PART ONE: MINIVANS ARE BORING
Minivans are boring. They are also incredibly practical. Which is why I have driven one for many years now, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
It started simply enough. We needed a car that could haul stuff. With this van we could load it up for a full week and a half of camping, bring it home, clean it out, put some seats back in and take our family plus our parents out to dinner in it. Remember those old Enjoli commercials? “I can bring home the bacon… fry it up in a pan… “? It was kinda like that. (Did you forget that commercial? Never saw it the first time? I have a link at the end for you.) That’s why these damn things are still everywhere. No wonder they are the choice of soccer moms nationwide. They are the four-wheeled, gas-guzzling, emission-spewing versions of the multi-tasking modern working woman.
“…and never let you forget you’re a man, ‘cuz I’m a Miiiniii-VAN!”
After losing track of my car in a parking lot for the umpteenth time, I had a epiphany. It had no real resale value. It’s been long enough… time to put all of that blank canvas on wheels to good use!
Now I have to pause here briefly. I found out several things that day. One: What I thought would be relatively quick and easy took an entire day, sunup to sunset, and I still have a numb index finger weeks later from those damn cans of spray paint. (I have since bought a squeeze trigger for paint cans.) Unless you want a sloppy-ass car, you have to take your time. Two: I hate taking my time. I want shit done now. NOW. Three: When you are in your driveway working on your car every neighbor within five blocks will somehow manage to come down your alley and want to talk. And all of them about cars. I guess because I’m painting it I must know all about fixing alternators. I don’t. Four: You find out you have some seriously odd people in your ‘hood, no matter where that may be.
PART TWO: THE BORING PART FINALLY ENDS
All things must pass, and in this case, it was my mantra to get through all the tedious taping and base coats. I also discovered that the cheaper green painting tape is just that- cheaper. You really want to pop for those extra 30 cents and get the good blue tape. It matters.
Now the fun part starts to come into focus. The designs!
I wanted wallpaper patterns, but how to do it? A stencil seemed the most obvious choice. But applying spray paint directly through the stencil in this case wasn’t working.
- It seeped under the bridges around the more delicate details.
- It was impossible to pick up and re-position the repeat pattern until the first patch had dried.
- At the rate spray paint dried fully, this was going to take until “Sherlock” started filming again.
Something else needed to be done. Paint sticks applied with a stencil brush turned out to be the solution. This would give me an outline of the pattern, and allow me to reposition right away. That was especially important when working out the spacing of a repeat pattern on a 3-D object. And if I made a mistake, I could just wipe it off. The final coat would be painted over the stencil with enamel. More tedium, but it would give me what I wanted.
Up until now I had been pretty tight-lipped about my endeavor. Here is the point in the process where I started to show my hand. I had a clear vision of what I wanted. I was having fun slowly unveiling the van art, and seeing what people guessed. When I got to this iconic pattern, I thought, “Well, that’s it, everyone knows now that the van is ‘Sherlocked’.”
PART THREE: THE GAME IS ON
With the basic wallpaper outlines in place, it was time to have some real fun. The props in 221B are what make the flat so appealing. I mean, how seriously cool would it be to live there for real? Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Halloween and all things creepy. I’ve had a bison skull on my wall for years, and I have an extensive “collection” of weird things, which may or may not be out on display at any given time. I confess, I do not have heads or thumbs in my fridge, but occasionally there will be an aspic “brain” in there. So any excuse to paint three skulls, a bat, and some bugs on my car is an opportunity I’m going to take.
Back to our game. The first of the props is on the hood. Surely it’s elementary…
Even with the headphone adorned skull and shadowy outlines of the iconic wallpaper, nobody else was in on it. Even avowed Sherlock fans were still “clueing for looks”. This is getting rather fun, isn’t it? So many questions; maybe they needed to hire a consulting detective? I told a few as much. Some thought I was riffing on the “Dodge” ram logo. (Remind me later to swap that crap out with a 221B doorknocker.) I was beginning to feel like Mycroft, living in a world of goldfish*. I even had a small decal of Sherlock in the back window. Amazing how some people see, but do not observe.
*A quick note to my friends here- No, I do not really think you are goldfish. See the Addendum at the end.
Onward with the painting. How about adding a bold, even more in-your-face-uniquely-Sherlock prop? Surely someone would get it.
Some masking, some stencils, a little freehand painting, and voila! We have the beautiful “Mr. Blue Skull” art by British artist John Pinkerton. I seriously wish I had painted the original. Mad props to Mr. Pinkerton. Check out his website & FB page in the link at the end of the post. Don’t do it now. Leaving now would be rude. Wait until the end.
Now, Mr. Blue Skull looks pretty bold against the wallpaper, but it will all blend better once the pattern fills in.
This is the point in which my clever friend Jill finally called it out for what it was. Three cheers for Jill! She’s a proper genius!
I also discovered that there is no substitute for 1 Shot sign painter’s enamel, the Art Car Artist’s best friend. The other stuff I tried to use was crap. (Again, check the link at the end…)
Now it starts to get interesting. Let’s add more props!
Unlike the Mr. Blue Skull art, these props were painted entirely by hand. I used an alkyd oil paint for faster drying time. This was necessary because I didn’t have the luxury of keeping the van in a garage until it was done- I had to drive this baby around in-between art days. The neighbors were seriously beginning to doubt my sanity at this point, I’m sure.
This was shaping up nicely. The original plan was for just a little woodgrain texture on the bottom and the mantle would be done. Of course, I now change my plan. I can do better than just a little woodgrain- how about a more detailed version of the real mantle? And something kept nagging at me, I needed another prop. All of it felt a bit… lacking. My desire took hold and the decision was made…
…and late that night I found myself painting by flashlight (a bit awkward, to be truthful) but I had it. Sherlock’s switchblade impaling his mail. This is the little prop that I love the most. It’s so subtle, but it says so much. Interestingly, a trompe l’oeil painting on a non-flat surface (like the tailgate) makes the knife tricky to photograph. It always comes out looking curved and bent like a funhouse mirror.
The back, finished with final background shadows, wood mantle detail, and clear coat. Finally.
PART FOUR: THE CURE FOR ‘BOREDOM’
Sometimes it seems nothing much ever happens. Sometimes you feel so paralyzed by boredom that you have to do something extreme. Sometimes you just have to fucking finish that art car you started over two months ago.
BORED! The smiley face is a bit more bold than in the actual flat, but for a moving target like the van, I thought bolder was better. Most people only see this side as it’s flying by them. (Yes, I’m a bit of a leadfoot.) My detail-oriented obsessions are kicking in again and I’m now thinking of adding some bullet holes (fake, not real).
“SHERLOCK” is, for the most part, done now. But with an art car, you’re never really truly done. There’s always something to add, change, repair, etc. Now the focus for me is moving to the inside. I have to decorate my flat now, don’t I?!?
Like my new pillow. And I always have London in my sights now…
So what’s next for the car? Maybe The Woman’s weapon of choice. A deerstalker may find its way in. Or I might be unable to fight the impulse to steal an ashtray from somewhere. It’s all part of the game now.
ADDENDUM: SPECIAL THANKS & LINKS
First and foremost, I have to give a shout out to my husband, who was actively on board with having an art car in the family from day one, who gave me carte blanche to do whatever I wanted with it, and who isn’t upset that he married a Cumberbitch.
To everyone else: no hard feelings about your seriously lacking skills in deduction… and my utter crassness about it. What draws me to the BBC version of Sherlock is my admiration for all his positive qualities that I find completely unattainable, and my realization that his negative traits fit me all too comfortably. Apologies.
And a huge thanks to SHERLOCKOLOGY, the best fan site ever! How could I have done any of this without you?!?
“Mr. Blue Skull” Artist John Pinkerton:
Best ART CAR paint ever:
And last but not least, that crazy old Enjoli commercial: