Since going into business in 1977, Renee Anderson has left her mark on nearly every boat, truck, business façade and window in the Florida Keys.
She was located inside Keys Boat Works for more than 20 years, and for the majority of that time, boat lettering constituted the bulk of her business. Those were the days when everything was still carefully sketched out and lettered by hand.
“There aren’t too many of us old sign-o-sauruses left,” she joked in her shop on Coco Plum Drive.
Twenty years later, with the advent of computer graphic programs and rise in popularity of vinyl lettering, Renee’s business has evolved to include a whole range of signage mediums and styles. She’s adorned a local airplane with all the country’s flags to which the aircraft has traveled. She and a former employee traveled to Sanibel Island to help a local storeowner replicate the look of their original outpost at a second location. She’s painted intricate interior floor-to-ceiling murals in local homes as well as the exterior of many local businesses.
As she opens the pages of her portfolio displaying 32 years of work, one quickly learns there is more to her business than just signs.
“When I begin a job for a client, my preliminary sketches are always very loose,” Renee explained. “It leaves me more room for creative flexibility.”
Like many creative people who’ve made their living doing what they love, Renee remembers back to the first time she picked up a paintbrush as a young child.
“My mom made me take art classes, and I remember riding my bike to my teacher’s house just down the street,” she laughed. “I’ve been painting since I was just a little kid.”
As the cost for materials has increased in the slumping economy, Renee admits she’s puzzled by the way the business has changed.
The demand for hand-carved, hand-painted signs is down significantly. She’s noted a rise in popularity for more affordable, vinyl lettering and temporary banners.
“People want signs when business is good, but it’s when business is bad that they need signs,” she explained. “Sometimes it’s hard to explain that to people. You have only a few seconds to catch someone’s attention.”
A portion of her business has also grown to include some marketing and brand development. Many upstart businesses need recognizable logos that can be replicated on business cards and promotional materials as well as signage.
Nearly every other business along U.S. 1 in Marathon boasts a piece by Renee and her staff of Leslie Miller and Debbie Kreps. Production has been steady, and Renee has never done a bit of advertising. View it as a blessing and a curse, because with all the orders coming in to her shop, she has little time left for her own personal art.
From her bathroom with the fish-shaped glass basin sink – “I wanted that sink for 13 years!” – to her guest room that’s painted to look like a beach side cabana and even her porch that’s painted from floor to ceiling in tropical Bahamian purples and greens, her home on Grassy Key is a veritable portfolio of her work.
Atypical of the commercial painter, Renee said she usually works fairly quickly. She shared the floor to ceiling murals of local contractor George Steinmetz’s home. From toucans in the trees above his dining room table to the deepwater dive theme in the master bedroom, Renee enjoys leaving her personal touch in many middle Keys homes for residents and their guests to enjoy.
For years, she and several friends created elaborate masks and costumes each year for their float entry into the annual Fantasy Fest parade.
“Our floats won awards several years in a row,” she said proudly.
These days, any spare time she has is spent working on her fused glass bowls, dishes and jewelry.
Renee and weekly
Renee Anderson is behind the snazzy new window lettering at The Weekly Newspapers headquarters.
Renee and dolphin
Anderson has also created some spirited artwork for the Marathon High School gymnasium.
Renee and Jeff Hutt
Obvious masters of the optical illusion, Anderson received assistance from former Marathon resident Jeff Hutt on this most unique job in Sanibel Island. A long-time general store expanded its offerings into a second location and requested Anderson replicate the historic exterior of the original location.
“A couple of people actually tried to use that entrance,” Anderson laughed of the mural.