Pinstripe Chris (Chris Dunlop), a 29 year old automotive design and render artist based out of Southern California, originally from Rockville, MD. is a multi-talented artist who produces some of the baddest pieces out there.
You may know Pinstripe Chris for his work with the “Sharpie” cars or if you have followed Chris for awhile now, you know his custom paint work out of a Rockville, MD. shop back in the day.
Pinstripe Chris starts his mornings with coffee and a sketch; to watch his sketches come alive is breathtaking. The level of detail with the shadows, reflections, and lighting makes you feel like you can jump into the canvas and drive away.
I specifically remember running into one of Chris’ creations a few years back at the East Coast Indoor Nationals, the “Sharpie Camaro”. I was amazed at the level of detail and to add to the amazement, it was all done with a Sharpie. Pinstripe Chris is one of the humblest guys out there in the scene. He is very interactive with his social media pages and he even goes as far as thanking you when sharing his work.
Pinstripe Chris was gracious enough to participate in a question and answer session with us and he gave us a glimpse into his life and how his inspiration to become an Artist came about. Check out what he had to say:
CZ: What inspired you to become an artist?
PC: I’ve always loved drawing, whether it’s on paper, on walls or on cars. My mom and sisters are all really creative too, so there was always something of a craft environment. Both early on and even now Steve Stanford and Chip Foose have been long time inspirations. I used to only get magazines if it had their artwork or build related articles in it. And it wasn’t only their cool artwork that was inspirational, it was also their ideas and concepts that would make me wonder where they came up with that.
CZ: At what age did you find yourself drawing and taking interest into what led you to what you do today?
PC: I can remember drawing as early as elementary school, and I still remember some of my crayon’s cars on the news print the school provided. Later in middle school (and eventually high school) the only things I wanted to draw were cars. I’ve been a Hot Wheels collector forever and I remember a lot of drawings being of the toys I had. I always had a lot of remote control cars as well as models that I’d like to make my own by usually ignoring directions, using odd paint ideas, or combining parts from other models.
CZ: What is your background? Is your artwork your full-time gig?
PC: Artwork is actually my full time gig and it’s my favorite thing to do. My background is actually in body & paint of cars. I did that for about 7 years before I got more focused on just the artwork side.
I started as a painters helper at a great collision shop back east, and at the time I was still drawing cars but had just started getting into airbrushing and pinstriping. I worked at a number of shops all over the country where I continued to learn to paint cars and hone in on artwork as well on the side. Later I was doing almost nothing but airbrushing and pinstriping, which I still really enjoy, but most of my time is spent on renderings.
CZ: Over the years you have perfected many different styles – pinstriping, airbrushing, sketching, renderings. What is your favorite method and why? What style do you feel is the hardest to perfect?
PC: Of the handful of art mediums I’m involved in, I really enjoy renderings the best. There’s always a new challenge (even if I’m challenging myself) and there’s also always new materials and techniques to try and mix together for different results. I use a heavy mix of materials on renderings as well as even selecting a certain paper depending on what I’m doing- it’s a lot of fun to learn all the new tech of papers and inks to come up with an effective finished piece. Final renderings for me involve the know-how from pinstriping, airbrushing, sketching, and painting to make clean artwork. Which is probably why I’d say it would be the most challenging as well because knowledge of 1 area isn’t enough to fill in all the blanks.
CZ: How did the Sharpie art cars come about? What gave you the idea to draw on a car and what were you feeling as you drew on a car for the first time?
PC: The Sharpie cars are so much fun to do and is something I’m asked to do a lot. The initial inspiration came from seeing the Sharpie Lamborghini that was done in Florida by another artist. I actually still remember when it debut and it was insanely awesome! I knew from seeing it right away that I wanted to at least have a go at it. Later that year I was flown to California to do some artwork on a customers car and he gave me free reign on the artwork. This was my opportunity to suggest doing the Sharpie Artwork, but incorporate design elements from the owner’s tattoos. He was all for it and it was a super exciting time for me. At that point I had spent a handful of years pinstriping and airbrushing already so I wasn’t really that nervous, just more excited than anything. There’s always a bit of over excitement in the first few minutes, then once the markers hit the surface the artwork just glides on, it’s an absolute blast.
CZ: We have to ask, does Sharpie send you a ton of products; your art puts them in a positive light, they must take care of you?
PC: I used to be sponsored by Sharpie a few years ago actually. For the last few years I’ve been using Paint Markers of different brands instead of Sharpies as I’ve learned a lot more about the materials and wanted to get better results. I still get to say it’s freehand Marker Art, but the owner gets to have an art piece that will last much much longer.
CZ: How many sharpies do you own and how often do you have to replace them?
PC: I have boxes and boxes of Sharpies. I use them to quickly sketch things and even in final artwork so I have quite a few. I’ve actually never run out of ink in any of their markers, but the nibs do wear down so I change out markers when the lines start changing shape based on wear.
CZ: Artists sometimes have a hidden signature within their artwork. Do you have a hidden signature?
PC: When I do the Marker Art Vehicles I often add or hide little car parts in the artwork. Many of the vehicles are for show and it gives the viewers something of a ‘Where’s Waldo’ feel when they can follow a free form design around to some smaller intentional elements. Pistons & spark plugs are among my favorite things to include; something that’s automotive and techy without getting overly specific so that (hopefully) everyone can enjoy it.
CZ: What is your inspiration these days for your art? What sets you in the mood?
PC: That’s a tricky one – I enjoy what I do so much anyways that it doesn’t take much to get the mood right. Most days I wake up, make coffee and start sketching right away actually – that way I can start fresh each day. Being in southern California I get to see a lot of really cool cars everyday and just to be in an environment where people are that enthusiastic about the cars in their life is amazing and inspirational.
CZ: What is your most memorable piece and why?
PC: Man that is a tricky one – I’ve gotten to be a part of so many memorable builds for other people that just doing the artwork is special to me. But if I had to choose one that stands out at the moment I would say the high shot of a black 63 Cadillac I recently did for a customer. I was doing 2 different angles on 2 different sheets of the Cadillac and wanted the 2nd angle to be really unique and show things about the car that go unnoticed from eye level. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to source reference images of the exact angle I wanted (which is often the case) so I used a few references to create a fresh shot. Unlike any other time with a lower shot, the high shot perspective is a different animal all together and took several sketches and refining to where it worked and looked good on paper. The piece is memorable to me because it took me out of my regular norm and gave me an opportunity to learn a lot more. Perspective is a fundamental thing and I like to skew it a little in my illustrations to keep things from looking too plain and uninteresting.
CZ: We know you get asked a lot and we have to ask here, what advice would you give other aspiring artists? Are there techniques or exercises they can practice to perfect a style?
PC: I think the advice I would give is to Practice like crazy. If you’re really into it (no matter what it is) it shouldn’t feel like punishment to want to spend time learning something on your own. I didn’t have any schooling for what I do now so I’m self reliant on my own practicing to help me stay sharp. Every morning I sketch something completely new and about half the time I just go ahead and render it as a warm up to my day and then I start on whatever work I have slated for the day. You never stop learning, so it’s unwise to think that there is a level you want to get to and stay at, always raise the bar, try new mediums, try new concepts, and show your passion for what you do thru your artwork. Think outside of the box, make your own box, don’t be afraid to do what hasn’t been done or what is hard.
CZ: What do you enjoy doing on your spare time away from art?
PC: I draw just as much in my ‘spare time’ as in any other time; I even have a sketchbook and markers next to my bed so I can draw while I’m winding down from drawing. I enjoy it that much! But I do have some other hobbies; I love skateboarding and I love the beach, and since we live at the beach I try to enjoy it as much as possible.
CZ: Being a car show website, we have to ask. What is the one car show / event you most look forward to attending?
PC: I really enjoy the Grand National Roadster Show here in California, as well as SEMA in Vegas, those two are certainly high up there on the list. I went to the LA Auto Show for the first time with some friends the end of last year and I got to say I really enjoyed that a lot. Yes I know it’s not a big custom car show, but what it does show is the direction of the manufactures which is a really unique perspective on the industry. It’s like a window into what people will be customizing in the next few years.
CZ: In our experience, the car show scene on the West Coast appears to be way different from the East Coast. Since you have lived in both regions, can you describe the difference and what you see?
PC: Far more roadsters in Southern California! And it’s easy to see why. There does seem to be a genuine difference in the build style from coast to coast as well as in the mid-west (I lived in St. Louis for a few years as well). More than the type of Custom, I would say how it’s done is a bit different on the west coast. There does seem to be a little more unique design incorporated into builds here. I think there are shops all over the country that do amazing work, but there seems to be a concentrated amount of meticulous builders, fabricators & painters here that are not looking to set trends, but end up doing so anyways.
CZ: What do you have in your garage? Do you plan on building a ride for yourself or do you have one in the works?
PC: I have a few neat cars; my daily driver is a 69 Volkswagen Roadster (literally has no top, and no glass) with a super sport windshield, shaved handles, no fenders, extended wheelbase, and 32 ford style headlights. It’s no show car, but it is so much fun to have as an everyday driver. I also have a 1961 Buick Electra 4 door/hardtop, and a 1965 Chevy Corvair. I like slightly offbeat cars; I’ve had so many cars and always managed to stay away from what’s currently popular so that I could enjoy something no one else (or not many others) have. All 3 that I currently have have some plans for customization, especially the VW as I would like it to ride bit better and have some more refined details about it.
CZ: What projects do you have coming up, anything you can give us a hint about?
PC: I always have a million things going on at once; this year’s SEMA builds I’m involved with, some “TV show things”, live artwork at shows… all mixed in with the daily artwork. The really exciting stuff I don’t get to talk about until it happens, but that’s part of the way it goes. I love to share everything I get to do with folks, but keeping things under wraps doesn’t change my excitement at all. There’s pretty much always something I’m working on that I don’t get to share until months later.
CZ: You are a known artist and celebrity yourself within the industry, has that led you to be able to hang out with other industry greats? If so, who and explain your experience?
PC: Well that’s very kind of you to say (I certainly don’t consider myself a celebrity) but I have gotten to work with and meet some really fantastic people. I met Chip Foose at a local art store actually, shortly after we moved here, and then did a build with him for SEMA 2013. I’ve gotten to meet and spend quite a bit of time with Pete Santini of Santini Autobody and Steve Stanford which are 2 of my most favorite people. I met Pete at his shop when I was visiting shops with my little portfolio of art the week we moved here, that same night I met Steve and I couldn’t believe I was getting to see these guys in person. I’ve also gotten to work with Steve Strope of Pure Vision Design, Bodie Stroud of BS Industries, and Max Fish of Bio Kustumz (who has become a really good personal friend of mine).
CZ: We want to thank Pinstripe Chris for this opportunity and for taking the time to sit down with us. You can follow Chris’ work via social media:
Pinstripe Chris also has original and signed and numbered limited prints for purchase via his website: http://www.pinstripechris.com/
All photos are Copyright © Pinstripe Chris. All Rights Reserved. Thank you Chris for sending these over to us.