Canadian organic farmer and former signmaker Loraine Lamb Lalonde’s fascination with signs began as a child on her grandparents’ farm. Frugality is often the mother of invention, and Loraine’s grandfather found many practical uses for the old tin signs discarded by local merchants. These vintage signs became the backdrop for her earliest memories.
An artist from an early age, Loraine was always drawing or painting. As is often the case, she soon got requests to make signs for neighboring businesses in her hometown of Ormstown, QC, outside of Montreal. These first projects revealed Loraine’s signmaking skills, and dealing with clients gave her valuable business experience.
After high school and college, Loraine put down her paintbrushes and focused her energies on operating Tullochgorum Farm full-time with her husband Steve.
The structured regimen farming required left Loraine restless, so she set up a studio on the farm and returned to signmaking as a sideline. The new work that came in gave Loraine a much-needed outlet for her creativity.
That sideline (named Tullochgorum Signs, of course) grew into a career, and Steve even became an accomplished sign installer, as well. With a significant farm expansion in 2008 and the hard work associated with it, something had to give. After 18 years and countless awards (including many in ST’s International Sign Contest), Loraine officially retired from the sign business. But the sign bug stayed with her.
“As a signmaker, you always look at every sign you see,” Loraine said. She began photographing signs, leading to multiple pilgrimages to upstate New York, where she discovered a spate of decaying vintage signs.
“My love of old signs became a quest to capture them before they disappear,” Loraine said. “Friends would often call and tell me the location of an old dilapidated sign, and of course, I would go take photos.”
These photos, her innate sense of nostalgia and an unflinching mission to preserve a bit of fading history compelled Loraine to begin the series of photorealistic paintings shown on these pages. Loraine used her mastery of perspective and light (and an array of fine brushes) to capture every weathered detail. This authenticity and lack of sentimentality create canvasses that capture a moment in time, giving the viewer a sense of actually being there and experiencing the signs.
“Even if viewers don’t know the exact sign, they know a place like it,” explained Loraine. “It’s a warm feeling that brings them back, and they are able to connect with the paintings.”
The ability to bring viewers back to grandpa’s farm, or family vacations of their childhood, typifies the transformative nature of nostalgia, and the lasting power of signs.
Loraine’s paintings can be seen, and prints of many of them are for sale, on her Facebook page.
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