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.”
About the Doodlewash
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!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!