Signs of the Times - June 2020 - 22

DESIGN MATTERS
JEFF

FIRE BRAND

RUSS
is ST's Senior Art Director.
Email him at jeff.russ@
stmediagroup.com.

N Tuesday, April 14, Mike
Lavallee, 60, passed away
from complications of a
brain aneurysm, and the
sign community lost one of its most
prominent and talented artists. I
never met Mike, but I worked with
him many times. He was a staple
in the pages of Signs of the Times.
Throughout the '90s and into the
2000's, Mike contributed numerous
step-by-step articles that revealed
his process for creating masterpiece
illustrations.
Even as I laid the features out, I
thought to myself, "Good luck replicating this project." You see, Mike was
a top 1% draftsperson, a visionary
driven by his vast imagination and
possessing the skills to turn his
outlandish ideas into reality.
He was introduced to the airbrush

PHOTOS COURTESY OF KILLER PAINT

Mike Lavallee, 1960-2020

O

SCORCHED EARTH Hot rods and hotter flames; a match made in heaven

(or somewhere a bit lower and warmer).
as a child, watching his taxidermist
father work. After graduating high
school, Mike attended Butera School

HOT AIR Using French curves and hand-cut templates, Mike simulated real

flames with unparalleled precision.
22

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

JUNE 2020

of Art in Boston. As a freshman,
he began earning money as a signpainter, and never looked back. Yet,
even with his incredible talent, Mike
realized that hand-painting hot-rod
hoods and motorcycle gas tanks
could only get him so far.
Elaine Wallis, principal designer,
Signature Sign & Image (Niagara
Falls, ON, Canada) remembers a
chance encounter with Mike at
Niagara Falls. "Mike had a stack of
photos that he had just picked up
from a one-hour photo lab," Wallis
said. "All of the photos were just
pictures of flames. He said, 'Elaine,
I'm gonna paint fire.' The rest is
history."
And "paint fire" he did. In 1999,
Mike opened Killer Paint studio in
Snohomish, WA. His work there
was so different than anything else
that had been done before that it



Signs of the Times - June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Signs of the Times - June 2020

Contents
Signs of the Times - June 2020 - BB1
Signs of the Times - June 2020 - BB2
Signs of the Times - June 2020 - Cover1
Signs of the Times - June 2020 - Cover1a
Signs of the Times - June 2020 - Cover1b
Signs of the Times - June 2020 - Cover2
Signs of the Times - June 2020 - 1
Signs of the Times - June 2020 - Contents
Signs of the Times - June 2020 - 3
Signs of the Times - June 2020 - 4
Signs of the Times - June 2020 - 5
Signs of the Times - June 2020 - 6
Signs of the Times - June 2020 - 7
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Signs of the Times - June 2020 - Cover3
Signs of the Times - June 2020 - Cover4
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