By Ryan Miller
Way before an era of vinyl lettering and digital printing, signs displayed before buildings for business and billboards across town were hand-painted, showing with them a signature craftsmanship and certain sleight of hand performed with painstaking patience and diligent attention to detail.
Approaching his work with a retrospective perspective, Rodney Vicik has been hand-painting and hand-lettering commercial signs since 1981, and under the business moniker of Red Rocket Signs based in Hampton, he specializes in signs, pinstriping, window lettering, boat lettering and banners. Restaurants such as The Barking Dog and Deadrise owe their logo’d lettered looks to Red Rocket Signs, as do the boats with their names brandished in brushstrokes at Bluewater Yacht Sales, Dandy Haven Marina and Bell Isle Marina.
“Red Rocket makes me think of the ’40s and ’50s, and people were really thinking about the industrial age and rockets,” Vicik remarks, reflecting on the name of his business as a homage to a time skyrocketing with ingenuity. “Sign-painting was really big; that was the heyday.”
Growing up in rural Virginia, raised by a single parent and without the income to afford college, Vicik had a skill for drawing and found his trade after an aptitude test revealed his qualifications in sign painting, leading him to work in Coastal Virginia with Sign Engineering. While the first computerized sign makers came to the market in the 1980s, Vicik, attuned to his skill set, kept with his craft over the years. “It’s all gone to quick, cookie-cutter, vinyl letters and now digital printing. I really wanted to distinguish myself from that.”
Depending on the job, hand-painting signs can take anywhere from five minutes to a day to even a month to complete. The quality though is impeccable, as Vicik remains poised with his paintbrush, attentive to every cursive curve of letters and each lively layer of color.
Visit Facebook.com/RedRocketSigns to learn more about Red Rocket Signs.