STANFORD – For over 50 years John Arnett left his mark on Lincoln County in the form of signs – from storefronts to boats to work trucks – he made a lot of artwork in the city.
John, who died aged 71 in March, painted signs for local businesses for most of his life.
According to his wife, Carol Arnett, John had his hand in a bit of everything, and most of the panels and artwork in downtown Stanford were made by these hands.
“He did a lot of freelance writing, but he also had a shop downtown for a while,” Carol said. “He did a bit of everything. He did lettering on trucks, he did it on glass, he did it on the sides of buildings, he painted on boats. He also made art.
John opened his Arnett Signs business on Main Street in Stanford in 1991. It was featured in The Interior Journal with a photo of him putting the finishing touches on an oil painting.
According to the news archive, Arnett’s company specialized in “lettering and painting commercial signs on windows, vans or any other surface” and he also painted oil portraits and heritage images of houses.
“He painted signs in the county for about 50 years,” Carol said. “He moved here in 1971.”
John was even commissioned to do some historical reproduction work. In 2003, the First Southern National Bank hired him to reproduce a sign that once adorned the side of a building at the corner of Depot and Main streets in Stanford. He was hired to repaint “WH Higgins Groceries, Hardware & Buggies” on the building.
The Lincoln County Ready Mix sign was also her hands-on job, Carol said, along with many other commercial signs in Lincoln County.
“He designed the Alford Real Estate brands,” she says. “He also made the Hart Insurance sign. There are so many.
And there really is – John’s work has spread across the state to Carrollton, Somerset, Danville and across state lines to Cincinnati.
Carol maintains a portfolio of all of John’s work, which includes photos of various commissions, freelance jobs, freehand artwork, and even poetry.
“He also wrote poetry and he actually published poetry in a book about Greenup County, where he was born,” she said. “He also designed the cover of the book.”
The book is called “Greenup County, Kentucky; A historical reflection, ”she said, and was written by a friend of John’s who he went to school with there.
Whichever side of Main Street in Stanford you look at, John’s works can be seen. But Stanford isn’t the only city he’s shared his work with – Carol said John’s work has reached Germany, France and Jamaica.
He was meticulous, she said, and rarely made mistakes, which is why he was always sought after, even by young artists, many of whom John took under his wings to frame.
“He never disturbed the spectators,” Carol said. People often stopped to watch John work and admire his hand-held abilities, she said.
Carol said her husband suffered from Alzheimer’s disease later in life, but every time he walked down Main Street he showed his signs and remembered painting them.
“For a while he just went to see his family and when they bring him home he tells them on the way home, ‘This is one of my signs’ or’ I did this- there ‘and pointed them out all the time at home, ”she said.