“I paint New Orleans … out of love for the city. New Orleans is my inspiration. I did not paint before I came here, but since I came here, I cannot stop.”—Simon.
It’s hard to go anywhere in New Orleans without seeing one of Simon’s signs. They’re everywhere: on storefronts, French Quarter Fest posters, on your TV every night on WGNO’s News with a Twist, in the restaurant next door and probably the restaurant next door to that. Simon himself admits, “I like to call it ‘Déjà Vu’art, because when you see it, you know you’ve seen it before.”
His signs are easy to spot, with their bright splashes of primary colors like “safety red” and “safety blue,” bold shapes like hearts, stars and fleurs de lys, and expressions like “Be Nice or Leave,” and “All You Need is Love.” In fact, there is no limit to the phrases you’ll find on Simon’s signs. They run the gamut from the basic, like “Store Open,” to catchy, New Orleans-centric slogans such as, “A Little New Orleans Never Hurt Nobody,” to any number of restaurant and food-related signs, like the “Best of the World Red Beans and Rice” sign at Joey K’s on Magazine Street. Simon also has a clever and witty sense of humor, the proof of which is displayed across such signs as the one that reads, “I Distrust Camels & Anyone Else Who Can Go a Week Without a Drink.” Not to mention, Simon regularly does custom work for businesses, weddings, Mardi Gras floats and living rooms everywhere, so the options are limitless.
And now, you can read more than just his signs. River Road Press has just released a beautiful new hardcover coffee table book about Simon (and incidentally, that’s pronounced à la franҫaise, so it’s [see-MOH]). Written by Yvonne Spear Perret, Simon of New Orleans tells the story of the artist, his signs and his love affair with New Orleans (second only to his outspoken adoration for wife and antiques professional, Maria). From his French and culinary background, to how he came to be an artist and the lengthy, labor-intensive process involved in producing one of his amazing masterpieces, Perret tells the whole story in an engaging and easily readable book. She touches on Simon’s involvement with the community, as he is known to do pro bono work and is particularly generous with his artwork. Perret also looks beyond Simon’s signs and showcases his other paintings and 3-D artwork (such as painted furniture and totems) as well. It’s the tale of a kind man, an artist, a city and a culture (or two), and it’s all in the pages of this book.
To accompany the story of Simon, Yvonne Spear Perret teamed up with her son Paul, a professional photographer, to illustrate the book. Paul’s photography brightens the book from cover to cover, and is colorful and vibrant enough to do Simon’s paintings justice. It’s quite an impressive and comprehensive collection of photos, with so many pieces and the locations they ended up decorating being represented.
This is a great book for art enthusiasts, Saints fans, francophiles, New Orleanians of all persuasions, foodies, Mardi Gras junkies, bookworms and music lovers. Or those who simply like to smile, read something interesting or look at pretty stuff will like it too.
Simon of New Orleans retails for $45.00. For more information or to order a copy of the book, contact Scott Campbell at (504) 722-8139 or [email protected]. Books are also available online on the River Road Press website, at www.riverroadpress.com, or, for a copy autographed by the author, at www.neworleanswriter.com.
Photo of Simon by Paul Perret.