Pinstriping is an old school hot rod style that's become an art form all its own. At an event hosted by Bell Helmets, we got to watch master striper Skratch crank out eye popping custom-painted motorcycle helmets with nothing more than a brush, a rock-steady hand, and a laser-precise eye.
Perhaps most amazingly, Skratch's designs are all freestyle—nothing is planned in advance. "By the third line, I pretty much know how it's gonna turn out," he told me.
If I have an idea in my head I can just pop it right out and then be done with it. I've done things as goofy as, I saw some guy walking around that looked like Kenny Rogers, and I painted a helmet and I called it 'The Gambler.'
In his garage in Burbank, CA, Skratch builds, fabricates and restores custom cars and motorcycles, and he's partnered with Bell Helmets to design a series of motorcycle and bicycle helmets pairing traditional hot rod style with modern safety and protection.
But while he's striped everything from cars to guitars to custom surfboards, he says helmets are his preferred canvas:
I really enjoy doing helmet stuff because it's instant satisfaction. I can do this right now right here and in 10 minutes I'm done with it.
It's true—from start to finish, the blue-on-black lid he painted in front of me and Gizmodo camera wizard Michael Hession only took a scant 10 minutes. And Skratch was answering a thousand dumb questions from yours truly while he was painting. It didn't seem to mess up his focus one bit. Not that he never screws up:
I do make mistakes, but you can always lengthen the line. It's very seldom you can make it shorter. But two mistakes does make a right. If I have two mistakes on it at least they're on both sides, and then it looks symmetrical and it works.
Skratch's work refers back to hot rodding history, including painter and photographer Andy Southard Jr., but over 20 years his work has developed and morphed into his own signature style. He makes it look as easy and effortless as breathing.
It's not, believe me. As a teenager in the early 2000s, I read a "how to pinstripe" tutorial by Skratch in a hot rod magazine. Inspired, I bought some brushes and 1-Shot sign paint and attempted to stripe the back bumper of my mom's Jeep. Technically, I think I'm still grounded.
But man, now I wanna try my hand at it again.
Video by Michael Hession