Tuning-up the walls at Hot Rod Alley
Word got around on Water St. in Santa Cruz that my pal P-Ride and I were skulking down at Hot Rod Alley, painting burners behind Montgomery’s Barber Shop, and haunting Ramona’s chairs for a fresh cut. Sooner or Later hometown tattoo-sensation Ally Lee took notice of the new pieces, probably as she was pulling her chopped, high-gloss-black ’66 Chevelle into the shared parking-lot between the barber shop and her studio. Ally expressed some interest in a large-scale mural on the side of her shop to replace the dated piece of art that had languished there for years, its colors fading out in the strong afternoon sunshine that bakes and cracks the stucco finish.
Ramona, the owner of Montgomery’s, arranged a meeting of the minds at the barber-shop, where she pulled-up fashionably late in her lowered ’55 Cherry-red Chevy. Ally and Pride weren’t far behind; the four of us retired to the shop to discuss concept and timeline. Ramona and Ally have a shared love for Bay Area classic-car culture and a shared respect for graffiti-writers. We decided that a mural in the space should incorporate the heritage and iconography of hot-rods with the kinetic energy and vibrancy of calligraphic letters. Spray-painted depictions of the pair’s vintage rides would be represented on the sprawling wall that lines the alley…
When it came time to crush, my man went left and I went right. Pride arcs the letters of “Montgomery’s” artfully over the wall’s only window. His piece skillfully drops hooked-serifs at each end, and boasts a smooth, cosmic fill-in of soft-blue synapses and orange hexagonal honey-combs. This floater seems to stand upon its serifs, balancing in a galaxy of bright-green mist and clustered orbs. Homie keeps his three-dee like he keeps his haircut, combed-back to the center and slick as motor-oil.
I was stoked to paint the name-banner of the shop for InkMaster Ally Lee, who became nationally recognized on Spike TV’s reality-series about tattooists (season 3). A practitioner of photo-realism and a style-master in her own rite, Ally creates vivid, painterly tattoos. Check out her awesome work on Instagram @hotrodalleytattoo All things told, I put over forty hours into this monstrous, four hundred square-foot mural and, as per usual, I picked the hottest weeks of the year to paint it! The entire mural was painted freehand from photographic reference with low-pressure aerosol paint–no stencils, no projectors, no tricks, no worries. The chrome of Ramona’s Chevy was among my favorite details to paint, the reflection of the horizon stripes its center in black, while Belton’s transparent paints were applied as a top-coat to achieve highlights, shadows, and the reflection of a cloudless blue California sky. Similarly, the word “Alley” is set in a “Silverchrome” base-coat and then tweaked by transparent layers that lend a lacquered-shine to the already burnished under-painting.
The summer of 2018 marks my sixteenth year of painting in public. I love hearing comments from the peanut-gallery during the process, stopping to chat with passerby, and catching sideways smirks on the faces of women as they saunter to yoga-class next door. During the final day of painting, photographer Tarmo Hannula of Watsonville’s paper, the Register-Pajaronian (register-pajaronian.com), stopped by and took a couple of great shots while we talked about being east-coast expatriates in northern California. The culture of gratitude and patronage of the arts is strong is Santa Cruz; I was encouraged by all the folks who stopped to say “Thank you” while I was painting, and I owe a debt of gratitude to “Dennis”, the dude who shook all my cans for me while I was sweating bullets on a ladder in the midday heat; thanks buddy.
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