About the Walldogs

Walldogs are a group of sign & mural artists from all over the globe. The tradition of painting wall advertisements date back long before today. Evidence of this can be seen as “Ghost Signs” throughout cities of all sizes. These mural painters of old were often called Walldogs. Along with the title of Walldog, today’s mural artists have also adopted many other traditions that show in their work, from the colors they use to the design styles they practice, these murals capture that sense of nostalgia and historic significance.

The Walldog movement began in Allerton, Iowa on the summer of 1993 hosted by Nancy Bennett. That meet was the first official Walldog meet. Dozens of sign artist or “Letterheads” arrived in Allerton to paint several large historic wall advertisements. Since then the Walldog Movement has continued to grow.

Project Leaders’ Bios

Jay Allen  Jay Allen – Jay Allen is the owner and President of ShawCraft Sign Co., Inc. in Machesney Park, IL. He has been in the sign business in various forms since 1983. Jay is the recipient of numerous awards for design excellence in the art of sign making. He is also a contributing writer to SignBusiness magazine, published author, seminar instructor and public speaker.

Jay was host of the Letterheads ‘Walldog Rendezvous’ International meet in Belvidere, IL in June 1997, which attracted 350 sign artists from all over the world to share in the painting of ten murals in the downtown business district – murals totaling over 6,000 square feet painted in a 72-hour period. Belvidere continues to reap awards to this day for being an active arts community – stimulated by the 1997 event. Jay is married to his lovely wife, Jody and is the proud father of one son, Evan.


Gary Anderson  Gary Anderson – Gary Anderson has owned and operated Bloomington Design since 1971. Located in the scenic southern Indiana hills, outside of Bloomington, Gary has provided unique and award winning signs, graphics and other neat stuff to all kinds of customers.  Bloomington Design specializes in gold leaf, dimensional carved signs, murals & pictorials, sign systems, period and private residence signage.

Gary has authored three books including: Signs, Graphics and Other Neat Stuff; More Signs, Graphics and Other Neat Stuff.  Gary has taught all over the country on the sign business and his methods of the sign craft. Through the Letterheads, Gary has been able to share his experience in the industry with many individuals.


nancy-pic2  Nancy Bennett – Nancy Bennett and her husband Dan, own and operate Dannco, Inc., a global sign, screen printing, and sporting goods company specializing in custom outfitting for schools, businesses and individuals. Nancy hosted the first walldog mural festival in Allerton, Iowa in 1993 and she enjoys travelling and participating in walldog events world-wide.


Carole Bersin  Carole Bersin – Carole Bersin has been painting since she was a wee youngster and was thrilled to discover signpainting in the late 1980’s as a way to make a living. Of course that was right when everything was changing over to digital and vinyl but Carole stuck to her old doggedness and continues to do everything (signs, murals and whatever else comes her way) by hand as the sole proprietor of Carole Bersin Painting.  She attended her first Letterhead meet in Mars, Pa in 2002, worked on walls and thought she’d never had so much fun… until she went to Tomahawk the next year. Her first Walldog meet was in Lincoln, Ill where she knew she had really discovered a piece of heaven on earth. Carole was proud to host the Minneapolis Walldogs on Nicollet last summer and is looking forward to what might be the best meet EVER this summer in Pontiac.


Cam Bortz  Cam Bortz – Cam Bortz, 52, has operated Finest Kind Signs in Pawcatuck, Ct since 1988. He attended his first Walldog event in 1997 in Belvidere, Illinois, and since then has been a project leader at three other events, at Lincoln, Il., Jacksonville, Il., and Algoma, Wisconsin. Having been trained as a traditional signpainter, Cam sees Walldog events as a means of sharing and teaching these skills, as well as demonstrating their lasting value to the general public, and creating valuable public art for the benefit of the host communities.


David & Susie Butler  David & Susie Butler – Butler Design Agency was established in the year 1972. It is a Mom and Pop business and has been from the start. Both David and Susie were raised in Syracuse,IN. They have 4 Children and 7 Grandchildren. Their business consists of logo design, signage, screenprinting , web design and management, and instructing photoshop workshops. They founded Letterhead Magazine and published it for three years. This year they will be writing, illustrating, and publishing their first childrens book.


Michael Clark  Michael Clark – Michael Clark has been in the in the sign business since 1983. He resides in Aledo, Illinois where he hosted the Western Illinois Wall Bash in 2005. Michael specializes in logo design, sandblasted and carved signage as well as vinyl graphics. He has been a project leader for the wall dog meets in Lincoln, IL, Algoma, WI, and Jacksonville, IL.
Michael and his wife Denise have 4 children and are expecting their first grandchild in August. He is excited to be involved in transforming Pontiac into a place everyone will want to visit after the walldogs have left their mark.


Stephan Connor  Stephan Connor owns Conman painting. It is a one man shop run out of his family farm, in a barn his Great,Great Grandfather built in rural Blackstone, Illinois. Stepahn dabbles in hand lettering, pinstriping, vinyl, murals, airbrushing, or whatever he can put a brush to or spray a gun at. He has been drawing or painting all of his life, but quit his job in ‘ 97 to do signwork full time and hasn’t “worked” a day since. There are a lot of people Stephan would like to give credit to being where he is today, and on the short list is the Diaz family. He is very much looking forward to this summer and hopes to see everyone there. 


durhams  Tom & Kathy Durham – In 1991, The Diaz’s held a meet called “LetterRip”…Tom Durham(from KC) went to Bloomington for the meet, Kathy Weber (House Springs) went to Bloomington for the meet…and THEY MET!! They joined forces, Tom moved to St. Louis, to join Weber Hill Signs, and married Kathy, and now they have been together for 15 years, Weber Hill Signs has their 25th Anniversary this JUNE! What a great way to celebrate Signs, but with their favorite group of people…the Wall dogs. We are so excited to be a project leader…knowing the leaders, and host, this will be a meet to remember!!


Rob Estes  Rob Estes – Robert Estes of Brushstroke Signs located in Paducah, KY. Rob has been involved in the sign business approximately 22 years with 14 years as sole proprietor of Brushstroke Signs. He still does hand painted signs along with digital printing, vinyl and sandblasted / carved projects. Rob became involved in the sign trade when his dad, David “Herb” Estes started his shop in Southern Ill. The first Walldog meet that he attended was Belvedere, Ill in 1997, hosted by Jay Allen.


Sonny Franks  Sonny Franks – Sonny has been a sign painter since a summer job in 1969. He attended Clemson University, majored in Political Science and later studied Graphic Design at the University of South Carolina. Sonny started his business while a student at Clemson, printing t-shirts and painting signs. He married Peggy, a Delta flight attendant, in 1981 and moved to Atlanta, Georgia suburbs. His first Letterhead meet was at Ricky Jackson’s in 1986 and his first Walldog Meet was at Jay Allen’s in Belvidere. Since then, has been fortunate enough to attend meets all over the world, including Greece, Scotland, Canada and England. Sonny hosted the 2006 Dixie Letterhead Sign Circus and donated a mural depicting 50 members of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame to the city of Suwanee. He has one daughter, Jessica, who lives in San Francisco and his dog, Greta, who is an incredible frisbee catcher.


Weekend with the Bernie's  Triple Bernie (Poff, Lohmeyer & Gietl)

Bernie Gietl  Bernie Gietl has been in the sign biz since the mid 70’s. He worked in various commercial shops during the 70’s and 80’s in Illinois and Wisconsin with the majority of his work being banners and sho-cards. He spent the 90’s painting highway bulletins for various outdoor advertising companies throughout California and Oregon. Gietl’s first Walldog experience was at Aledo, IL in 2005. He has participated in the events at Jacksonville, IL , Algoma, WI and Minneapolis, MN. He is now working full-time for the U.S. Postal Service as a rural mail carrier in Carlinville, IL. He is looking forward to seeing Walldog friends and working with the other two Bernie’s at the Pontiac event in June.

Bernie Lohmeyer  Bernie (2) Lohmeyer and wife Velma, have been in the sign business for 25 years. He got started in Walldogg’in after going to Letterheads web site. This will be his 4th walldog meet. Bernie paints trucks and signs for his small community at Osage City,Kansas.

Bernie Poff  Bernie (3) Poff owns and operates Bernie’s Signs out of Prairie du Sac, WI. Established in 1993, Bernie’s Signs offers everything from logo design, 3D signs, banners, window splashes, murals and more. Bernie enjoys every aspect of the sign business. He works out of his shop named Polliwog Studio behind his house. He lives with his wife, Susan, who is the behind the scenes graphic designer, and their two children Maggie and Nate. Bernie has attended several Walldog events. He is looking forward to working with the other two Bernie’s on a mural this year.


Judy Grossman  Judy Grossman – Judy has owned her business, JG Signs & Designs since 1986 in Sonora, CA, a small town near Yosemite National Park. She specializes in full image branding for businesses, but her true love is painting murals. Her business has consisted primarily in painting murals, during the last 4 years. She also teaches private art classes, paints furniture, does color consultation and still loves designing and painting signs. She has been a Letterhead since 1986, when she went to her first Letterhead Meet in San Jose.  Her first Walldog event was in Lodi, CA and her first chance at being a project leader was last year in Minneapolis.  She is honored and excited about being invited to be a project leader in Pontiac and can’t wait to meet new friends and connect with old friends to paint, paint, paint.


Dale Manor  Dale Manor – Born and raised in the small town of Menomonie up in Northwest Wisconsin. Dale attended a two-year Mechanical Design Drafting technical school upon graduating from High School. He worked in advertising and graphic design for several years before returning to school to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Concentration in Industrial Design from the University of Wisconsin Stout in 1995.
Dale began painting race cars at 16 years old, then started painting signs professionally around 1990 while attending college. He painted his first large-scale exterior mural in 2000 on a barn in Dunn County Wisconsin.
He has been a member of Letterville (Letterheads) since 2002 when he attended my first Walldog meet in Chippewa Falls, WI. Since then he has attended about 14 Letterhead and Walldog meets around the United States and Canada.
In the Summer of 2005 he was 1 of 12 artists selected to participate in the month-long Edwin Austin Abbey Mural Workshop in Manhattan, NY at the National Museum and School of Fine Arts.
Dale is presently employed as a Model Maker for Waterloo Industries in Oak Creek, WI and paints murals whenever and wherever the opportunity presents itself.


Adam May  Adam May – Adam is a commercial artist from Mount Pulaski Illinois.  He first worked with walldogs in 2004 as a host for the Land of Lincoln Walldogs in Lincoln IL.  Since then his life has never been the same.  Every year him & his wife Sarah travel to work on projects to help continue education of the craft and to help keep it alive for future generations.  The skills they develop at each event are not taught in schools, and can only be learned by working with other artists and drawing from their knowledge.  The walldogs help to beautify America and expand our working knowledge of the craft.  Adam & Sarah have Hosted a meets in Lincoln, IL and Jacksonville, IL, been project leaders in Algoma, WI and Minneapolis, MN, as well as staffed many other events.


Mike Meyer  Mike Meyer – 47 year old sign painting and hockey enthusiast, Mike has traveled around the world, and went to a Cubs and White Sox game in the same summer.  An Avid Bears fan, Mike longs for the day when Minnesota will have professional football.  Mike has organized many Walldog events and pick-up hockey games in neighborhoods around country. 

He shoots Left, paints right.He was never afriad of Y2K but does run an occasional 5K.  He has also slept in his van in Pontiac every year and looks forward to doing the same this year at the Walldog Event for Pontiac in 2009! 
He is Honored to be a project leader and thinks the youth of the Blackhawks should bring a Stanely Cup to Chicago in the next 2-3 years….GAME ON!
Dan Sawatzky  Dan Sawatzky is best described as a creative force in the sign industry.  He and his wife Janis are owners of Sawatzky’s Imagination Corporation – a small family company that specializes in the design and creation of dimensional theme signs and environments.  They tackle projects of any size from small signs to entire theme parks.  Their work has garnered numerous international awards and Dan’s articles appear frequently in the sign trade publications.   Dan and his crew also host Sign Magic Workshops in their studio a number of times each year with attendees coming from around the world.  Dan has been project leader in Walldog events previously and has more than a hundred giant historical murals to his credit across Canada and the USA.


FranCisco Vargas  FranCisco Vargas – FranCisco Vargas, sign artist, lives and operates his business Studio Vargas in Fresno, CA has been painting signs, murals for the last 26 years. From small signs, banners, vehicle fleets, to super large wall graphics. FranCisco has been a Walldog project leader on three murals in Lincoln, and Jacksonville, Illinois also Minneapolis, MN.



  1. Dale,

    Many thousand congrats for being included in the line-up of highly talented WallDogs. The greater Menomonie is proud of your accomplishments and wish you continued success.

    Keep up the great work!

  2. […] devoting their collective energies to public art projects such as “Art on Mainstreet” and the Pontiac Wall Dogs Festival that help to promote the creation and appreciation of art, history, and our cultural inheritance. […]

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