CONVERSATIONS WITH MAINE

Signs lead artist to opportunity

Photo by Robin Clifford Wood  In the sign company's truck bay, Ande Binan displays some of his artwork for book covers, his newest artistic venture.
Photo by Robin Clifford Wood In the sign company's truck bay, Ande Binan displays some of his artwork for book covers, his newest artistic venture.
Posted May 24, 2012, at 3:54 p.m.

I was a good distance out on Outer Hammond Street when I stopped for directions.

“Do you know where DaVinci Signs is?”

“I think I know where that is,” a woman said. “There’s this truck just up the street,” she made sweeping gestures with her arms, “all painted all over!”

Sure enough, I found my way to the right place, thanks to Ande Binan’s artwork. The company van was there, covered in images evocative of old Italy, including Mona Lisa’s haunting eyes gazing from the hood. In addition to designing vinyl wraps for many vehicles around town, Ande is one of the two painters who restored Bangor’s Paul Bunyan to his current brilliance. I was interested to learn more about him.

Ande (pronounced “Andy”) has been a co-owner of DaVinci Signs for seven years, a fact which still surprises him.

“I had a lot of big dreams when I was younger, but being a business owner was never one of them,” he said.

Ande considers himself an artist, through and through. When he was younger, the idea of being tied to a business seemed antithetical to the freedom of creativity. He has had the good fortune to discover how business and art can not only coexist but enrich each other, especially with the help of modern technology.

There is an entire realm of art today that didn’t even exist when Ande was learning to paint with airbrushes, studying technical design and layout in the 1980s. Computer technology has provided a world of creative possibilities at his fingertips, and he continues to embrace every new innovation, taking advantage of online tutorials, celebrating the ever-evolving possibilities.

When he was young, Ande was always drawing and painting, and he especially enjoyed imitating images that he liked.

“Some of my friends called me the human Xerox machine,” he laughed.

But his passion goes beyond imitation. Ande loves to manipulate, interpret and overlay the images that he finds.

“My strong point is imagination… I search for images to create what I see in my mind’s eye.”

The interesting thing about Ande’s art is that it is not only his own mind’s eye that he consults. He has an intuitive talent for understanding the images in other people’s minds by listening to them.

“The most rewarding part of being an artist is pulling ideas from someone’s mind and being able to generate what they want.”

When Ande was invited to become a partner at DaVinci Signs, he was nervous about the time commitment, but it has turned out to be a great match.

“Even though there are stresses inherent in business ownership, I do enjoy coming to work every day. It’s kind of like going to art class — there are challenges, assignments that have to be done, deadlines to meet.”

Indeed, the inner workings of a sign shop look like a combination art studio and machine shop. The tools range from a tiny, hand-held bead implanter for Braille signs, to printers and routers the size of ping-pong tables, to a gargantuan truck bay for detailing exteriors. The walls are decorated with an eclectic array of signage — pink whales swim next to hospital signs, buttermilk biscuits appear with cellphone ads.

One of the best parts of his job, Ande told me, is that he is able to do most of his design work in his home studio, over his garage.

“That’s my escape, where I have my most creative time.”

His studio is another example of Ande’s skill in illusion and imagery. Out of a plywood floor, he created what appears to be old, wide-plank flooring. The crumbling brick walls that reveal lath and plaster underneath are actually just hard insulation foam, painted to look like the studio Ande envisioned.

The thing Ande is most proud of, however, is a brand new venture. A sign shop client who admired Ande’s work asked him if he had ever done any book illustrating. He had never considered it, but he gave it a try. After listening to the author’s description of her books, Ande searched for images on the Internet. Using his graphic skill and imagination, he created cover art that thrilled the author.

Ande’s art led him to business ownership and his business has led him to new artistic opportunities. Openness to learning and new challenges has led him to unexpected places. Keep your eyes open — who knows where signs of Ande’s work might next appear?

Robin Clifford Wood welcomes feedback at robin.everyday@gmail.com.

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