and eye coordination and lots of concentration and the public was hanging on every stroke, asking questions and pushing forward to get a better view of how these artists work. The public perception of pinstripers is that they are volatile artists ala Von Dutch. The pinstriper’s reunion is an effort to show the true side of these wonderful artists.
I walked around the tables and observed them at work, asking questions that they generously answered and traded business cards. Herb Martinez, Tom Kelly and Bob Spina were the elder statesmen of the group. They were there in the beginning with Von Dutch and Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. Herb has a book on pinstriping and has been airbrushing and sign painting since the 1960’s. Spina came all the way from Las Vegas. Ben Arstad came from Lynnwood, Washington. Mike Witt has been pinstriping for six years and is from Utah. Griffin Walker is a painter and has done pinstriping for a year and a half. He comes from Henderson Nevada. Sean Barton came from San Jose, California and has been striping for five years. Duke Voo Doo has been pinstriping for two years and comes from Seattle, Washington. Miz Raven hails from Fallbrook, California and has been pinstriping for two years. She is also an accomplished artist and her car portraits have an impressionist style to them. With raven-black hair and a love for the arts, she was one of the fan favorites. Alex Horta is from Torrance, California and has been striping for three years. Van Demon works out of Orange, California and has been a striper for nine years. He is also an artist, does designs on clothes and teaches pinstriping. Larry Bunderson comes from Sioux Falls, South Dakota and has been striping for 40 years. Wild Bill is an airbrusher, pinstriper, painter and also does lettering, graphics and flames. He comes from Riverside, California and has been an artist for thirty years. Another thirty year veteran is Jimmy C and he is an accomplished artist, sculptor, sign painter, airbrusher and illustrator. His artwork is lush, colorful and often fanciful.
As you may have noticed, some pinstripers use only an alias, while others use their full name. That is part of the mystique about pinstriping. The other attribute is that pinstripers do not focus just on striping. They are accomplished artists in many other fields. Many stripers got into pinstriping in order to save some money on their own hot rod and custom car projects and then fell in love with striping. Darrell ‘Fuzzybutt’ Roberts has been pinstriping for five years and does cartooning, body and face painting on anything that moves or is inanimate. He comes from DeLand, Florida. Ken ‘the pinstriper’ comes from Orange, California and learned the trade from Dave Whittle in the ‘70’s. Ken has been striping for over thirty years. Dave Whittle is another of the elder statesmen of the art of pinstriping. He started in the early 1960’s and has over forty-five years experience. Whittle comes from Norco, California. Robert Gagnon hails from San Diego, California and is an established artist as well as pinstriper, who has painted for over thirty years. Tom McWeeney is from Huntington Beach, California and has been striping for three years. He builds custom cars, paints and does art paintings. Larry and Trish Fairfield own Fairfield Pinstriping in Temecula, California. Larry has been a pinstriper for over forty years and is another veteran of the art. Sonny Boy hails from Sante Fe Springs, California and has been pinstriping for two years. Howie traveled to the reunion from Poughkeepsie, New York and first started to do pinstriping in 1956, an incredible fifty-one years. He does custom painting, gold leaf and race car lettering.
It’s amazing to watch these artists at work. They use special brushes and their thumb and fingers to shape the paint on the bristles into a fine, knife-like shape. Using one hand to steady their painting hand, they arch over the surface and draw an amazing free style line. They alternate straight lines with curves, then go back and create patterns of exquisite beauty. Sometimes a simple line is all that they feel is necessary to accentuate the object that they are painting. At other times they fill up the space with designs that spill out of their soul and you can see, for a second, the creative spark that ignites their passions. They especially admire artists who develop a new method that breaks new ground and relieves the boredom that comes with imitating old styles. Some of their work is inspired by the distant past and you can see Celtic circles mixed in with many other genres of art. Mitch Maciel likes to go by Mitch and has been striping for five years. His company is called MAS Line Design and he comes from Lawndale, California. Alan Johnson traveled from Blairstown, New Jersey to attend the reunion. He has been pinstriping for forty years. TBonez came from Livermore, California and has been striping for three years. He does ‘lowbrow’ art and photography as well as striping. Ron Myers came from Tulsa, Oklahoma and has been pinstriping for over fifty years. Kong is a San Diego, California artist who has been doing striping for six years. Jeff Styles goes by ‘Styles’ and hails from Lake Forest, California. He has been a pinstriper for twenty-eight years.
I returned to the two day reunion on Saturday, to talk to the pinstripers again and to bid on some of their fine artwork at the auction they hold to raise money for charitable causes. Billy F Gibbons, lead guitarist of the band ZZ Top was there, viewing the artwork and talking to Herb Martinez and other pinstripers. You could see the passion that Gibbons had for cars and great artwork. It was one artist to another. Gibbons is known for his music and his love of fine cars and is a fan favorite among hot rodders. I crowded around Gibbons hoping for an autograph from this popular and easy going man. He relishes contact with the public and his autographs are artistic designs that start out with his signature and end with a frenzied drawing that grows and grows in a crescendo much like his music. When he is finished with just one signature his hand and arm is literally exhausted, yet he signs another and another. His handlers are aware of his generous nature and they form a protective barrier, protecting him from crowds pushing in to see him. The handlers intervened firmly, but with no meanness intended, and pushed this writer away and so I returned to the auction in progress. The stage was filled with artwork to be auctioned off for charity. The vast display of pinstriping and painting was mesmerizing and I wanted one of these artworks for my own. Tentatively I raised my hand and bid on every one of the objects that came up for auction and just as firmly the crowd outbid me and left me behind. Darn, why didn’t I bring more cash along with me?
Von Hot Rod was a master auctioneer with a lilting cadence and he kept the crowd going. I figured that I had to get the first bid in and hope that no one else would be interested, but that strategy went nowhere and one by one the objects were sold. A painting by Miz Raven came up and it was obvious that there were only two bidders. I went as far as I could, looking around to see if there was a friend that I could tap for a loan and dejectedly watching as the other bidder ground me down to my last bid. He took the painting and I will have to wait until next year when I am more prepared. A pinstriped guitar went for $1400 and the crowd oohed and aahed. Von Hot Rod was into his stride now and the artwork began to be sold off. Desperation set in now. I had to get something. Finally, there were but a dozen items left and the crowd of eager bidders was dwindling down. Von Hot Rod pointed to an oil pan with pinstriping and started the bid. There wasn’t much interest now and I waited. A bidder put up his hand at $20 and Von Hot Rod asked for thirty, then with no takers, dropped the bid to twenty-five dollars. I raised my hand, and then the other bidder raised me. I stalled, waited, waited until the last second and then bid again. He pushed me to my limit, plus the lint in my pocket and my lucky dime. But he didn’t bid again and I won the prize. Winning isn’t everything. I learned a good lesson. Come with more money and bid on light, small things, because after carrying around heavy objects, the victory doesn’t seem so sweet. Boy how I wish I could have gotten that painting from Miz Raven. These were professional artists of the highest caliber and their work went below what they could command on the open market. If you come to the pinstriper’s auction next year, bring lots of money, for this writer isn’t going to let another opportunity like that go by again.
Gone Racin’ is at RNPARKS1@JUNO.COM.