Born in Ecuador and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, the Cevallos Brothers – Victor, Carlos and Miguel – set up a sign shop in 1967 to help local businesses in Bogotá advertise their wares. “We grew up in a big family. Our father worked in a furniture factory and our mother stayed home to take care of all of us. There was a lot of creativity because we did not have so much,” says Carlos of their childhood. “We enjoyed listening to opera and making paintings or drawings.”
Led by Victor, the eldest, the signs the brothers created in their shop were playful, colourful and full of hand-drawn, mismatched typography, icons and simple illustrations. “At first we all worked together until Victor moved to America in 1969. Carlos left in 1974. It was my business for 30 years,” explains Miguel. “I had two other employees who were learning from me. Everything was painted by hand. I had around 3,000 clients by the end with many different kinds of businesses such as restaurants, lawyers offices, clothing stores.”
When Victor moved to New York City, he continued to create artwork in the family style, and found himself painting menus in diners and pizza shops in Times Square. “Many Colombians were moving here and it was an exciting place for artists,” says Carlos. “After a few years Victor found a job in an art gallery on 74th Street and Lexington. He set up a space in the basement to make signs. When I came in 1974 everything was ready for us to start working together, and it has always been like this. We work all together.”
When Carlos joined Victor, the two brothers expanded their business into Queens, where the local Colombian nightclubs and bars hired them to paint their walls and create adverts for their happy hours. Business began to boom, and in 1982 the brothers rented a ten-room suite in a building in Times Square to work from and created backdrops for souvenir photos, while regularly drawing up ads for food stands around the city.
When their Times Square building was sold in 1999, the brothers went back to Queens, and in 2003, Miguel decided to make the move to New York and join them. With all three brothers back together, they teamed up once again and found regular gigs painting murals in restaurants, and creating posters for food trucks and carts for various street vendors.