Angela’s Art Car Project (a.k.a “Sherlock”)


Art Car by Angela Kallsen 2014

Art Car by Angela Kallsen 2014


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.

The van, pre-art.  BOOOOOOORING!!!

The van, pre-art and BORING!

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!

2 car

First step: All the boring, tedious taping and masking. Ugh.

Primer coat. Just as tedious and boring.

Primer coat. Just as tedious and boring.

Sides are done with the base colors!

Sides are done with the base colors!

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.


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.

6 car

More masking, more base colors.

Front color is done!

Front color is done!

And the back now, too.

And the back now, too.

Now the fun part starts to come into focus. The designs!

Stenciling the pattern's base coat

Stenciling the wallpaper’s base coat.

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.

  1.  It seeped under the bridges around the more delicate details.
  2.  It was impossible to pick up and re-position the repeat pattern until the first patch had dried.
  3. 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.

Shadow stenciling on sides and back

‘Shadow’ stenciling on sides and back.

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’.”



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

Taping off the hood decoration

Taping off the hood decoration.

The skull shape emerges in primer

The bison skull shape emerges in primer.

The base coats for the bison skull with headphones

The base coats for the bison skull with headphones.

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.

More taping. I should buy stock in that tape company.

More taping. I should buy stock in that tape company.

Primer coat

Primer coat. I’m not, however, buying stock in newspaper.

What the…?

What the…?

Getting creepy!

Getting creepy!

Yes! It's a skull!

Yes! It’s a skull!

Tape & masking removed & details added. Drop shadow comes later.

Tape & masking removed, details added. Drop shadow comes later.

Finished skull art

Finished skull art.

Now, Mr. Blue Skull looks pretty bold against the wallpaper, but it will all blend better once the pattern fills in.

Starting to fill in the wallpaper

Starting to fill in the wallpaper. Back to tedium.

See? MUCH better!

See? MUCH better!

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!

More masking...

More masking…

More primer...

More primer…

Basic outlines in place

Basic outlines in place for the mantle 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.

My "friend".

My “friend”.

The taxidermy collection begins

The creepy taxidermy menagerie begins.

Bat and bugs

Bat and bugs almost done, but they still need some drop shadows.

Back tailgate is starting to become the mantle.

Back tailgate almost done…  oh, wait, it’s not. Never mind.

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…

Switchblade and mail.

Night owl painting: Switchblade and mail.

…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.

And the finished tailgate mantle

The finished “mantle”.

The back, finished with final background shadows, wood mantle detail, and clear coat. Finally.


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.

The cure for boredom

The cure for boredom!

No, I haven't been vandalized.

No, I haven’t been vandalized.

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).

The finished Mr. Blue side

The finished “Mr. Blue” side.

Bison skull, finished with shadows.

The bison skull, finished with shadows.

“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?!?

It's the details that really make it.

It’s the details that really make it.

Like my new pillow.  And I always have London in my sights now…

The view out the back.

The view out the back.

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.


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:



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9 Responses to Angela’s Art Car Project (a.k.a “Sherlock”)

  1. Jaime September 22, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

    You drove past me about an hour ago and I almost got into an accident because I was trying to see all of your van! It was right by my house and I was hoping Cumberbatch was coming to visit me. 😉 SUPER COOL!

    • Angela September 23, 2014 at 11:38 am #

      Thanks for the comment! I hear Tussauds is doing a figure of Cumberbatch… maybe I can get a dupe and put it in my passenger’s seat! Hope to see you around again soon!

  2. Lora February 7, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

    Oh my god this is amazing!!! I worship you xD seriously if I saw this masterpiece driving around I would flip!!

  3. Arcadia March 9, 2015 at 12:56 pm #

    I can’t imagine why some people think Sherlockians are obsessed. 🙂 This is brilliant, thanks for sharing!

    • Angela March 16, 2015 at 6:29 pm #

      Obsessed? Oh, heaven’s no. POSSESSED, maybe… 😉

  4. PJ Garvin July 26, 2015 at 11:04 am #

    Just saw you in the Art Car parade last night and screamed as soon as I saw the bison skull. Your car is brilliant! And the ashtray would be wonderful. A nice cuppa too, perhaps? A bumper sticker that says “I still don’t understand”? So nice to know there’s another not-obsessed Sherlockian nearby. And attached, like me. (I wanted to stay for your second turn around and say hello but had to escape before my kids blew up.) Great work. Your van is awesome.

    • Angela July 27, 2015 at 10:06 am #

      Thanks so much for your comment! I had a blast in the parade, and it was really cool to see the difference between the “Obsessed” and the “Clueing for Looks” crowd. The former were the folks screaming and giving me thumb’s up, the latter just looked mildly confused. If I wasn’t driving at the time, we might have turned it into a drinking game. Bonus points to you for being a good parent and having your kids’ needs come first, but I would have loved to have met you! Cheers!

      • PJ Garvin July 27, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

        I wanted to meet you, too! And I want to meet the other people who were screaming and giving you thumbs up because one can not forever drop obscure Sherlock references in a vacuum. No one I know would be even very nearly moved by my command of the Sherlock canon. Aren’t ordinary people boring?

        • Angela December 8, 2015 at 2:08 pm #

          What must it be like in their tiny brains? Truly, we are living in a world of goldfish… 😉

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