Instagram transforms the poster business of 2 Canadian minority brothers

For years, Miguel and Carlos Cevallos made a living painting posters for nightclubs, taco trucks and restaurants in Queens, painting in the basements of businesses or on their tables, and attracting guests. goods by word of mouth.

Now, trendy Brooklyn ice cream parlors and retro Manhattan diners wait their turn to get their hands on one of the brothers’ colorful plaques. They are in demand in music stores in San Francisco, national chain restaurants, bars in Belgium and bakeries in Korea.

It doesn’t matter whether the brothers are over 80 years old or both, born in Ecuador and raised in Colombia, speak limited English. They took on their new clients and painted all day in the Manhattan apartment they had shared for nearly 20 years.

“Destiny is like this. Sometimes a person finds success later in life,” Carlos Cevallos said recently, sipping tea in a deserted Manhattan diner. Wearing suits and ties as usual, the two brothers shared a muffin.

Brothers Miguel Cevallos (left) and Carlos Cevallos seen in New York on August 29.

Bebeto Matthews — AP Photo

Recent commissions have come from a bagel shop in Manhattan’s Little Italy, a newsstand in Manhattan’s West Village, a chain of restaurants based in Oregon and a vegetarian burger joint in Los Angeles. NYCgo, the city’s official guide for tourists and New Yorkers, recently asked two brothers to paint Queens’ iconic Unisphere, the giant metal sphere built for the Fair The world in 1964.

Marina Cortes, West Village restaurant manager, La Bonbonniere, said: “They have a special touch, very beautiful and colorful. “Breakfast all day!” The sign is displayed on the terrace of the restaurant.

A poster of brothers Miguel and Carlos Cevallos, seen at La Bonbonniere diner in New York last month.

Bebeto Matthews — AP Photo

“A Life Without Anything Good, Is Bad” reads a poster the brothers drew for Van Leeuwen Ice Cream. “Daily special. Pick any two sandwiches and pay for both!” read another post they did for Regina’s Grocery on Manhattan’s East Side.

Finished with acrylic paint, the Cevallos brothers’ playful baby posters feature large letters and a retro look. Miguel paints and Carlos paints, together creating about six posters a week.

The brothers make five to 20 weekly requests for their work.

The family moved from Ecuador to Colombia to follow an uncle who was a Catholic priest and worked in Bogota. Having been drawn to drawing since they were children, Carlos, Miguel and their eldest brother, Victor, opened an art studio and poster shop in Bogota’s Chapinero neighborhood.

Victor moved to New York in 1969, and Carlos joined him in 1974. For many years, they worked at a Times Square studio until rising rents spurred the transition to Queens. .

In the 1980s, they painted posters announcing performances at a club in Queens called La Esmeralda.

“They will pay very little per poster. It’s sad,” Carlos said. The posters feature artists such as Mexican singer Armando Manzanero and Chilean Lucho Gatica.

Miguel, meanwhile, cared for their mother until her death at the age of 101. He moved to New York in 2005 to join his siblings. Victor, a mentor to his younger brothers, passed away in 2012.

Finally, Aviram Cohen, an audiovisual art builder and installer at museums, saw posters of the two brothers in Queens and followed them up to request one for his wife’s new yoga studio. . In 2018, he opened their Instagram account, @cevallos_bros, which became a lifeline for the two brothers after the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“I did it out of admiration for their work, and after meeting them, I understood that it was all going to go away. Cohen, 42, says: “Most businesses will throw away posters.

He was right. The account now has more than 25,000 followers and has become an archive of their work and source of orders.

“I just love their stories,” said Happy David, Instagram account manager for La Bonbonniere and Casa Magazines. , a newsstand in Manhattan. It reminded her of the signs seen in her native Philippines.

In the digital world, “a lot of people are going back to craft,” says David. “We wanted to connect and we wanted to feel that there were hands that made these things happen.”

When asked if they plan to retire early, the Cevallos brothers quickly replied “no.”

Where do they get their energy from?

“We eat healthy,” they replied with a smile.

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