#11. Olga's 2008 Honda Fit

May 2009

What a joy to paint such a new car! The surface is so smooth and nice! When I clean up a drool or wipe off a mistake, only the 1-SHOT itself comes off -- not the paint underneath, as has happened with older, jury-rigged cars I've painted.

I loved buying the powdered aluminum for the glitter. I just like esoteric things. Who even knew you could buy such a thing? Not I. It turns out, though, that mixing the aluminum into the paint just gave it a metallic look, not the glittery look I was hoping for.

Andrea had given me a glitter gun, but in the first place, it required a pretty full hopper to use it and I wasn't willing to dump out that much of the expensive aluminum powder. In the second place, I wasn't sure it would blast into the paint hard enough to stick or if it would work when the surface was more vertical than horizontal, like the slanted hood of the car. In the end, my simple ignorance kept me from using any more glitter than I did.

I only used it on the name of the car, Lakshmi, which I'd written in Sanskrit. It was a reverse at first. That is, the name itself was the car's finish, surrounded by a dark magenta cloud formed by a loose sponge -- that egg-carton sponge people use on top of their mattresses. When I cleaned off the paper that was protecting the actual shape of the characters, I saw that I could easily (yay!) paint the insides lavender, so I did. And then I just took spoons full of glitter and dumped them onto the wet paint.

Well, that was a mistake, but not a fatal one. The result is that very little of the lavender shows through. When the car's in the shade, the name looks a bit muddy, with lavender and aluminum together. In the sun, though, the glitter's fabulous.

Next time, I'd use 1-SHOT clear-coat and fill it with the aluminum. Then I'd brush it on wherever I wanted glitter.

As it happens, Olga's delighted with just the name being glittery, so whew. The picture below shows "Lakshmi" before it got dry enough for me to wipe off the excess glitter. In fact, you know the nature of glitter: Olga will be finding it everywhere for months to come.

The next time I agree that type really needs to be used on a car, I wonder if I'll just charge a lot extra to buy vinyl from my sign-maker friend Gordy. As a typographer, I really hate seeing bad type. That "Lakshmi" was the size and font of a typewriter, but I blew it way, way up -- about 1100%.

With the other Sanskrit phrase, I was able to find it whole and in a nice script (Sanscript -- heh) online. I blew it up (with the help of Office Depot for eleven whole cents) and carefully cut it out. I put it on the car, using a glue stick so the fine edges would stay stuck. Then I used that loose sponge again and poofed a cloud of paint around the type. This is not for the faint-hearted. I let it spend the night outside, and then I went out and started picking the painted-over paper off the car. The paint certainly wasn't cured by then, but it was dry enough that I could soak the paper with water and peel it off that way. I used a mineral spirits-soaked Q-tip to clean up the type inside.

What else?

Well, Olga loves her car, which is great, of course. In fact, she and Liz are still raving to me about it whenever I talk to them. And why not? I still feel excited inside when I start off in my car each day, and especially when someone new sees it and is surprised and pleased by such a thing. I bet I'll never get tired of driving an art-car!

And yes. See the hyphen. I've decided that, from this day forth, I shall hyphenate the thing. Or maybe I should just rush the natural transition (like global warming) and jump to a non-hyphenated compound word: artcar. Yep. That's it. You just witnessed evolution!

#10. Liz's 2002 Nissan X-terra

January 2009

I gave the paint job to Liz for her seventy-fourth birthday. You'll agree with me that she hardly looks her age; hardly acts it, either.

She had a black-and-white tote that served as the model for the design on her SUV. It worked out great, didn't it? The biggest challenge on this car was getting a decent photo, but Lee Miller came through again.

#9. Jill's 2000 Mazda MPV

November 2008

Now this car's paint job was totally out of the world of my experience. Jill wanted it to be a home-school project, and that meant having her, her husband, and their six-year-old daughter in my house, my space, my ... ah ... Muse Room.

I don't even like my best friends to be in my house, so you can imagine the trauma. Plus: a kid. What do I know from kids?

And that's all I can say politely, but I will add that it wasn't exactly as horrid as I had feared, and Jill and I have met for social purposes only and it's been quite lovely. I still don't know about kids, but I do know I enjoy Riva's company. So there.

We decided to paint rough color blocks in checkerboard fashion on this white van, and then decorate in the colored and white boxes. It got to looking pretty chaotic, though, which is a reasonable result when two people who don't know what they're doing start doing it anyhow. The downbeat theory that Buddy Helm (http://www.buddyhelm.com/) was teaching me during drumming sessions at The Longhouse (http://www.longhouse.info/) saved the day.

As long as the downbeat is smacked out loud and clear and a tempo, anything goes. If you get lost while you're out there between downbeats, it's okay, because the whole group will beat the down. It's kind of like North on a compass.

So we got the idea to put my traditional "tribals" -- very basic mudcloth markings from Mali -- in black (as opposed to the very cheerful colors we were otherwise using) on the first, third, and fifth of five lines. That held everything together -- just like it does in music -- and the van looks pretty cool.

I rarely want to paint the wheels or rims or hubcaps or whatever those blasted things are called, but it worked really well on this car. We even took turns riding in my car next to their car so we could all see what the wheels look like at about 40mph. Faster than that, we think you should keep your eyes on the road.

I'm a solitary sort of person. I live alone. I work alone. My favorite pastimes are one-person gigs -- reading and writing -- so collaboration was a challenge. I told Jill that I wrote to Buddy about the downbeat working in paint, and she wanted to offer him photos of the car in exchange for drumming sessions. Oh. Apparently she thought the car was hers. Um, and apparently I thought the paint job was mine. So yeah. I learned a lot with this car, too.

#7. Banyan Scapes, Inc. Bug Truck

April 2008

You can't have foliage without bugs, so here's another Banyan Scapes Nursery truck, complete with Stefan, the owner, being all color-coordinated and everything. And yes, I know a peacock feather isn't a bug, but still ...

Too bad Mister Google didn't get the orientation right on photo #7, and too bad I can't fix it, either. Sigh.

#6. Banyan Scapes, Inc. Foliage Truck

April 2008

As you can see, I have no business lettering anything or trying to make realistic renderings. This was for a new nursery in Gulfport. I think it's great that the owner was willing to let an artist paint the truck instead of having a sign-maker do it all at his computer in vinyl ...not that there's anything wrong with that ...

#5. bien5, my second car, a 1990 Toyota Corolla

April 2007

I drove this poor thing naked for two months (er ... the car, not me). I just couldn't imagine how to paint on red. On the other hand, after so many years of driving an art car, I just hated not driving one, so I picked up my sponges and cracked open a can of 1-SHOT.

I'd been doing research for a belly dancer who later changed her mind. Still, that's how I got the paisleys on the driver side. I'm a major fan of spirals. In fact, if I'd done the passenger side first, the whole car would have had that design.

I'm still not happy with the roof or the hood, but my own car is usually a work in progress ... The tailgate was an African village but it was awful, and there's no way to take the paint off. I painted Grandma's Quilt on top of the village, though, so everything turned out okay.

I only named this car bien5 because art car show people really want names. I don't like to name things, especially inanimate things. But this worked out, since bien50 combines the phonetic spelling of my initials (bn) and my birth year -- and this was the fifth car I painted. I just call it "my car." I absolutely love it that bien is so good in Spanish and French.

Lee Miller took that great photo of my car and me up at the top.
Yay, Lee!

#4. "Stardust," Mike's 1988 Volvo GLE 740

March 2006

This was fun to paint. The general theme was Night Sky, but Mike also wanted that famous caveman scene, the DNA helix, the infinity symbol, and a lot of Native American symbols. I got to invent a different planet for each of the rims, and I used glow-in-the-dark paint for the comet on the roof.

#3. Jo's 1987 Dodge Dakota

Christmas 2005

This was a working truck for Jo's humane trapping business -- Dusk to Dawn, Critters Begone! Given the business title, we worked with opposites and with animals. Her grandmother was a Jain Buddhist, so we went with Indians both east and west, and male and female. For instance, the Native American Sky Snake, always a male, is on the back of the truck. There's a very feminine -- and eastern -- lotus on the top of the cab.

This might be my favorite so far.