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This is tough time for my fellow artists for sure.  I’ve just about seen it all from my humble beginning in my parents tiny basement to owning my own shop and having employees.

I got my start in the sign business painting MDO signs and lettering trucks and even did a little pin striping on the side.  after a couple of years I had a customer tell me “you need to paint motorcycles in Laconia”   The Laconia NH motorcycle rally is one of the oldest in the country, I knew nothing about working out on the road but it sounded like fun so i agreed to check it out.  I found out what I needed to work the rally , I needed a license from the state , check, needed supplies, Check, needed a place to work……..uh? ok… where do the pin stripers work?   Now I needed to do some  recon for a good place to set up!  so i headed up to where the rally took place and drove around, asked questions and finally found a place to work.  I made a deal with the owner of a motel and was to set up in his parking lot for the rally.

Now at the time I had never worked outdoors and didn’t realize that I’d need a tent to work out of DUH!   so I had to set up with a card table my paint and brush box little banner and photo album…….minus a tent, in the sun, …in the wind….with no TENT!  AND did I mention I was on a budget and I had to sleep there in the parking lot in my 72 Nova?  talk about  working in the trenches!  but it all worked out!  i made more that weekend than I had the previous month painting signs!  I liked this!   Now, I had to buy a tent!     welcome to road doggin’!  when i was there painting and getting one hell of a sunburn, because I  HAD NO TENT!  I was invited to attend other rallies around New England.  there are several all over the the country all summer but I had to learn to pick and choose which ones where worth going to and which ones would cost you more to attend than I’d make.

it was hard work, the traveling sucked till you got there and then  you had to drive all the way back.   but it was fun , you got to see the country and meet all kinds of people, the good the bad and the ….strange! hahaha    I have met some life long friends out on the road.   it was working on the rally circuit where I learned to work fast!  time was money out there and the faster you could get this job done well and get paid for it the sooner the next customer could come in.  my tent was like a Mcdonalds drive thru!

after working on the road for several years I left the circuit to pursue a career in airbrushing! so I folded up the tent and got a shop. it was nice to not be working out in the heat, rain , wind, and drunks! lol

I have to tell you I love woking in my own shop surrounded by some really cool artwork ! I have television, food , music, a paint booth  , comfortable couches and more.  it really feels like I’m working at home here.   I love what I do so much that it doesn’t feel like a job and I wouldn’t want to trade it for anything.    I sometimes miss being a road dog, traveling to tourist locations, seeing new sights but I get over it soon enough.

I learned a lot about work, gained speed, and learned a lot about people in general.  it was hard work, good money, and was full of adventure  and I wouldn’t go back if you asked me to!  But I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.

Just a few days ago I was confronted with a question from somebody on my KILLERPAINT Facebook page. Well, it wasn’t really a question it was more like a sideways statement or accusation.  You see here’s the deal-io.  I put up a post to my fans about me doing affordable custom one off pieces of art on aluminum panels to see if they’d be interested in purchasing them.

Well this one guy comes on there and say’s “Mike must be hard up or work must be slow for him to be doing this”  and that kind of pissed me off !    who is this guy to be saying such a thing?  was he another painter? a fan? who?   and why would he say such a thing?  granted it has effected my automotive custom business but it hasn’t touched my fine art business.  One door closes and another one opens my grandmother used to say!

Lets be honest, this nasty economy has taken a giant bite out of everybody who is in this businesses ass!  and the same goes for me here! I’m being honest here. BUT I am not curling up and going away.  NOPE!    I have lots of avenues to explore to fill in the void in the automotive custom trade.  I’ve started my new SKELEBRITIES  brand of fine art, I’ve made partners with toy companies, as well as offering my fans original pieces of artwork that they can own.   I’m also working with somebody in the funeral business to custom paint and personalize final rest items.

you see I’m not JUST a car painter and I’m not JUST a motorcycle artist NO!  I’m an artist that can apply my work to many items as well as license original artwork on many items from T-shirts to die cast cars to figurines and much much more.

people are frustrated that their business is lacking and I totally understand but always remember this,  “Whenever you point your finger at someone there’s ALWAYS three fingers pointing back at you!”

to survive this mess you all have to be sharks, always moving. keep looking for new opportunities , create new things.   When I was busy painting everything that moved I didn’t have the time to develop the ideas  I had. now, I have more time to explore them plain and simple!

 

  I know I’ve built this huge reputation for being the fire guy but let me tell you I have not always been on the friendly side of the flames!   let me start from the beginning.     It all started when i was about 12 years old in my dad’s workshop in the basement.  it was the day before Halloween, my brother Bob and I were going through my dads taxidermy stuff to try to make our costumes. no store-bought costumes for us! NO WAY.

I wanted to be the Wolf Man, so Bob decided to help me make my costume.  I found some flax ( flax is a hair like substance that is mad from some plant and is tan in color. dad used it in his bird taxidermy)  now I had the hair I had to figure out how to attach it to my face :) .  glue was out of the question, the next thing I ran across was a roll of window putty, perfect!  I took some of the putty and put some  across my cheek bones, chin, upper lip, forehead and side burns.  next took handfuls of the long flax material and pressed it into the putty, longer on the sides and chin, mustache and eyebrows and really long on the forehead and sideburns! next i took my dads camo makeup and finished coloring my exposed shin with brown color.  I took my plastic vampire teeth and broke the top from the bottom and put the top part upside down on my lower teeth to complete my WOLFMAN look.  it looked awesome to us!  we were laughing and thinking we were sooooo cool!  now we had to make it look REALLY cool and scary so I took a flashlight while Bob  shut the lights.  I took my mom’s double-sided makeup mirror ( you know the kind that has a side thats normal and the other side has a magnifying side?)  I flipped the mirror to the magnified side and put the flashlight under my chin and made my best wolfman faces and sounds……too COOL man!  it was then my brother got the bright idea to take a candle to make it look even spookier!  me being a retard I agreed to do it…..he lit the candle and put it under my chin in the darkness of the basement I looked pretty damned spooky in the mirror OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHH spooky, then bob thought it would look even scarier if he came closer to my face with the candle! uh yeah!!!!11

 as he got closer to my face with the candle the flame connected with the flax beard!  the flax had been drying since , oh, I don’t know , Egyptian times !!!! and all I could see in the mirror was the wolfman going up in a flash! have you ever seen flash paper the magicians use???? yeah, like that!  only after the screaming was over and my brother found something to put my face out that the real burning happened!  the putty that I used to hold the flax to my face was….uh, FLAMABLE! yeah!   it was REALLY flammable!  in fact it was bubbling like the cheese on a freshly baked pizza!   Then my ass got beat by my dad for almost setting the house on fire!

it was a couple of years later when the flame master struck again…….. when we were kids we made these cannons out of  soup cans, we would take about 5 soup cans that had the tops and bottoms cut out of them we taped them together with duct tape  to make a tube, then we’d attach a pop can at the bottom with the open part to the inside. then we put a tiny nail hole in the bottom of the can just opposite of the opening.   next we all bought the family sized can of zippo lighter fluid and put a couple of squeezes of fluid in the nail hole.  then you shake it up till you couldn’t hear the fluid anymore and it was now in a gas form. then you light a match and touch it to the hole and then BOOM! the cannon was supposed to go off, NOT!  so what did I do? yup! MORE FLUID!  shake it up, light the match, touch it to the hole…..nothing! grrrrr! more fluid!  shake, touch the match……..still nothing!   by now all my friends cannons have worked without a hitch, mine not so much.   now there I was with what amounted to a bomb in my hand.  I wanted to light this thing  bad!  so I did what any kid would do! I lit a match and dumped it down the front of the cannon. hehehe!  still I got nothing!  I repeated this maneuver a couple more times and got the same results every time.  by now my friends had backed away from me by about 50 yds! hahahaha  pussies!     I couldn’t believe that damn thing hadn’t gone off!!   so there I was holding this bomb in my hand , then I did something that at the time didn’t seem like such a stupid idea at the time! I looked down the front of the cannon! and  there in the very bottom of the pop can was the smoldering head of the last match I dumped in there. it was at that exact moment in time that my brain separated from my body!  I thought I’d just blow out the smoking match head…………….and in slow motion I filled my lungs with air and exhaled down the length of the tube until the air hit the smoldering match head and then I saw this little red glow and then the match got the air it was looking for and I think it was at that exact moment my brain reconnected with my body and I realized just what I had done but it was too late!  as my  eyes widened in shock at my stupidity I saw the flash!  I couldn’t move fast enough! BOOM !!!!!!!!!!!!!  the next thing I remember was the smell of burnt hair and sound of running feet of my friends to my side!  by the grace of god I wasn’t blinded or worse!     I didn’t have any better luck with fireworks either!    a few years ago I decided I was gonna give the kids a 4th of July to remember!   Went down to the fireworks store on the reservation called BOOM TOWN,   and spent about $600 bucks on all the coolest fireworks, I had a huge box of every imaginable thing you could think of from jumping jacks to the big roll of über firecrackers, sky rockets, mortars etc!

everything was going great till the parachute incident!  one of the rocket deals had the fireworks float to the ground with the flares  attached to little parachutes. well, the parachutes were floating everywhere  and I didn’t notice the one stray chute that floated into my huge box of fireworks!!!!!  shit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   emediatly it looked like world war three with fireworks blowing everywhere!  they were bouncing off the house and blowing up the kids and Nic went running for cover in the house while I tried to keep the place from burning to the ground!  it all lasted about 5 minutes but felt like it lasted an hour!   hahahahaha! oh well, I guess I should stick to just painting fire huh?    Happy 4th everybody! be safe!

A WORK OF HEART

That title describes my next blog perfectly.   I want to tell you about my good friend Phil Harris.   Phil, as most of you know was one of the captains on The Discovery channel’s Mega Hit show  “THE DEADLIEST CATCH”.  He was the captain of the CORNELIA MARIE.      I had wanted to meet him for a while and could never seem to find him even though he (as I found out later) lived about 5 miles from my shop!    My chance to meet him finally came one day curiously enough through my work.  I was introduced to him by the then sales manager of a local Harley Davidson shop.        He came to my shop to talk about doing a mural job on his TITAN motorcycle chopper.  I was at first a little star struck but shortly after that started to think of him only as  “Phil”  in fact, we became so close as friends I actually felt like I knew him my whole life.  we soon were flipping each other shit and joking and laughing all the time. whenever he would get tired of all the attention he would come and hide at the shop and visit us. Nic especially loved him. she said Phil reminded her of her dad who she doesn’t get to see as much as she’d like because he lives so far away. when Phil would come in she would get  her ” fix” of stand-in  dad love.  he would come in and say “How’s it goin’ darlin?” smile and give her a huge bear hug and chat for a while.  he was always like a cat on a frying pan though. hardly ever sitting still, drinking one of our energy drinks and smoking a cigarette! Phil was the ONLY person allowed to smoke in my shop. he would always go outside to smoke when he was smoking more than usual and if you were in a conversation with him you had to follow him outside to continue it!   Phil had a heart as big as the Bearing Sea.  he would constantly bring me projects to paint. his bike, corvette, big truck, even his R/C boat he would run on Lake Conner.  I also did his dads 56 pickup.  he  even was working with Discovery to get me my own show!  at his memorial I can’t count how many people told me he would talk about me all the time.  “he really loved you guys” they would say. Phil wanted his bike to have a pirate theme but in his words he wanted his pirate to look like a,  “real “pirate not some fucking pretty boy hollywood pirate!”  that statement was followed by his all to familiar gravelly laugh! Muhahhaahaha!   he left the details up to me and when the time came to check my progress he stopped in. but , not just him! no!   it was Phil, Josh, Jake, their sister, Scotty Hilstrand ( from the TIME BANDIT), and his friend!  holy crap!   what an enterage.   when they walked into the booth and saw the parts their eyes bulged out of there heads and Phil had a smile from ear to ear!  there was a whole lot of HOLY F&%#’s going off around the booth.  pointing and smiling hahahaha, I love that part!   to say he was thrilled is an understatement! and when he discovered the salty old pirate with the knife scar across his face and nose complete with a cataract in one eye and a gold earing he lost it!   THAT’S ……FUCKING……PERFECT!!!!!!!!!!!!  “It’s like you read my mind and put it on that tank!” ” you little shit! Muhahaha!  come here!”   he then shook my hand and gave me a huge hug.    SO you like it? I said?  hahahaha!  he just said I don’t know how you did that!  that’s crazy!    and that was the way it was with Phil from the time I met him till the end.  

I told people that these guys aren’t just characters on a show we love to watch, they’re our friends!  and if anything happened to them it would be way more personal to us!  I always worried that they would sink to the bottom of the cold ocean. what a terrible way to go! not only him but his crew and especially his two sons.

when he would get ready to leave for the new Crabbing season he would always stop by and say goodbye.  we missed seeing him and hearing from him when they where out at sea.  we worried about them too.

When he was leaving this season I made sure that I called him while he was on his way to the airport and wished him luck and told him to be careful out there and that we would see him when he got back.   he said  “OK Buddy!”  Little did I know those would be the last words I’d  ever hear him say.  While off loading crab Phil suffered a massive stroke. it was Josh who found him on the floor of his state room.  11 long hours later the life flight came to fly him to Ankorage.  the doctors put him in an induced comma to relieve the pressure on his brain, 4 days later they brought him out of it. the doctors couldn’t believe how well he was doing.  he even was able to watch the Super Bowl.  he was supposed to be moved to Seattle for recovery.

I was the one who got the news that day. it came from an unlikely source, my friend at the welding shop next door.  Shawn came in and said “sorry to hear about Phil”   I said “what? ‘he’s in recovery and doing ok!”   “No Mike, I just got a call from my son a few minutes ago, he spoke directly with Jake, it’s true”    Oh My god!   this can’t be true I thought!   Nic was on the phone with a customer and I tried to get her off the phone to tell her.   I wasn’t good, let me tell you!      I actually found out before Grant, his own father!  I had to tell him!  that was terrible!

  after all the shock of the news wore off a bit I got a phone call from the family.  It was Phil’s best friend Dan who was with him when he died.    “Mike,  you said if there was anything you could do for the family we should just ask”.   “what can I do? ” I asked.    “we want you to paint Phil’s urns.” was the answer. “We want you paint two Harley Sportster tanks for him, Discovery wants to film it.”  I was shocked! this is a huge deal for Phil’s family and myself.  ” I would be honored to do it” I said.     To tell you the truth the filming part really didn’t mean much to me but the chance to honor my friend did.    I looked around for some used sporty tanks but could only find “Coffin Tanks”  tanks shaped like old fashion coffins.   Not gonna cut it. too creepy for me.  it was then I remembered I had a set of older Harley tanks in my loft storage and they where already in primer!  so I went upstairs to get them down .    they are the older split type tanks with the typical teardrop shape to them. flat on the bottom and rounded on the front tapering down to the rear.  they have mounting rings on the front sides of the tank.

when I found the tanks I picked both of them up with my right hand  from the bottom rings at he same time. when I lifted them up the flat bottoms came together with a clang!  I looked at them and got goosebumps all over my arms and a chill up my spine!  When the two tanks came together they formed a perfect heart!    Holy shit!  I immediately knew what I wanted to do!     Phil’s favorite color was red, perfect for the heart shaped urns!    The whole reason  for the two tanks was that half his ashes would be buried with his mother, and the other half would be brought up the the Bearing Sea at the opening of crab season and literally Blown Up! spreading his ashes over the water!  ( this is still being debated over).

So armed with this new inspiration I knew exactly what I was going to paint! on the left half of the heart I painted Phil smiling while he was signing autographs. I wanted this half to be the Land lubber Phil and Phil the son and father.  I had him riding his Titan motorcycle, Josh, Jake,and Grant.  I put his little Yorkie Terrier “gizmo” on there as well.  He loved black jack and craps, so I painted cards and dice. he also was a QVC addict! hahaha buying Carson city silver dollars and gems!   so on they went.  on the right tank I painted Phil the crab boat captain. all serious with a gruff expression and folded arms. above him was the Cornelia Marie fighting a stormy sea. I also put an Icon of Dutch Harbor on there as well, the russian orthodox church complete with a bald eagle perched on the cross above the domed roof.  all the artwork was done monochromatic tone on tone all in various shades of red. and as an added touch to salute my good friends passing, his life and friendship I painted a king crab leg and claw busting through the tank holding up a “duckfart”  as a toast from the Bearing sea and the crabs he searched for his whole life.( this is for those of you who don’t follow the show, is a drink all the captains toast the upcoming and closing of crab season with. It is famous up there in Dutch. its Bailey’s Irish Cream, Kahlua, and Crown Royal)   This is my favorite part of the tanks artwork!  on the left side I painted a ribbon the read “Swift Journey”on the left side, and “Safe Passage”  (a nautical term) on the right side.

  when the two pieces come together the arwork forms everything that was Phil Harris and it flows seamlessly from the left to the right.   I have to tell you I worked hard on the tanks for two days straight late into the night.  the artwork just poured from my hands and I’m not ashamed to say tears flowed from my eyes at the same time.  I was without a doubt the hardest thing I ever had to do. When I was finished I just looked at the tanks, I wondered how Phil would have like them then I thought the words ” Fucking perfect” just what Phil would have said.  when the family saw the tanks I got the same jaw dropping reaction as before minus the swearing and smiles. the look in Josh and Jake’s eyes said it all.    I had the boys sign the tank by their pictures.  Nic put her own personal message to her friend Phil.  ” Phil , you will always have a special place in my heart! XOXO  She misses him terribly and she misses his hugs.   I also wrote ” Phil thanks for the friendship, I’ll miss you! ”  everytime I hear a harley pull up to the shop with the radio blairing I think , Oh, Phils here….then I remember he won’t be coming through that door again. We do however get to see the boys and Grant from time to time. and Dan pops in for a visit to see how things are going too.

watching the whole drama unfold lately on the show is hard to watch but I can’t help but watch.   I know what’s coming and it’s gonna be tough for a lot of fans to see.   remember Phil.  we were so lucky to have him in our lives!   rest in peace  Swift Journey,  Safe Passage my friend. 

I always worry about doing work for finicky customers or high-profile people I haven’t gotten to know yet.  just recently I was asked to “do my thang” on actor Johnny Depp’s” 51 Merc being built by BS Industries in Burbank ,Ca.    what a freaking ordeal this was!  let me  start at the beginning.    I was told by my producer that they were going to be doing a show involving Johnny Depp’s Merc.  I said   “I HAVE to get in on that build! and lo and behold I was in!    SWEET!      now came the hard part, what to do on his car?   I was told he said i could paint anything i wanted on it.  great! now what?  we all put our heads together and did online research  and came up with that he is part native american, I believe Apache, he likes things in 3’s ie: triangles or things in multiples of 3’s etc.  AND, he has a moustache and beard collection ………! 

ok, now what do I do with that information??    I decided that the beard and moustache thing was useless to me and trew that out of the mix.  I took everything else and came up with a piece for the trunk.      the car was going to be painted dark DARK green almost black.  the paint had green pearl in the black basecoat and then was given a couple coats of Kandy Organic Green to intensify the color.  in the shade or in low light situations  the car looks black but in the sun the car reflects green on all the high points.   the plan was to put a long narrow band of green fire off the front wheels flowing all the way back over the rear fender skirts. this would go great with the chopped top bad ass look the car already has.    on the trunk I designed an apache skull and headband with three eagle feathers hanging from the side. behind the skull I painted the letters JD in a way that they looked like they were chipped from flint and when the letters were together they made a triangular shape similar to an arrow head.  behind that I did spread eagle wings with green fire flowing off of them up the center of the trunk.

sounds cool huh? it looks sweet!   but thats not the saga I was talking about.    Uh, No!                    so there I was in Burbank Ca. at BS Industries hot rod shop waiting to get my eyes on the project of the day. after a couple of hours Bodie Stroud the owner of the shop pulled up with the rolling chassis of the Merc directly from the paint shop.  the car was pulled into the shop and unloaded from the trailer.  I was eyeballing it to fine tune my design.   Bodie was mic’ed up and they began to film his interviews about the build, Johnny’s expectations of the completed project, he even mentioned what I was going to be doing on the car.  this all takes time to do because they do things multiple times to assure they have enough footage so the editors have enough to work with for the final cut.

so there I was waiting……watching the clock tic away.  I only had today to paint this car because filming ended on this episode today, NO DO_OVERS!  no pressure or anything!   while I was waiting I was contemplating getting my stuff ready so they wouldn’t have to wait on me and we could just paint and film.  so I went over to my suitcase to get my pattern for the trunk piece and my exacto knife and box of blades, all 100 of them.   I looked in there and saw the gallon Ziploc bag that had my stuff in it and opened it to find that TSA at Seattle’s SEATAC airport had taken them out of my bag!!!!!!!!!!!!   NO Knife! sonofa!**! mother f*&#!rs!  now I have to take time I dont have and run and get another knife and blades and get back in time to start.   Off the set to Michael’s art supply to get a replacement knife and blades then mad run back to Bodie’s place.   so now we’re back and I get my sketch out and make the appropriate cuts in it to get it ready.  still not ready for me!  ok, I guess I’ll get my airbrush and paint ready. so I head back to my suitcase to retrieve my airbrush hose and get ready to hook it up to the shops air lines.  I was just about ready to attach my hose when realized I didn’t have the airbrush hooked up to it! DUH! had I hooked up without the airbrush on the hose the air would have just blown out the end whipping the hose around like a crazy cobra on crack!  not to mention it would have messed with the already on going filming.

so I go back to my suitcase again to now ge my Iwata custom Micron airbrush.  I reach into the bag and guess what????   THOSE MOTHERS TOOK BOTH OF MY AIRBRUSHES TOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   SONOFA BITCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  NOT THAT!  ok now my heart is racing and I’m starting to sweat like a pig!  what the hell do I do now??!!!!    I’M SO SCREWED!   I have to find somebody to beg borrow or steal an Iwata airbrush to finish this project!     I call on my good friend David Monig who owns COAST AIRBRUSH  (THE ONLY PLACE YOU NEED TO GO TO FIND ANYTHING AIRBRUSH RELATED!) www.coastairbrush.com

I asked him if he knew anybody in the Burbank area that carried Iwata.  he was in the middle of another call and asked me to hold on.  damn!  I had to do something else!  (sorry dave)    we located an art store in the area that carried Iwata ( the only airbrush that fits my hose) and took off!    while I was on my way to the art store my phone rang,    it was Dennis my producer!   “where are you mike?” he asked.  ” I don’t want to tell you I said!”   “what? ” he asked, “whats up man? we’re ready for you”    I told him what happened and to say he was aggravated would be putting it mildly!   I assured him I had the situation under control and I’d be back in 20 minutes or so.   after I dumped $200 on a new airbrush we headed back to the shop again.

 now when I started this project today I had 5 hours to paint the car, not bad, i could do that easily. But with all the bullshit I now have 3 hrs to do the same job!  it has to be right, and it has to be perfect! and I have to do it double time!    I love it in the kitchen baby!     when i got there I hit the ground running! and painted like a fiend!   I kept one eye on the car and the other one on the clock on the wall!   after all was said and done I miraculously got the car finished with 10 minutes to spare! ha-ha!   now it was time to split.  after a hurried goodbye and a quick photo session I was off to LAX fo fly home.  we had to leave early because the traffic is just stupid on the way there at that time of day.  we got lucky with the traffic and even got there early enough to catch an earlier flight!

I’ll have more photo’s of the car when it’s finished.  I got word today that Johnny loved the car and said it was bitchin’!  so, now the pressure’s off!    for now!

Lights, Camera, Airbrush!

Lots of people have asked me “Mike, how the heck did you get on television?”  the truth is, totally by accident!    to tell the story accurately I’ll have to start from the beginning in 1999.   I had recently moved to the Northwest from Upstate NY (A whole different story I won’t get into here).  I had started to build a small clientel that hadn’t seen my type of work in this part of the planet.  My friends said ” Mike  you need to get more involved with the hot rod community and we think you should set up at the Seattle Roadster show”    so I did. the show was held indoors at the Quest field convention center.  I had paid for a small 10’x10′ booth space and set up my little show.  I had a tailgate from a friends Dodge Ram pickup truck that had a ram bashing its way through from the inside of the truck bed, some panels with various examples of  my artwork, my photo albums, and a framed 24″x24″ piece I did of a lion with its mane made of fire called the HELLION.  this ended up being the very first piece of the now famous TrueFire!    it was thursday, set up day and I was finished with my booth so I decided to take a spin around the show to check it out before the show opened tomorrow.   there were tons of bad ass cars there! lots of other cool stuff too.  I had never seen anything like this before because I had only been to motorcycle shows across the country and this was a whole new world to me.    while I was there looking around I came upon a beautiful black 32 roadster.  it was up on stands, wheels off, over WHITE carpet! it was surrounded by a very expensive looking aluminum stantion railing.  there were lights and mirrors under the car and the underside of the car was just as nice as the top!  there was a guy actually POLISHING the underside of the front fenders while wearing white shoe covers!  I was like. “what the hell?!”    as I was standing there admiring the car I saw something with my painters eye that most people would have not noticed right away,  a scratch the with of a pencil lead through the single orange 1 1/6 ” pinstripe just in front of the cars driver side door.    I figured if this guy was worried about polishing the damn bottom his fenders he’s really be messed up when he see’s this scratch!

I looked at the guy and said “I can fix that scratch for ya”   you should have seen how fast he came out from under the car! hahaha!    he said “WHAT SCRATCH?”  I showed it to him and he asked when I could fix it. I told him I would bring my paint kit tomorrow and fix it before the show opened.   the next day I got to the show and quickly repaired the scratch.  you couldn’t tell it had ever been there.  he asked me what he owed me and I said ” I dunno, $20 should cover me for my troubles” I figured at least I was gonna get my lunch paid for!   He told me he knew where my booth was and would bring the owner by  later that day to pay me.   I left thinking I’d probably never see that 20bucks but oh well, I had just made a deposit in the Karma bank.     the day went by with people stopping by the booth checking out my work, talking about potential jobs etc.  my friend Greg Reid from REID signs in seattle was there with me when it happened……..    I looked down the aisle and saw the guy who was polishing the car with this red-headed guy walking my way.  the came directly to my booth and stopped.  the guy said ” this is Mike, the guy who fixed the stripe”  the red-headed guy thanked me and handed me a $20 bill.   He introduced himself only as Chip.   he talked with me for a while checking out my photo albums and artwork.  the HELLION  interested him in particular.    He said “that’s Bitchin’! is it for sale?”    I told it wasn’t but I could paint him one if he wanted one.  then he asked me if he flew me down to California would I consider painting that fire on a project he was working on.  I said SURE!   so he took my card and said he’d call me soon.       I was like, hmmmm, that was interesting!  but I never thought I’d see this guy again.

it was then Greg looked at me and said, “Do you have any idea who that was?”  I said “no, why?”   He said ” that was Chip Foose!!”   I was like , “Yeah? who the hell is Chip Foose?”  Greg couldn’t believe I didn’t know who he was!!     Up to that point I had only known the motorcycle world, ask me who Willy G. Davidson was and I would say hell yeah I know who that is!

Greg filled me in on his identity and what he was involved with and the fact that he actually built that car from scratch! he also designed the Plymouth Prowler.    “You are SO in!”

from that chance meeting I went down and painted the 56 Chevy pickup with the Hellion Version of TrueFire on the sides of the truck. that truck was featured in Classic Trucks Magazine, from that vehicle I was called back down to do the same paint job on Mother’s Wax’s PT Cruiser sedan delivery.  that vehicle was featured in a magazine  as well and SEMA in Las Vegas.  it was there TRUE FIRE met the world!

not long after that I received a phone call from Jesse James of  WEST COAST CHOPPERS and Discovery Channel’s hit show MONSTER GARAGE.   the call was initiated by Cliff Steiglits (sp) from Airbrush Action magazine.

Jesse needed somebody to paint one of his Monster Garage vehicles ( the Ranchero mechanical Bull) .  he told me he’s put me on TV but said “what’s in it for me?” “what do you want?” I said.    He told me “I want you to paint my GMC Pickup with that sick fire you do!”   DEAL!  I said.   I went down and KILLED it on the TV show then did his truck.  you should have seen the look on his face!  PRICELESS! hahaha   he knew that truck looked bad ass!

I knew that once Jesse was seen driving around in that truck the whole TrueFire thing would take off like crazy! in fact that actually happened when he was filmed in an AUTOZONE commercial with the truck!  that, plus the other two vehicles I had already done with Chip Foose!  having my name and True Fire Technique connected with those two giants was a win win situation!   now here’s where it gets interesting…… right after the Monster Garage episode and doing Jesse’s truck I was sent two motorcycles from Jesse’s shop.  one was his own personal bike and the other belonged to Kid Rock. holy shit…… now what do I do?   Jesse wanted a Frazetta / Death Dealer motif and Kid Rocks bike was getting a True Fire job with the General Lee painted on the rear fender.  these two bikes were featured on motorcycle Mania 3 on the Discovery Channel.   this is the show where they rode their bikes to Mexico’s copper canyon.     from there I was asked to do 5 more Monster Garage episodes.  Now, while I was doing an episode of Monster Garage, I was invited to appear on a new show on TLC called  OVERHAULIN’ so I went from one show in Long Beach to another brand new show in Huntington Beach Ca. with my old friend Chip Foose. what a week!    after I got started on Overhaulin’ it was one show after another!  now that I had done so well on camera and produced killer work I was offered another show called Rides on TLC from the same producer of Overhaulin’.   the show was going to be called THE ART OF THE FLAME . they  came to my shop here in Snohomish and filmed me doing a 34 ford coupe with my signature True Fire.  my part was only supposed to be a small portion of the show that featured other artists they had already filmed.  it was only after they had filmed at KP that the called me and said they had so much great footage that they decided to do the whole show about me!   OH MY GOD!  your kidding me right?I said..  nope!  and that was the one show that put me solidly on the map!   my very first one hour special!  this was HUGE!   after that show aired my website received TWO MILLION hits!  the phone rang for days.  while on one call the call waiting would beep two to three more times ( missing two to three other calls) and we had three people answering emails at a time.  once we answered a bunch and figured we had taken care of the pile a whole new list of them would drop in!   it reminded me of that arcade game centipede!    it was amazing.  after that we hooked up with DELL computers and did a special limited number of  edition XPS gaming systems signed by Michael Dell and Myself.  they were sold for $10,000. each and were sold out BEFORE they were released!  amazing!

  from that Rides episode came two more, then I did Hot Rod television for the SPEED channel.    I was  asked to do MIAMI INK soon after. then I did a show for the OUTDOOR CHANNEL called ROCK THE BOAT.   I’ve done EVENING MAGAZINE twice here on local TV, also I’ve done a show called Garage Mahal on the  DIY network and have recently done a hunting show called Turkey Thugs for the Pursuit Channel.   

  Now think about this for a minute,  all this happened with a single tiny stroke of a pinstriping brush that Friday morning at the Seattle Roadster show!!!!   believe it or not!       This just goes to show you that you never know what situation you’ll find yourself in that will change your life forever!    you might be late to a flight and miss your plane and be all pissed off, then while waiting for the next plane, the one you weren’t supposed to be on and sit next to someone who will find what you do fascinating and offer you a deal you’d never have gotten if you were on time!   don’t laugh, it happened to me!

     I believe in karma, I believe things happen for a reason whether you believe it or not. I believe in god and I believe in myself.   opportunities may come your way and you’ll need to know how to make the most of them!

      do good things and good things will come to you.  I was extremely lucky and lightning struck in a bottle for me BUT, if I had these opportunities and didn’t do my part and produce work that was exceptional the rest of it would never have happened!  I was lucky yes!  worked hard YES! took advantage of unique situations ABSOLUTELY!   handed a free ride to success? NO WAY!    a lot of painters out there feel like they deserve the same deals I got and maybe for some that’s true, for others probably not!   I get a lot of jealousy out there for my success with the television stuff. I don’t know how to take that because the reason they’re so busy with true fire jobs is because of me being on TV. they are making tons of money directly because of my being on there making it a world-wide phenomenon!   don’t bash me because you’re not on there, be happy you’re reaping the benefits because of it!     my ultimate goal is to get my own tv show. I’ve been trying for 5 years to get one and have come close 3 times but for one reason or another the networks can’t seem to understand how a show about custom paint can sell advertising dollars and keep an audience entertained week after week!  OMG! how wrong are they!??    I say as a test, put me in a glass box in any mall ANYWHERE in the world and film me painting on hidden camera and watch and see how many people stop and stare for hours!  I DARE YOU! LOL!!! 

       I feel the time for us artists to shine on TV is coming soon,  I hope I’m gonna be part of it!!!   if not I’m proud of what I’ve done and VERY grateful to those who made it happen!

Ok,  they say there’s a first time for everything so here goes nothing!   I don’t know anything about blogging I’ve never even read anybody’s blog before so I have no idea what to do. I’m guessing I just tell you what’s going on or whats on my mind or tell you about my feelings….oh God, not that!

Just how long is a blog anyway?  I would  have been  blogging a long time ago if it weren’t for My girlfriends insistance of not being helpfull in my time of techno torubles!  she obviously hasn’t recieved the same treatment from myself when it came to matters of the airbrush! If you’ve seen her work lately! :)  but alas I managed to put the two techno brain cells I have together and POOF! here I am……blogging. hehehe  I don’t need no stinking help!    what am I saying?  of coarse I do!  All kidding aside, I couldn’t do any of this stuff if  didn’t have Nic to help me.  she’s a wiz at this computer stuff!

 I have a nasty habit of just submitting my posts without proof reading what I’ve written so if you see spelling or grammar errors…….deal with it! hahaha  you’ll know what I’m talking about and I never claimed to be perfect!

  Today started out like most Mondays, slow to get into the shop, at least an hour and a half behind my other more timely employees. but in my defense, I worked most of the weekend so I feel like I’m allowed to come in a little late if I work after hours or on the weekends right?  ok, maybe I should set a better example.  what -ever.

started work again on the Amazonia fridge and helped Abel a little with the truck we are doing a complete color change on.  got a visit from Grant Harris and his buddy to pick up the last piece of Grants classic chevy pickup truck we did for him. grant is the father of the late Phil Harris from the show “Deadliest Catch”  you can tell Grant really misses Phil.  I have Phil’s portrait piece on an easle in my showroom right now, I felt bad it was there when he showed up but I had no idea he was going to be coming in today. If I did I certainly would have removed it to spare Grant from opening that wound again.

I’m trying to find the time from keeping this boat afloat to work on one of my new personal projects but can’t seem to do it.  I’m just gonna have to make myself do it or it’ll never get done!

well, I suppose this is a good first effort to blogging! I hope it didn’t put you to sleep!  hahaha!  see ya next time

   

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