There’s a good chance you’ve walked past a sign painted by Billie Justice Thomson.
The 30-year-old painter, illustrator and sign writer’s work adorns several windows across the city, including that of Lunar Store on Greville Street; the Friends of the Earth Co-op on Smith Street; and the walls of the recently opened Billy van Creamy store in North Fitzroy.
At one point or another, you may have also spotted her brightly coloured designs at The Prince of Wales Hotel or Brunswick Street Alimentari – among a dozen others.
Thomson started getting attention when the fruit and veg shop she used to work at, Vegetable Connection on Brunswick Street, allowed her to paint bold, cartoon watermelons raining across its windows.
Thomson’s since spent her time painting her playful works (usually of food) on to cafes and shopfronts across the city.
“I think painted signs are being appreciated again because there’s a real human element to them,” Thomson says. “I always tell people before I do it that it’s going to look like someone’s painted it, and not like a vinyl sticker.”
The challenging part about painting a window is that it has to be done in reverse. Everything from the type, to the layering of colours, is done on the window from the inside out.
“I don’t find working backwards a ‘con’ anymore,” she says. “I like that aspect. And I like that painting on a window is very forgiving, because if you don’t like something, you can just scratch it off there and start again.”
Thomson divides her work time between glass and canvas. Drawing food is a preoccupation across both mediums – and with a chef mum, food is understandably inescapable. “Since I could draw, I’ve just drawn food,” Thomson says. “I’ve moved on to drinks and tried to stay clear of food for a while, but I’m obsessed and think about it all the time.”
Thomson’s kitschy art prints are available for sale at Modern Times in Fitzroy, where she recently exhibited her work, or over at the Modern Times website.