Contributed photo

Howard Elijah entered his airbrush piece titled “2020: Death of a Nation” in a contest and took top honors. 

By Barbie Porter


Howard Elijah is known in the area for creating eye-catching, unique artwork for logos, decals for vehicles and much more. He is also now a winner in the very competitive Air Stick Stencils art competition.

The 1982 Frazee High School graduate said the company runs a competition, usually once a month, with the prize being product from their shelves.

“They pick the subject, and this time it was skulls,” Elijah said. “I decided to enter a piece. Whoever gets the most likes wins, and I was very surprised that I won because there are many, many talented artists that entered.”

The work was to be done with an airbrush, and Elijah had created a skull on an 18-by-24-inch canvas awhile ago. The work was fit for the competition, but he had to think of a title for the piece. While giving it a once over, he examined the skull with its deep set eyes and American flag bandanna over its jaw and the words came. 

“I call it 2020: death of a nation,” he said. 

When Elijah was informed that he won the contest, he was provided with $100 to spend on projects from Air Stick Stencils.

“I went after the templates,” he said. “They have a lot of interesting textures and are useful in creating different things, some that I have never done before.”

Elijah explained the word template or stencil may conjure images of paint-by-number tools. He said the stencils he received were nothing like that. 

“They are freehand templates,” he said. “When doing a fire you might just use the edge to give the suggestion of the flame. Then, you go back in after the details.”

Elijah said air brush allows for a very delicate, smooth blend that may be difficult to achieve with a brush, at least without a lot of talent and skill. However, he still utilizes all mediums to create his work.

Elijah opened Signs by Howard in Detroit Lakes 36 years ago. While the son of Harold Elijah and the late Dennise Elijah had an artistic ability in high school, it took awhile for him to turn that talent into a career.

“After graduating I ping-ponged around doing various jobs,” he said. “I delivered furniture, was a DJ, worked in the refuge and road construction with my father.”

In time he was reminded about a sign lettering class at the technical college and decided it was an opportunity to see if he could make art a career.

“I never looked back,” he said.