Paint the Van, Man!

I’ve seen Art Cars in print, on film, and in person, find them inspiring and have always admired their individual beauty. Since we began reducing our carbon imprint by living without a car 3 years ago, I’ve not really had a canvas on which to experiment in that direction, and I’ve had so many other things to keep me busy that I didn’t notice any lack. But it has always been in the back of my mind to paint a vehicle of some sort. The Partridge Family bus was colorful, but didn’t really flow–sure was a nice big canvas though!

So this summer when I received a phone call from a cheerful-voiced lady named Charlie, who’d been told I might know someone that could paint flowers on a camper, I was intrigued. I told her I can paint, but had no experience with painting on metal, or with automotive paints, and very limited air brush experience. I do have a lot of hand painting and design experience, and that’s what she wanted. She was providing her nephew and his friends with an older  camper in which to make a documentary about camping out and traveling in the west, and wanted it to be eye catching, and pretty, not just another old camper.  She would like flowers…we talked a while and she was happy to leave me to do something “colorful, with flowers, but not just a ’60s op-art daisy.” Best of all, she was fine with my doing it by hand and having it be a learning experience. The finish of the camper was already not pristine, and would surely be improved.

After a little research, Charlie sent me the set of 1-shot enamels with black, white, red, yellow and blue, plus a lime green, copper and gold. The range of color in 1-shots is great; the colors are bright and bold, easily mixed, are very glossy in the final finish and dried fast in Colorado. They clean up with mineral spirits, and worked best for me applied with sponge applicators instead of brushes. The sponges are not worth cleaning at less than 4o cents each; the mineral spirits was for the occasional drips. It REALLY helps to mask off everything below the painting area! Drop cloths and paper can be taped to the metal and help avoid getting paint where you don’t want it when painting the sides. I did this all outdoors in my driveway and still noticed the fumes, so I’d have to say work in great ventilation and in short periods of time, or wear a ventilator. Gorgeous finish quite often does equal seriously stinky.

I started with a paper design and cut some stencils. After finding the arrangement I liked, I drew around the stencils with a black sharpie marker. Then I applied Rustoleum primer. Although the 1-shot primer might be better, I didn’t have access to that, and research on line seemed I would be OK for our non-museum quality purposes. I had a short timeline, and shopped local. amazon’s price is better–but sometimes having it that day is worth a lot. I also like to shop local when I can. I really liked the primer color, and would have kept it as the basis for mehndi style (henna) designs, but Charlie said color, so color she got!

After 24 hours of drying, I applied the 1-shot enamels in the morning, before the sun got too hot, and then let it bake all day before applying the adjoining color areas the next day. It took several sessions, but I could have happily gone on and covered a lot more! However, we had travel booked, and so did the camper. I went on my way, and so did it–some day I hope to hear more and see the travel blog or video that documents where it goes from here on out.  Say “hi” from me, if you see it out there!