Location: San Luis Obispo, California, USA
We are Buddy Norton and Shelby Lowe, and our business is Canned Pineapple Co. We are two artists who have focused mainly on hand-painting signs and murals, alongside specialising in gold leaf, since launching our business six years ago. While the people we work with sometimes have something specific in mind, the majority of our work is our original design.
Shelby and I launched Canned Pineapple from our home base on the Central Coast of California, USA, in the summer of 2016, but we spent about half of that year travelling and painting from our van. We fitted out the van ourselves to pursue this dream and we go wherever the work takes us. We’ve been fortunate enough to travel all over the USA as well as internationally. And while it has certainly had its challenges, this life has turned out to be exactly that – a dream that we are incredibly fortunate to be living.
I’d been working in a sign shop since 2009, which is where I was introduced to hand-painted signage and gold leaf. While trying to teach myself these new mediums, I was fortunate enough to meet my mentor, Sean Beauchamp, who graciously agreed to teach me his craft. I quickly fell in love with it, but the older guard of sign painting has always held the mantra: ‘This is so great, but it’s too bad you can’t make a career out of it anymore.’ With that in mind, I left the sign world to work an in-house design job; Shelby was working for a jewellery designer at the time.
My passion for sign painting remained strong and I began teaching Shelby what I had learned about painting signs and laying gold leaf. Soon after, we started taking on our own projects alongside our day jobs. As we painted signs on the side, we hit a point where we wanted to see how far we could take this amazing craft that we’d been taught. We were both unhappy in our day jobs and, with a sense of nothing to lose, we quit our jobs, built a van and hit the road in search of work that we could build a life for ourselves doing.
Risking all the relative safety of a comfortable, traditional, normal (whatever you want to call it) life is not easy. We have long since lost count of the number of dice we’ve rolled and range of dissenting opinions we have received as we’ve forged this new path in life. But at the end of the day, we made a decision that we have never regretted.
As we embarked on this journey, we knew that what we wanted most was to cut a different path in life. We both grew up in small California towns and had seen so little of the world and the people in it. As we have grabbed hold of every opportunity that has come even remotely our direction and stretched ourselves in even the most uncomfortable of ways, we have been infinitely blessed by the unexpected. The idea that we’ve been able to do all of this through the passion of painting is still mind-blowing. The experiences we have, the people we meet and the perspectives they share with us are priceless. They continuously push us to be better artists and human beings. They challenge us to live an inspired life.
We’ve never worked harder in our lives. This journey has become almost an obsession, but the fight is worth it 10 times over. From being able to step into a business owner’s world and help them actualise their dream with a sign or mural, to reaching the point where people truly love and trust our work and its ability to bring their dream to life, we feel more fortunate than we could ever fully express. We are forever grateful for this life, the experiences we’ve enjoyed, the art we’ve created and all the people we’ve met along the way. We hope to see you in the near future.
Photography: ©Drew Barefoot