It’s A Sign! No…It’s Spirit Man!

If you believe in signs, the fact that this man’s story came to me during the traditional Spirit Week (aka Homecoming)—an annual tradition in the United States, usually in late September or early October—is poetic.

Spirit Man, Painting Extraordinaire popped up on my social media timeline one day (Sept. 17th to be exact) and I had to learn more about him. Why is he beautifying neglected signs I thought? Beautification is always a good idea especially when it lifts the spirits of communities. Chicagoland has a rich urban planning history, just type Burnham Plan of Chicago and you will be astounded. A good friend of mine from college actually taught me about that one. Sadly the Burnham plan wasn’t seen to completion, but Donald Burnett is seeing through his vision. This sounds a lot like I’m talking about an urban planner isn’t it? Well, to me I think that Mr. Burnett (I should say Spirit Man) is doing something adjacent to an urban planner.

Why Is Beautification Important?

Saying it more succinctly than me, The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning Urban Design Strategy Report from May 2008 states the importance of beautifying in urban planning as such:

Urban design is where a city’s form and function converge. By implementing well- conceived design principles, communities are not only beautifying their streets, they are encouraging their neighborhoods to operate better, safer and more efficiently. As the Chicago Region anticipates its nearly 3 million new residents, urban design will be increasingly important. The sooner our public, private and non-profit sectors start working together to this end – under a single community vision – the better our region will be in 2040 and beyond.

Beautifying though is costly for towns, cities, counties, countries, etc. and right now many projects are on pause in cities and towns across the globe. But there’s an opportunity during this quarantine year for kindhearted people, who also happen to be small businesses, to get in front of the right people, and that’s by applying their talents where they are needed most. That’s what Spirit Man has been called to do. Painting and design are his vocation after all, and the word vocation itself comes from the word calling. But let him tell you in his own words about this calling, because it goes way back, and it just might inspire you to pick up a brush or whatever it is that you love to do.

Meet Donald Burnett—Chicago Renaissance Man, Graphic Artist of Commercial Sign Painting, Custom Caps, Custom Merchandise, etc.

Spirit Man In His Own Words

What inspired you to paint and refresh the Edgewater sign?

The thing that inspired me to paint and refresh the sign at Edgewater Walk Apartments was it was not a great representation of the complex. The complex itself was a nice looking, well-kept place, and the apartments were even nicer inside. But the signs on the outside around the building were dingy, outdated, drab, and weather beaten. I was looking for a job as a painter, and decided to just paint it [the sign] and hopde that the owners would see me as a creative and giving person—but in this unfair world sometimes people are judged not on their talents, and abilities, but on race, color, and everything that doesn’t really matter.

When did you first start to develop a passion for what you’re doing now?

When I was a young boy, maybe around five years old, my mother Yvonne Burnett noticed that I had a passion for drawing and creating pieces of art. So she began to bring home blank pieces of paper, old comic books of all kind, and gave them to me. And I kept on drawing and I realized that I had a talent in drawing. If you draw, you will paint—it’s just the evolutino of art today. I love to create and add color to the world. Advertising is in my soul.

How did (your business) start?

The truth is, it just started three weeks ago. Me and my friend were riding around looking for a one room apartment for me to live in and she noticed that there were a lot of neglected signs around the world. And my friend said to me “you could be the one to put color back into all these signs.” After a minute of reflection I said, “yeah, I can do that!” Then she said, “you could spruce it up,” and I said “yes, spruce it up!” The name Spruce It Up was born. One word, three syllables. Sprucing things up I think is my mission in life—colorizing the world. The world is not just black and white, it’s made with all the colors of the rainbow.

What’s something interesting that has happened lately to you and/or your business?

Two people by the name of Laura and Peter Stevens took time out of their really busy day to reach out and take it upon themselves to take our picture and write such a beautiful story and post it on Facebook for the world to see.

Out of their unselfish act and unconditional love for two strangers, no only have I been blessed with more work than I could ever have thought—I have met so many new people of all races, creeds, and color. I’m grateful for Laura and Peter who were the spark that ignited Spruce It Up.

What’s the driving force behind what you do?

The driving force behind what I do is legacy. Leaving behind a positive mark on this world and having enough equity to take care of myself and my grandkids, if need be.

Walk me through something you do and/or your business offers?

The thing that Spruce It Up offers is professionalism, trust, integrity, and kindness with style.

Anything worth doing is worth doing great.

Donald Burnett (Spruce It Up)

What get’s you really excited, that makes what you do a joy to work?

The thing that gets me excited about each job is the challenge. The challenge of bringing smiles to the faces of whoever sees my work. I always wanna do the best job that I can. I work with the approval of all my clients no matter how much they are paying me. And that brings me joy.

What are some future plans for your business?

My future plans for this company is to have more than enough work that I can give someone an opportunity to gain experience to become a better painter as well. So here she can do what God has called them to do too.

Where did you get your training for what you do?

I would like to say school, but that’s not it. I got my training from life. From making mistakes, trial and error. God gave me the ability, he gave me the talent, he gave me the opportunity, and I don’t wanna waste them.

What or who are your influences?

My influences are anybody that wakes up every morning and gets out of bed, and tries his hardest to be productive, never gives up—even in the face of adversity. Those people are the ones I’m influenced by.

How many employees do you have? Or are you independent?

I’m independent for now, and the only one that I have helping me is the most amazing person that I could have ever seen coming. And her name is Rachel McCain. Who from the beginning of our friendship has shown me that she is a go-getter and that she has my back. And she motivates me to be the best that I can be. Thank you Rachel McCain

What’s the #1 most asked question have people been asking you?

The one thing that people ask me about my work is, “How did you do that?” And my answer is always the same—Without God, nothing is possible. With God all things are possible. All the glory goes to God.

Is there anything else that I haven’t asked you that you would like people to know about your business?

The thing that I want people to know about my business is that I am proud of it. I want my company to be a blessing to everyone.

Sky’s The Limit For This Spirit

Whether its a town, an apartment complex, or a business itself, nothing brings in new customers like a fresh and welcoming display. As a creative myself who designs websites (which are digital signs if you think about it) among other things, I know how important looks are to overall marketing strategy. So if you’re looking for someone to spruce up a sign of yours Spirit Man is your man. But there’s more!

He also creates cool custom hats and other merchandise. Just look at how creative he is from this screenshot of some of the hats he has designed. Could Spirit Man be like the next Ed Hardy? I can’t wait to see what happens for him. Don’s got a great spirit and I love how he is trying to lift other people’s spirits too.

Things like a sign are a beacon of sorts in my opinion. Just look at Tinley Park, Lockport, or any of the other towns that have been doing rebrands in these last few years. Something as simple as a fresh coat of paint can do wonders for morale and spirit, not to mention encourage a sense of shared identity and community. We’ve heard it time and again from stylists and psychologists, that how you look influences how you feel about yourself. The same goes for the way your home looks and the place you live. I know that when I see my neighborhood looking nice it makes me feel a sense of pride, and it makes me feel like inviting friends over more.

What about you? Does how your surroundings look influence how you feel? Leave your thoughts below in the comments section.

Check out Spirit Man on Social Media Here:




  1. I’m so very proud of my brother and all God has in store for him.His energetic spirit and personality along with his great talent is what I have always admired about him.Even through the rough patches in life he has managed to stick his artistic journey out.There is joy after the journey
    Love you ,Proud of you,and will always support you.
    Sincerely your lil sister.

  2. I am so very proud of Donald. He has been a struggling artist for many years. Thank the Good Lord for his talent. I pray that the opportunities to come will be limitless. Congrats my friend continue to show them what you working with.

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