Peter Kimack, a prolific San Francisco artist who hand painted many of the signs around town in a career spanning more than 60 years, which included restoration to the gold leafing of the Stanford Chapel dome following the 1989 earthquake, as well as, the publishing of four books of his works of art with Norfolk Press, passed away on August 4th 2015 at the age of 82 surrounded by his many friends and members of his family.
Peter was born on April 6, 1933 in Kankakee, Illinois. His single mother was an inmate of the Logan Correctional Center, and Pete was placed there as a child in a separate part of the facility. He never saw his mother until he attended her funeral when he was 7. Although Peter never committed a crime he eventually became an inmate at the state school, where he most likely would have remained for the duration of his life had it not been for an older sister who advocated for his release when he was 19.
Upon leaving the state school, Peter went into the air force where he was taught his life’s vocation of sign painting. He painted numbers and lettering on aircraft, vehicles, signage, and buildings while in the air force. He was stationed in Japan and saw action in Korea.
Following the Korean War, Peter moved to Chicago where he attended the Academy of Art School on the GI Bill. After graduating, he began to work in earnest as a sign painter in Chicago before relocating to San Francisco in the early 60’s, where the majority of his creative output occurred. He worked on many large pieces, suspended from ropes hundreds of feet in the air. He was one of the original “wall dogs,” the term applied to the men who hand painted large pieces of advertising art on the sides of buildings and billboards.
At the height of the psychedelic poster era, Mr. Kimack contributed a series of 23×29 inch prints. They were an incredibly detailed series of pen and ink drawings entitled Emotional Hieroglyphic Studies in a series of 7 drawings that sold for only a dollar a piece, but today are highly sought after, prized collectibles. Peter worked on many murals and signs around the Bay Area. His output was prolific, including subjects as diverse as the Flax art logo, many large advertising pieces, and a detailed mural of loss and redemption at Pet’s Rest pet cemetery in Colma, California.
He never stopped working, even up to his last days, taking up drawing on an electronic tablet and producing many new works in this medium.
Besides being a great artist, he was a wonderful human being. He adopted a family with two little girls and became an integral part of their lives. He taught them the color charts/theory and spent much time enriching their lives with his wonderful personality. He is truly missed. San Francisco will never be the same again without him.