an interview with Dave ‘Mad Dog’ Norton
In business since 1979, SLO Graphics is sharing its 30th anniversary celebration by offering 15% off signs, banners, artwork and fine art portraits through September.
For anyone that’s lived in San Luis Obispo County for more than a few years you will have definitely seen a SLO Graphics production some where. The brush of Dave ‘Mad Dog’ Norton has created or touched up the signs of many popular eateries, government buildings and destination spots in the last three decades. Dave has provided banners for nonprofits, businesses and even baseballs teams. He’s painted wall murals in homes, art on cars, but what he likes most is creating his own art.
I’ve know Dave since the early 80s. As we took a little time to chat and look back at his 30 years in San Luis Obispo his story began to unfold and memories began to flow.
Dave had learned screen printing when he studied fine arts in college. After working two years as a sign painter in San Diego he was ready for a change. His brother, Steve, encouraged him to move to San Luis Obispo to start a business, In 1979 Dave made the move and SLO Graphics was born.
They did a lot of work for restaurants i.e. signs, menus… everything rolled in one package. Steve did the textile printing, t-shirts, and hats, while Dave did the signage. The business kept growing and growing. After nearly 10 years, his brother Steve changed professions, became a cook and the screen printing part of the business was sold.
Dave has continued has kept the good work and name of SLO Graphics alive and well for the last 20 years. He provides part time work for other painters and is able to fund his own fine art projects. From 1979 to now a signs Dave mentioned include This Old House, William Randolph’s, the Dark Room, Palm Theatre murals, Rose’s Landing, SLO Brew, Howard Klein, and O’Connor Pet Hospitals. Now demolished, Dave painted 30 wine labels on the walls of Joshua’s Restaurant, a historical church in Paso Robles.
His biggest ever project was painting a replica of the Alamo for Fess Parker’s 75th birthday surprise celebration.
For Earth Day 2010 Dave donated a piece of canvas for the children to create a Put Your Green Footprint Forward piece of art. It will be shared in an upcoming art show. Today, Dave’s working on a banner for Day with Creative Women. He has his hands and brushes in all kinds of place and good causes. No job is too big or small.
Back in the good old days soon after Dave arrived here, he was the Doorman, Night Manager and Art Director of the World Famous Dark Room. And, before it was popular, Dave, Steve, and their friend Terrence started Frisbee Golf locally. For 10 years tournaments took place at El Chorro and Meadow Parks.
For the last 16 years Dave has been a member of the Live Oak staff. He manages a crew of 22, is responsible for coordinating with musicians and controlling back stage access, and generally serves as a buffer for the stage manager. At Live Oak Dave works about 12 hours a day and plays music in the evening. That’s another sidebar of Dave’s life; he plays the spoons and the wash tub base. Boy this guy knows how to have fun.
Business wise, the recent economic downturn had adversely impacted Dave, but things are improving. Looking to the future, Dave would like to have someone manage the business so he could focus on painting signs and creating his own art.
As for sign painting “It is a dying art. Some young people are starting to pick it up. Unlike digital print, with sign painting you see personality. There’s more life. It takes longer, but looks good.”
Need a sign, banner or wall mural? Call Dave at (805) 235-9689.