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Local artists put small
businesses in the limelight

By Joel Hall

Despite the sagging economy, Paul and Sophia Thomas, owners of Dreamland Signworks in Jonesboro, are keeping themselves busy -- making custom signs and vehicle artwork.

As more and more people take side jobs to supplement their incomes, the Thomas couple has been providing small business owners the means to promote themselves.

For the last six and a half years, Signworks has been making custom signs and vehicle artwork for small businesses, city governments, and private citizens.

"When the economy is not doing well, we always do better, because people are going to do things on the side," said Sophia Thomas. "Maybe, they just need a magnetic sign that says 'handy man.' It's cool doing something that is able to benefit people's lives."

Paul Thomas, who has been in the graphic-design business for more than 20 years, has learned how to manipulate vinyl to create banners, signs, vehicle graphics, and lighted signs for a variety of purposes. He married his wife, a tattoo artist by trade, 12 years ago, and they went into business shortly thereafter.

While most sign work nowadays is done using computers, Thomas said he illustrates many of the designs by hand.

"Luckily, I got into the business just as hand-painting was going out," said Thomas. "Of all the sign shops, we do a lot more custom stuff."

As a child, Paul Thomas recreated heavy metal album covers -- such as the cover to Meat Loaf's "Bat Out Of Hell" -- in his spare time. Inspired in his adult years by hyper-realistic artists, such as Hajime Sorayama and H.R. Giger, Thomas said his business stands out because of his ability to create original artwork.

Some of Thomas' more intricate designs include dragons, flaming skulls, metallic fish and humanoid creatures. At the same time, Thomas does tamer artwork for the City of Jonesboro, the City of Hapeville, and many local real estate agents.

"A lot of other shops have the computer skills, but they don't have the art layout ... they are going to totally rely on clip art," said Thomas. "I can go right back to hand-painting, if I need to," he said. "I like to put a little bit of art into whatever I do."