Signs of the Season
Professional sign painter Luis Lopez was painting a Christmas wreath on the glass door of an office one floor down from the RN&R last week. From professional signs to elaborate murals on restaurant walls, Lopez has been adding festive touches to businesses for 15 years. Since he moved to Reno from Mexico 5 years ago, he’s been continuing that work here. He’s even crafted a few orange, swirly flames to enhance the car hoods of some discerning motorists. As he put the finishing touches on the wreath’s red bow, he talked about his work and why he’s so busy painting this holiday season.
How did you get this particular painting job?
I go from business to business asking them if they would like me to paint for them. I show them photos of examples of my work.
So this is your own business?
Yes, I’m independent. I’m a licensed painter. Almost everyone has a boss, but not me. I just have these businesses [that hire me]. It’s ugly to have a boss. No one tells me what to do, but if they need me to paint something, I can.
Why do you paint for a living?
First, to earn money for my family. But I also like it because the people like it. They want decorations for Halloween, Cinco de Mayo and, most of all, for Christmas.
Why do you think people like holiday decorations?
I think it’s to bring attention to Christmas because many people don’t believe in it. As I’m Catholic, I believe in Christmas. It’s a nice tradition. I put lights and decorations on my house to celebrate.
Do people in Mexico decorate their houses for Christmas like they do here?
Hardly at all. Mostly because of the money it takes. They don’t decorate for Cinco de Mayo, either, but here in the United States, they do. Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday, but they celebrate it here more. I don’t know why—maybe because they like to have parties and drink wine.
What types of businesses use your services most?
Mostly Mexican restaurants and stores. Each place has the kind of style they want, and I do that. I have a lot of ideas in my head I take to them.
Do you get many repeat customers?
About 90 percent of the businesses ask me back.
How did you learn to paint?
It’s something I was always excited about. I never went to school to learn to paint. I taught myself. I had to leave school after the fifth grade.
Why didn’t you finish school?
It’s because in Mexico, it’s very hard. We didn’t have money to eat. I’ve been working ever since I was a little boy.
What’s the best part of your job?
I like making murals, something permanent that will be there for a long time, so lots of people can see them in a place and go, ‘Oh, look at that. That’s pretty.’
Do you have murals around Reno we could see?
Yes, I have one at Las Islitas on Wells and at the other Las Islitas in Sparks.