“Bad layout,” said Boisvenue. “Absolutely hate when people who have no experience do a bad layout. Your eye … you’re trying to follow it all over the place, and it doesn’t make sense.”
In his brightly-coloured, rigorously symmetrical work, Boisvenue prefers simplicity. “I hate busy-ness. No need for that. Keep it simple,” he said. “Layout is crucial to any sign, and I think I gained a lot of experience at the commercial advertising course I took years ago. Many people today, they just buy a computer and jump into the sign business. Don’t have a clue.”
“I’m not the greatest at it,” he continued. “But there is a flow – there are rules for layout, and very few people know them.”
Of course, Boisvenue is being modest. Silverado Signs, which opened last April, is named for the vintage western movies and TV shows Boisenvue grew up with (his house is stocked with Gunsmoke and Have Gun, Will Travel memorabilia). Much of his work mimics the genre’s 1880-by-way-of-1950 retro-chic: his signs outside the Olde Heidelberg Restaurant and Motel (3006 Lobsinger Line) suggest the décor of an Old West saloon, filtered through a pop art sensibility.
In addition to large-scale signage (hand-painted or vinyl cut), Silverado Signs offers designs for business cards, letterhead, logo design, and truck and mailbox lettering.
Boisvenue took an indirect route to a commercial art career.
“I started out life as an auto mechanic,” he said. “In 1970 I was in a car accident and I banged myself up real bad, but I went back to the trade. And in 1980 I got in another accident – flukey accident – and they said, ‘You’re retired from the automotive trade.’”
With his auto career on hold, Boisvenue decided to enroll in a commercial art program at Mohawk College, earning his diploma in 1983. The following summer, he refined his craft at an eight-week night-school course in sign painting, and fell in love with the discipline.
In the ‘80s, he paid his dues working for the now-defunct Randall Advertising in Kitchener. “We weren’t allowed any ideas,” he laughed. “We were the grunt people. They came out with the work and said, ‘Here, you’re gonna do this.’ There was no freedom whatsoever.” In his spare time, he satisfied his creative itch with freelance gigs and his own personal art.
Now, Boisvenue is his own boss, and that’s not the only difference. Today, the majority of his designs are composed by computer, with the aid of CorelDRAW Graphics Suite. Still, he prefers the art and craft of hand-lettered signs. “Hand-lettering will last probably three or four times longer than vinyl,” he said. “I have two known signs in existence that have been up over 20 years. In the industry, that’s quite amazing.”
Still, the computer layout offers artistic satisfaction of its own. “I love doing business cards,” he said. “Someone comes in with a start-up business, they’ll have two trucks, you’ll letter the truck, then you’ll say, ‘Okay, now you need business cards.’ So you carry the artwork over to the business cards.”
His business cards possess the same clean layout and retro/multicolour aesthetic of his large-scale signs. “Business cards today are not expensive to do. You can put all the colour into it that you want, and it’s not going to cost the customer a fortune anymore, so why not?”
As for just where his interest in art came from, Boisvenue is uncertain.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a doodler, but I think most kids in the art field started out doodling, in school, right?” said Boisvenue. “I mean, all you saw was the teacher’s lips going, ‘Blah blah blah blah blah blah…’”
Silverado Signs is located at 2886 Lobsinger Line. Boisvenue can be contacted at 519-699-0415, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Silverado Signs also has a presence on Kijiji, where customers can order hand-painted signs of vintage company logos, including Harley Davidson and Indian Motorcycles.