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St. Louis Sign-Painting Legend Lonnie Tettaton Letters for a Maplewood Business

Tettaton's work can be seen on sides of buildings downtown, and now on Sutton Boulevard.

Lindi McDonald’s dance studio, Studio Forte, at 2907 Sutton Boulevard, needed a sign, and she found out from a friend about a sign painter who does it the old-fashioned way–by hand.

She said she was nervous at first about a hand-painted sign. Most are produced digitally now, but she didn’t need to worry. The painter, Lonnie Tettaton, has been painting signs in the St. Louis area for 57 years. He’s 76.

Tettaton has painted a trompe l’oeil mural on a 20-story building in St. Louis and a 40’ x 260’ mural of horses racing around the post at a horse track in Hope Springs, Arkansas.

His work for McDonald was a white oval a few feet across, with lettering a graphic designer friend had done for her when she first opened her studio about half a dozen years ago.

She said having Tettaton paint her sign fits her studio and Maplewood.

“It’s such an art-based community,” she said. “It’s an original, and it’s not cookie cutter. For Maplewood, I thought this is just perfect.”

Tettaton set up shop with his oil paints, turpentine and rags on the sidewalk in front of Studio Forte.

“I started when I was a kid in the old neighborhood,” he said. (That’s north St. Louis, he said, when asked.)

“When I was in high school I did a few. I took the streetcar down Grand Avenue to Hadley Tech where I took commercial art,” he said.

“That’s when the ballpark was on Grand Avenue and there were businesses everywhere,” he said. “I seen signs everywhere, so I thought it would be a good field to get into. I’ve been dedicated to the sign business ever since I was a teenager. If you’re dedicated to a trade you’ll be successful. ”

All his jobs comes through word of mouth, like McDonald’s friend.

“I don’t have an ad in the yellow pages or anything,” he said.

Also in Patch:

Molly M. Collier August 28, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Its inspiring to see both an artist still doing this by hand, as well as a company that values his work. As a local Maplewood artist / painter - This story warms my hear.
Angel August 28, 2012 at 03:39 PM
I noticed the sign yesterday and thought how original and crisp it looked.
Lindi McDonald August 28, 2012 at 05:09 PM
I am SO thrilled to have this original piece of artwork done by such a talented master! I couldn't be happier with how the sign looks and love supporting local artists like Mr. Tettaton. Thanks Maplewood for being excited about it with me :)
William August 28, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Cool story! Another reason why I love the Patch! Btw, I've seen the mural referenced in Hot Springs... It's an amazing work of art! Thanks, Lindi for patronizing local artists!
jc August 29, 2012 at 09:28 AM
Tiffany's Diner's got a new hand-painted sign too. It turned out really nice.. Done be a guy named Phil Jarvis.
Bill McKenzie September 06, 2012 at 11:46 PM
I have heard that the building owner is ordering Lindi to scrape the sign off! He thinks it's somehow unsuitable. This guy must have all his taste in his mouth! What is going on? Don't give in Lindi! Stand up for art! And stand up for your rights! You're paying good money for that window!
Doug Miner September 07, 2012 at 02:09 AM
Bill, and all - I just walked down and looked, and the painted sign is gone, I'm sorry to say. Totally clean glass.

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