Local painter’s work varies from fine art to highway lines

Steve Nunez has been painting for most of his life.

His work can be seen all over town, from the sign at The Filling Station to the lines on the road. Literally.

Nunez, 69, retired from Linn County in 2013, where he did road striping and signs for 17 years. He also worked for Foress Signs for 15 years.

Nunez moved to Jefferson from Bakersfield and graduated from Jefferson High School in 1966.

He went to a small art school in Portland.

“What really got me was the commercial end,” Nunez said. “I like lettering.”

In addition to signs and billboards, Nunez’s handiwork can be seen on commercial vehicles and hot rods.

While he enjoys that type of work, he wants to do more oil painting, now that he is retired.

The oils he has done over the years adorn the walls he shares with his wife Muriel.

The sunflower he painted before he went to Vietnam in 1970 has prominent space by the stairs.

Nunez served in the Air Force from 1970 to 1975.

He and Muriel met in 1976 in Alaska. Her father was in the military and her family is from Hawaii and California. Nunez was working at a sign shop there.

He has worked doing signage at a variety of businesses. In 1993, the couple lived in Arcadia, Calif. while he worked at the Santa Anita Race Track, painting signs.

They moved back to Oregon after a couple of years. One of their two sons lives in Albany and the other in Florence.

Even though Nunez is retired, his schedule is filled.

He recently finished a two-week long project – a mural on Full Gospel Church in Sweet Home.

He and Muriel have attended the church for three years. Steve Nunez and Pastor Thomas Grenz talked about the project last year.

Nunez brought it up again earlier this year.

“I said, let’s try to do something,” Nunez said. “That evening I came up with a drawing. When I was going to art school, I never liked coming up with something until I was under pressure. Then it was like ‘I’ve got to get it done.’”

Nunez wanted to frame the entryway for the church, he said. The finished piece gives the formerly plain concrete block building a decidedly dressed-up look. He worked on the mural for about eight hours each day for about a week, all with a small hand brush. The church paid for the materials but he donated his time.

“We couldn’t pay him what it’s worth,” said Debbie Grenz, Thomas Grenz’s wife. “It fits with the town.”

When he was done with the entryway, he painted some less elaborate flourishes on side of the building that faces Long Street.

While he was working on mural, Nunez was approached by another business owner and members of the city Beautification Committee for future projects.

He’s taking a little break after finishing the church mural, though he did sneak in some lettering for a logging truck.

Nunez said once he starts painting, it’s hard to stop.

“I think I am pretty happy with the way it came out,” he said of the church project. “You’re always critical of your own work.”