#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.

#2. Fernando's 1989 Pontiac 6000 LE

Thanksgiving 2005

I learned a whole lot with this car. I learned that starting without a theme is a bad idea. I learned that painting on white is NOT the Oh goody! a fresh canvas experience you'd think it should be. I learned that people don't all see things the same way. These were all good lessons and I'm glad Fernando was gracious enough to help me learn them. Ahem.

#1. My First Art Car, a 1987 Toyota Cressida

July 2001?

My friend Beth and I think we've narrowed down the time to this date. I do remember it was the Fourth of July weekend when I started painting. Although I am perfectly old enough to have seen all the hippie cars and vans, I never saw a painted car until I saw Fishbone's in 2000, I think. It blew my hair back. I was in love.

Fishbone agreed to paint it, but he had a major procrastination problem (with which I identify). But boo hoo! I'm not an artist. I can't draw. I don't know how to hold a brush.

Then I saw a kid-sized table and chairs at Diana's house. She had painted them using sponges. Aha! I know how to handle a pair of scissors!

My friend Gordy's a signmaker and he told me all I needed to know about 1-SHOT, the lettering enamel that causes cancer in California.

Off I went, and off I still go.

I'd had the amazing opportunity to spend five weeks in Ghana, West Africa, in August of 1998. That experience pushed me over the edge into afrophilia -- a short trip -- as seen on that Cressida. Almost every drop of paint shows off an Adinkra symbol or Ashanti fabric. You can see other African influences on my things at
I can't imagine it ever leaving me.

That gye nyame on the hood is also on the hood of my 1990 Toyota Corolla. The symbol is called Except God or But God in Ghana. It was everywhere: on signs and fabrics and tile. I was told it refers to the idea that no one was around to see God create the world, and no one will be around to see the end of the world -- except God. That's from the mouths of people in Ghana. From websites comes a more concise if not more accurate version: Gye nyame represents the supremacy of God.

The design on the trunk is a stylized (of course) version of the Ghana flag.

Man, I loved that Cressida!