He ultimately concluded that working in advertising was not for him.

“I found that I didn’t want to try to manipulate people into thinking of something they might not need,” McLemore said.

McLemore took a 21-year detour from visual communication, working as a team leader for All Gutter Systems; conductor then engineer for CSX Railroad; own and operate your own gutter business; then selling Little Giant ladders, barbecues, cutlery and roofing products.

These varied jobs have provided McLemore with additional skills in carpentry, mechanical drafting and sales which he uses for his development! Business.

“These jobs have given me the ability to work with clients, to show them what’s meaningful and what’s not in a sign,” McLemore said. “Typography, words and spacing are important to me. “

To bloom! Sign painter
Position: Owner-operator, sign painter
Age: 60
Place of birth: Grand Rapids
Residence: Grand Rapids
Family: Wife Colleen, six grown children, two grandchildren
Commercial / community involvement: 12 string acoustic guitarist for traditional Irish folk group
Biggest career break: “I was hired to do a mural in Hudsonville and from that job the chief architect contacted me about redeveloping Ada to make a ghost panel. It gave me more visibility and prestige for what I do today.

Hitting the curb to introduce herself to potential clients is her primary method of finding work, although her Instagram account, @flourish_sign_painter, also generates work.

Amid the glow of neon and LED signs that dot the landscape of a city, McLemore discovered that there was still wiggle room for a sign painter.

McLemore uses signage on walls, awnings, billboards and the like and, using brush, paint, handmade patterns and other equipment, restores or creates personalized signs for its clients. When he is finished, the commercial signs appear and thus attract attention. Some signs are intentionally temporary, such as the A-signs on the chalkboard that promote a limited-time product or service.

Typically, images and lettering are hand painted, requiring several types of brushes and specific colors to customize each panel to specifications.

In a world of computer-generated images, sign painting is at the forefront of what an artist is still capable of creating.

“You can actually see my brushstrokes with my work,” McLemore said.

Then there is the gold leaf lettering he does for doors and windows which involves the use of extremely fine gold leaf used for gilding, but this can also include the use of copper. , silver and aluminum.

Usually a company that applies gold leaf means a higher standard: a jewelry store, a law firm or a medical practice, some of the high end professionals because they have that prestige associated with it ”, McLemore said.

No two brands are the same, a diversity McLemore appreciates, but he does keep in mind that a good business brand shares common goals amidst a bunch of signs trying to get the attention of customers. same passers-by.

“No signage job is exactly the same, I’ve discovered,” McLemore said. “There is no model. Every business is different. But the principle must be the same: good design. It must be readable and clear, and it must communicate.

Some signs need a major facelift.

A large-scale McLemore project is a once weather-beaten billboard on the corner of West Chestnut and Blue Star Highway in the Saugatuck-Douglas area that for over 30 years has promoted recreational cruises in paddle steamer Star of Saugatuck.

The board was in need of a long-awaited facelift. Lichen and moss had invaded the face of the sign, which was removed, and new 6-by-4-foot wood braces were installed to keep it in its perpendicular 90-degree position. It was then repainted with oil paints and lettering enamels. The layout has changed somewhat as the owners wanted to omit some information and add new information. But the classic three-quarter view of the paddle-wheeled boat with its characteristic rear wheel remains the main feature of the sign.

“The hardest part was, at first, making sure the thing didn’t fall out when I started straightening it because the old poles were pretty much rotten and then the paint on the paddle wheel,” McLemore said. “I wanted to be successful with the right perspective and the right positioning. There were so many intersecting lines and circles overlapping that I almost squinted trying to paint it.

McLemore recently remanufactured Kutsche’s Hardware’s iconic key lock sign on Leonard Street NW. McLemore discovered that Kutsche’s panel needed more than a new paint job. After reducing the panel to bare metal, McLemore discovered that the underside of the metal panel had been repaired with fiberglass. McLemore replaced this material with galvanized sheet metal, thus remaking this part of the sign and restoring it to its original state.

I had to remanufacture the part that was rusty and I had to do traditional metal work, the tinsmith where my previous activity of gutter was located where I knew how to prepare the metal, know how to weld it. I knew how to cut it and fold the tabs back, ”McLemore said. “It needed a drainage area, so I had to make sure it was open and accessible and still looked aesthetically correct and functional. “

McLemore keeps an eye out for trends in sign restoration, including ghost signage, which looks intentionally weathered. Such a sign took center stage for the $ 13 million the redevelopment of the 21-acre downtown area in Ada Village where retail stores have vintage facades. McLemore used a dry brush technique of painting over the brick wall without saturating the sign area with paint, intentionally creating an old and weathered look as if it had been around for many years.

The name of his company, Flourish! Painter of signs, from an Old Testament psalm which states that those who are planted in the house of the Lord will prosper. This passage sparked his imagination and formulated a business model.

As I envisioned my next career path I wanted to go back to my roots so I took that word (flourish) and thought about what I was going to call this new entity and there is flourishing. that’s with the graphic element and the calligraphy and an element of dance or movement and part of the speech, ”McLemore said. “It has a double meaning that would speak to my business and your business as well. If you hire my business, you will thrive.

A major influence in McLemore’s life is his grandfather, Martin Hilbrands.

He worked hard and did what he needed to do to take care of his family, ”said McLemore. “He stuck to it. He was creative, he was a man of ideas.

On her to-do list, someday to travel to Europe, especially the British Isles, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, as well as the Maritime provinces of eastern Canada where it has ancestral links.

“His Where did my grandma’s side come from and settled in the 1700s in the New Brunswick area, then moved to Toronto and then immigrated to Michigan, ”McLemore said.

McLemore’s first job was when, at age 14, he worked the summer months as a carhop for Cook’s hot dog stand, where he learned the power to save money for merchandise. ‘he wanted to buy as well as the need to defend himself.

“It was rare work for a man,” McLemore said. “I learned to keep an eye on a colleague who stole tips from my set. I learned to save money because I wanted to buy a pair of Adidas shoes and a pair of Levi’s from Rogers Plaza at Levi’s Loft. This is where the cool kids went.

With a growing list of happy customers and a stream of new work in the works, McLemore said there was a point in his life where he could keep the wolf out of the door and gratify his creative soul.

“If I can convey an idea in a crisp, clean, aesthetic way, well presented with as little frills as possible, I like that,” McLemore said. “A business without a sign is a sign of a non-business. “

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