Frank Atkinson had a big impact on the sign industry during his lifetime. Born in Chicago two weeks after Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over the lantern, Frank grew up there learning the sign trade. In 1926, he was an instructor in design, lettering and pictorial courses at the Superior Sign School in Chicago. He won widespread recognition through his books, The Art of Sign Painting and Scene Painting and Bulletin Art, along with numerous articles in Signs of the Times magazine.
Ten years earlier, he operated a service in sketches for outdoor bulletins and commercial and electric signs. During the last 27 years of his life, he operated a sign business in Jackson, Mississippi where he achieved considerable fame as a portrait and landscape artist. The painted the mural for the state capitol dome where many of his paintings were displayed.
In 1950, his Last and Final Book on Sign Art was self published. By 1955, he had suffered three heart attacks, and became a shell of his early self. At the age of 84, he was still painting and enthusiastic about life.
Ref: 1972, Signs of the Times, Heinie Johnson—Mike Jackson
There are several photos of Frank Atkinson in his book Atkinson’s Sign Painting. In the photo above, he is demonstrating how to pull a long line using a mahl stick as a guide.
The photo on the left and below was taken by Charlie Thames outside the new windows at Dallas Perkins Sign Shop in Jackson, Mississippi. Frank is seen here rolling his next cigarette, the one he is apparently smoking in the photo below.Special thanks to Charlie Thames for sending me the photos, letters, and packet of goodies back in 1989. I spoke with Charlie on Sept. 16, 2004. He is alive and well at the age of 90. I have photocopies of quite a few letters Frank sent to Charlie around 1943.
Frank Atkinson’s Books on Sign Painting
Frank’s Artwork and Illustrations