Welcome To Paradise

Welcome To Las Vegas Sign Watercolor Illustration

For today’s prompt of “Sign,” I opted for the iconic welcoming sign that signals entry into Las Vegas, Nevada. Indeed, when seeing this sign, one has not quite entered Las Vegas yet, but instead has entered Paradise. This isn’t a metaphor, it’s simply the name of the unincorporated town that’s actually home to both this sign and the popular tourist area known as “The Strip.” If you only spend time on The Strip, you’ve technically spent all of your vacation in Paradise and never once visited Las Vegas. But who could ever complain about spending a long weekend in Paradise. As for the sign itself, it was designed by Betty Willis in 1959, and she never copyrighted the design, considering it a gift for the city. That’s why today, you can find her gift of design on any number of souvenirs from bumper stickers to key chains. Not only did Willis come up with the design, she came up with the addition of the word “fabulous” to set it apart from other signs. Unlike other designers of the time, she jumped in to learn the nuts and bolts of light and electricity, making her designs rather innovative. As she told the New York Times in 2005, “Everything you could flash or spin, we did it.” Betty passed away in April, 2015 at the age of 91, but she left behind an unexpected legacy in one of the most recognizable signs in American history.

It’s fascinating how some things that are created withstand the test of time more than others. This sign, for example, was not the personal crown jewel in Betty’s portfolio, but it became the very thing that made her famous. Art is intriguing like that. It’s a mixture of the art itself combined with the perception of those who view it, and any number of impossible to quantify other random factors. What makes one design iconic while another is simply forgotten is something we can riddle out as best we can after the fact, but like a lottery win, impossible to predict in advance. That’s what makes artists such unique and wonderful people. We don’t create art for the result, we create it because we can’t possibly imagine a world where we didn’t create it. Makers come in all shapes and forms and all different mediums, but we all share something very similar in common. We create because we have a passion to make things, and that’s all the reason we ever need to proceed. There’s no final thing we intend to create, just the constant journey of creating that next thing. While goals exist, they’re merely signposts as we move along the road of our artistic growth.

To me, that’s one of my favorite bits about this art journey. There’s something strangely wonderful about the fact that I’ll come to a final end before it does. I’ve no idea if I’ll be like Betty one day and leave behind a visual legacy recognized by millions of people. And like, Betty, that’s never been my goal. We makers simply make and that’s all that really matters in the end. Should someone love what we created, it’s a beautiful thing indeed, and we certainly strive to make things that can be enjoyed by others. But, we don’t it’s not the primary intent, or what they call extrinsic motivation. True makers, don’t need that at all. Instead, they share a strange and uncontrollable intrinsic motivation. Something that burns in the heart and is naturally satisfying to you and you alone. Whether it’s Leonardo da Vinci or Van Gogh, you’ll always find that similar trait. Artists create because they simply have to create. There’s just no other option more appealing. And by artists, I mean any sort of creative endeavor that calls you to make something. Whether it’s writing a poem or book, painting something grand, or just scribbling, doodling, and coloring something in a sketchbook. If you long to create, don’t let anything stop you. The journey can be a crazy one, but it always come with that familiar and wonderful feeling that’s like a sign saying, “welcome to paradise.”

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Da Vinci Paint Co.: Nickel Azo Yellow, Vermilion, Quinacridone Red, Cobalt Turquoise,  Cobalt Blue, and Terra Cotta. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with black ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Welcome To Las Vegas Sign Watercolor Illustration Sketchbook Detail
Recommended6 recommendationsPublished in By Charlie
21 Comments
  1. Sandra Strait 4 months ago

    You can never predict the future, but I think you’ve got a real good chance in leaving an artistic legacy with World Watercolor Month, if not with your many Doodlewashes. You inspired a great many people, Charlie!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Thanks so much, Sandra! 😃💕Yeah, I truly hope that World Watercolor Month becomes a bit of history. It’s such an amazing month!!

  2. Karen Fortier 4 months ago

    Great sign Charlie! I have been to Vegas and then again I guess I went to Paradis and didn’t even know it. Too loud for me. I agree with Sandra that your legacy is being written with what you do for artists, bringing us all together for watercolor month and to DOodle. 😉

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Thanks so much, Karen! 😃💕hehe… yeah… I get even more introverted as I get older so the idea of going back to Vegas is a bit alarming! lol And yay to bringing us all together to doodle!

  3. Lisa 4 months ago

    I always create although I flit around from one thing to the next. The one creative thing I do, and have done since I can remember, is cook. I get a lot of pleasure out of cooking. Like your Philippe I am guessing. I like to cook to make things that taste good, and I like to feed people.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Yes! That’s just like Philippe! 😃💕 He’ll make comments about my insatiable sketching/blogging habit and then get totally into whatever food he’s creating as though I’m not there at all. It’s wonderful to have an artistic place to travel to!

  4. Sharon Nolfi 4 months ago

    Yes! Your painting looks just like the real thing. Thanks for the info on the sign’s designer.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Thanks, Sharon! 😃💕 Glad you enjoyed the story… I think it’s such an interesting one!

  5. Mary Roff 4 months ago

    Wonderful rendering of that iconic sign and love the information about the artist. And, thank YOU for creating your legacy; it touches the heart of so many people.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Thanks, Mary! 😃💕Thank YOU right back for joining me on this fun and crazy ride! It’s been such a blast!

  6. LoriCtoo 4 months ago

    Wow! Words and all! I could see a lot of people wanting a copy of this one. I have never been to Las Vegas, nor have I ever wanted to. I went to Reno a million years ago. I am an unlucky person so I guess I would lose my shirt in Vegas. Haha! I know there is a lot more to see and do, but I’m happy to go to DL.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Thanks so much, Lori! 😃💕hehe… yeah, I’m not that kind of lucky, so I’ve only gambled a couple of times at casinos. I think my luck comes in other ways! lol

  7. Jacob 4 months ago

    That looks just as I remember it (he says as if he’s been – not sure I’d cope with Vegas or Paradise, but nice to enjoy the neon from a distance!) It is funny how it’s often the quicker, sometimes ‘lesser’ things that take off, though I suppose ‘lesser’ is the wrong word if it’s captured so many imaginations! If you want a great place sign, check out Essex town Basildon’s attempt at the Hollywood letters. It certainly takes the breath away.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Thanks, Jacob! 😃💕 Oh my gosh that sign is awesome, yet you missed the most awesome one! Baslidon didn’t stop with Hollywood. They also offer a leisure park called “Bas Vegas” with their own rendition of the sign! LOL 😂

      • Jacob 4 months ago

        That is hilarious! You’ve gotta love Essex!

  8. Robert J. Coleman 4 months ago

    Although I’ve never been to see the sign in person I admire the kitschy 1950’s design and am glad it has never been replaced. Your note that Betty never copyrighted the design provides a lesson to us all, that sometimes art can be a true gift for all from an artist driven to create. Keep creating, Charlie, it’s in your DNA!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Thanks so much, Bob! 😃💕 Yeah, Betty is quite inspiring to me. I’ve always been like that. I don’t go out of my way to protect my work… I just hope it inspires and delights people along the way!

  9. smzang 4 months ago

    Charlie says, ” We don’t create art for the result, we create it because we can’t possibly imagine a world where we didn’t create it.”

    Energizing and uplifting!!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Thanks so much, Sarah! 😃💕I think that must be true. If we create for any other reason, it would become rather tough to create at times.

  10. Jose R. Alonso 4 months ago

    I liked your rendering to the sign. As the saying goes, “every picture tells a story.” I never knew the back story to that iconic sign. To me, it look liked something the chamber of commerce came with on shoe-string budget. Like most folks, I was under the impression that the strip and the sign were part of Las Vegas and not a small town called Paradise. Thanks for that bit of Americana history.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Thanks so much, Jose! 😃💕Glad you enjoyed this bit of trivia!

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