The hot rod artist Skratch, known for practicing the rare art of pinstriping, has customized a crazy array of things that are not cars, from fetish boots and electric guitars to entire houses. He recently pinstriped a client’s KitchenAid mixer. It goes from zero to sixty in never, but it looks fast as hell. That’s the point: Everything Skratch designs – Bell has sold thousands of helmets featuring his distinctive striping – is created with racing in mind. And it all started with a home movie.
“It’s exactly what you’re thinking – girlfriend on the fender, my dad striping the front of the car,” Skratch remembers of the 8mm film of his engineer father that first piqued his interest. “It couldn’t have been any better if it was from a car magazine.”
After growing up in Texas – he’s the grandson of an Oklahoma moonshiner – Skratch moved to California, home of the hot rod, and established his name with Skratch’s Garage, a Burbank institution. His celebrity grew with appearances on Chip Foose’s car-makeover show “Overhaulin’.” His rise to prominence was swift, but not particularly easy. He tried to apprentice himself to the one pinstriper he new, a guy in Fort Worth, but he never got any advice. “He would just tell me what not to do,” says Skratch. “In my mind, I was like, ‘OK, there’s all these other things I can do.'”
As with many car customizers, Skratch studied the work of Von Dutch, Dean Jeffries, and Tommy “the Greek” Hrones. But his real inspiration came from Andy Southard, the writer and photographer who produced car porn classics like “Custom Cars of the 1950s” and “Hot Rods & Customs of the 1960s.” “I was drawn to his style,” Skratch says. “I ended up meeting the guy, and he knew me immediately – ‘Oh, I love your work.'”
Striping, Skratch explains, was originally created “to hide bad bodywork.” Lead shrinkage caused paint jobs to condense back when lead was a key ingredient in paint. “If you got a flame job, you’d have that break between the solid color and the flame, so you’d need striping around it,” says Skratch. “It’s a funny thing. It was basically just to hide the work.”
Skratch credits himself with influencing the “swoopy” look of contemporary car customization. “Before, everything was very geometrical, with straight lines,” he says. “Now, everyone has teardrops. Not necessarily that they know what they’re doing – they’re just mimicking what I’m doing.”
Skratch sees the popularity of his work as a natural reaction to modern consumer culture. Anyone can get a great-looking car or a bright paint job, but if you’ve got something in your garage you’re incredibly proud of “you want something really bitchin’ done to it.”