Chilin’ is the coolest pinstriper living in California. We met at a vintage car show in Culver City where he was fearlessly painting participant’s cars and guitars without even breaking a sweat. A couple weeks later I ventured out to Pomona to check out his exhibit at gallery dba256, where he explained to me how he’s able to get perfectly symmetrical and straight lines. Welcome to a whole new world where One-Shot paint and Mack 00 brushes are king and everything else is just a toy!
HISTORY: Pin striping originated in the mid 1940′s from sign-painters that figured out a creative way to cover up scratches on their cars with thin stripes of vibrant paint. People started seeing these pin stripe designs and requesting them for their own vehicles since they looked so rad. It exists as one of the most underrated forms of American art, especially since it requires huge balls to paint a car that costs more than a house while its owner stares down your back ready to kill you if you mess up.
Daniel Rolnik: Do you sketch everything out before you paint?
Chilin’: Here and there. I’ll sketch things out with a pencil just as a pastime. Maybe I’ll pencil in something like a skull, but other than that I just draw a center line and go off from there.
DR: But then how do you make everything so symmetrical?
C: It’s all about eyeballing it. I usually do the left side first and then while I’m doing the right I side I look at the other side to compare.
DR: It’s all free form?
DR: How do you get that sparkly paint in the background of your work?
C: That’s actually metal-flake paint, but that just adds a backdrop to the pin striping.
DR: And you paint that before you do the pin striping?
C: Pin striping is the last thing you ever do. On a car you put it on top of the clear-coat. It’s automotive enamel so when it dries it still shines – you don’t need to coat it.
DR: So that’s a metal surface?
C: It’s aluminum, but you can paint with it on anything. The panels I paint on range from aluminum to plastic.
DR: Are you using special brushes as well?
C: The main one I use is called a “Mack-00”. It’s just for pin striping. I usually cut off the end of the handle because it gives me more control while I’m painting.
DR: You just use that one brush?
C: I change it up. I use Kafkas for my signature and sword brushes for striping. For long lines I learned that it’s easier to use a different kind of brush to make the lines go further and straighter.
DR: What brand of paint do you use?
C: One-Shot, it’s the main one that people use from back in the day. I use mineral spirits to reduce it because every color has a different consistency. Black and white are pretty fine, but the rest of the colors are a little more gooey.
DR: How did you create the water spots in the background of some of your pieces?
C: It’s really easy, it has to be enamel, and you use a spray can. You spray water droplets on the surface and then get enamel paint and glaze it on one side. The enamel is going to absorb the water and the paint. It then creates that cool effect.
DR: Did you start off painting with acrylic?
C: I was painting totally different things with acrylic when I was younger, but I always found myself doing thin lines so I thought I could try pin striping.
DR: What kind of images were you painting before?
C: Zombies and other crazy stuff, but now I’m definitely influenced by the car culture.
DR: Have you ever built a car?
C: My own, I have a 1950 Chevy business coupe and then I’m building a BSA Bobber style motorcycle. Mine’s only a 300cc motor but it’s a fast little bike for what it is.
DR: How the fuck do you know how to do that?
C: I don’t haha, I just do it. It takes a long time because my pin striping is my priority. I got the bike from a guy in Long Beach, it’s not painted yet but it looks nice like that. The motor is a BSA, I sent it off to a shop so they could look at it. I didn’t want to touch the motor work or transmission; otherwise I’d have springs flying everywhere.
DR: For pin striping is it all about the car shows and not galleries?
C: Yeah, I would say so. Most art that is influenced by car culture isn’t usually exhibited at a fine gallery. If you want to see great pin striping and other forms of automobile art, then head to your nearest car show. I have traveled all over Southern California, Vegas, and Arizona to pin stripe and to meet new artists.
DR: Why hasn’t pin striping hit galleries, it’s so dope?
C: That’s what I say. This is my first gallery I’ve done and at the VIP party so many people from the NHRA museum showed up and it turned out awesome. Pin striping is just one of those things you would often just see on cars, but now it’s everywhere. There is no limit to what canvas you can work on, and that’s a great thing because you can display different art forms at galleries.
DR: Do people ever have you paint their cars at the shows?
C: I pin stripe cars at shows all of the time. At a show in Culver City I started painting the scallops on a 60 Chevy. They just pulled up and asked if they could have it done by me and the rest of the pin stripers who are in the Pinstriping Circus. I also painted an electric guitar and motorcycle helmet there. They’re watching me the whole time too.
DR: Doesn’t that make you nervous?
C: Oh YEAH! I started shaking when I first started painting at the shows 3 years ago. You just get used to it though. Once in a while I’ll get the occasional jitters.
DR: Especially when you’re asked to paint an old car right?
C: Yeah, especially if it’s an old beautiful car with an expensive paint job. It’s just about putting your mind to it and blanking out the people. But now, I can paint while I’m talking to you. I didn’t learn from anybody, I taught myself in my garage, I didn’t ask anyone questions because I didn’t personally know anybody who did it. Looking back I should have checked it out online or got books, or even just ask around at car shows. I could’ve studied it would’ve been a lot easier than learning it all on my own. But hey, now I get to keep all of the credit, right?
DR: How long will the paint last on a car?
C: I’m not an expert, but I would say it’s good for at least 20-25 years. As long as you don’t buff over it, they can still wax it and wash over it.
DR: Are the car shows happening all the time?
C: Summertime is coming so there’ll be a lot. Come and get something done, we stripe cameras, cell phones, wallets, you name it, we do it all.
DR: What’s your favorite Ed Roth piece?
C: The funny cars, those are the best. I like the weird stuff.
DR: Are you part of a pin striping crew?
C: I’m part of Von Hotrod’s Pin Striping Circus. It’s a group of pin stripers that go to all the big car shows in Southern California. It’s a very talented group of artists who promote the art of hand painted pin striping.