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Thread: The role of the painter

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    velocolour's Avatar
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    Default The role of the painter

    For some time I have been wondering about the hierarchy in the custom bicycle world. Does it exist? For sure. It exists in every field.
    Being a bicycle painter I can't help but wonder where we (the painters) reside in this arena. I have always been one to look for definitions and boundaries, for me they offer context and rules to the game.
    As an artist/crafts person (in my past life) it was always looking for the line. Where's the hierarchy in the art world, painting, sculpture, installation, media-art etc. Definitely the rift between craft an art is still strong, age old but on-going.
    Now as a painter of bicycles I wonder the same questions.
    Is the custom builder at the top of this ladder? Dk said in a recent post that he considers JB to be a partner. Perhaps Richie and JB or insert awesome builder name here could be the same. It is rarely said however, I am waiting for my new Kirk/Bell bike. No bitterness here!
    Hierarchies usually exist for a reason. It is usually the ones (not me) on the tail end that wonder why though. Bikes are about the ride, they are also about the style. But if it rides like shit then it is worthless. If it looks like shit, well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that.
    Someone will spend 2,3,4000 on a custom frame set. When it comes to paint there is often limitations though. One could be comfortable spending $1500 on a new group but if I tell them the paint job will be $800 they are looking for answers.
    I have a lot of good customers who know the value of what is being done and the work that goes in to a quality paint job but I am still wonder about that line.
    Is the role of the painter changing? I haven't been in this long enough to know.
    What sort of custom paint work was done years ago? Can we think of people known for their paint work the way we think of the builders we like so much?
    It seems to me that bikes in general have changed a lot over the last few decades. Richie closing the books is proof of that. Now people are looking for style and individuality.
    Now bikes are the shit.
    They are part of the fashion world and the design world. Lance is riding custom painted/designed bikes in major races the they are getting a lot of press.
    I am part of this too. I have been painting bikes with no purpose at all. Broken but aesthetically acceptable frame sets to hang as decoration on someones living room wall. Creating more intricate and detailed paint schemes and getting a lot of support from those around me.
    Attached are a few works in progress. A LBS has given me two frame sets with wheels for me to have my way with. Why? Because they are interested in what I am doing and want to be involved.
    So I am now wondering, what is the role of the painter?
    Added note:
    When I first begin to paint and Mike Barry and I discussed frame building, that seemed to be the end goal. Painting was the first step in the hierarchy to building. I am still learning to build but this is no longer where I am headed, I don't think. I am working on so many cool projects with a diverse group of customers that I no longer feel this is a step on the ladder to that. The growth is horizontal now.
    noah

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    SteveP is offline vSalon Legend
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    man,
    that thing will be a showpiece/
    send finish pics

  3. #3
    1centaur's Avatar
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    The painter is VERY important to me. I have designed a few paint schemes, my favorite being the Crumpton I just re-posted in that gallery that was specified to the centimeter that was executed flawlessly. I have an upcoming Crumpton that I came up with a paint scheme for that will be more difficult to execute than anything I've done before, and I am nervous that the painter will "get it." If the paint is wrong, the bike will be wrong. If the paint is right, the bike will be a source of joy. I have another project a year into development with a friend of this forum that will test the painting skills of his new painting source - my fingers are crossed.

    I came up with a scheme a couple of years ago that Dave Sem said was too difficult to execute. It would have been very cool. I have colored in lots of blank frames to get combinations that looks right. I have a couple of custom paint jobs that are not quite perfect and they bum me out. I look for the painter who can both execute flawlessly and has a sense of the frame as palette. Good painters are worth extra money.

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    MarkC is offline VSalonistas
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    Awesome job - beautiful.

    To your query - unless a team was paying for fancy paint and wanted me to ride it (unlikely) there is no way I'd shell out extra $$$ for chi-chi paint. On a race bike the paint is just going to get all dinged and scratched anyway and I'd feel badly about that. After 2-3 seasons my bikes are ready for respray. I'd rather spend $1000 divided in three chuncks to keep the bike looking nice (and protected) than do it once and have it get all crapped up.

    Art is art and I like looking at it. Can't wait to see some at NAHBS this year. But for me, paint on bikes prevents tube oxidation and allows a place for advertisement on team rigs.

    For me, I like nice single color paint. Classic detailing. Maybe a couple panels and some lug fill ins. That stuff is timeless for a reason. Get classic "right" and durable and you win my $$$.

    BTW, I say this as a LandShark owner. When I bought that frame it was because I wanted a Shark and I knew John would build me a great bike for it's intended purpose - racing. He delivered 110%. The only part of the process I had any real input to was the paint - and for good reason. John is not to be trusted with an airbrush :-)

    Probably not what you wanted to hear.

    --Mark

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    El Chaba's Avatar
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    I remember reading about the Taylor brothers in England...one brother did the framebuilding....another built wheels, assembled bikes and shipped...and the third did the painting....his name was the one that went on the bikes-Jack Taylor.

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    dbohemian is offline VSalonistas
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1centaur View Post
    I came up with a scheme a couple of years ago that Dave Sem said was too difficult to execute.
    That is what we do when we don't want the work. A little like a contractor who bids really high figuring they won't get the job and if they do it will be worth it.

    I understand what Noah is saying. The painter is absolutely critical to the framebuilder and yes although the framebuilder gets most of the props it would not be possible without great paint. A framebuilder could make the best (insert your idea of best) frame on the planet and without a quality finish they will never make it. Painters are under-valued too. The general public has absolutely no idea of how paint works beyond maybe a tiny job they did painting a piece of patio furniture. This being the case they put a really low value on painting a car, motorcycle, bicycle with absolutely no frame of reference. I have no idea where this comes from.

    In many ways painting is harder than framebuilding. That is the customer be it an individual or framebuilder expects magic really. The frame can have imperfections and all sorts of shite and flawlessness is supposed to come out of the paint booth. Perfection is a hard expectation to reach.

    When I started building paint was always a goal of mine. I didn't achieve it for about 12 years. I had Brian Baylis and JB. They are exemplary. I do not think that you have to be a framebuilder by any means. If you are still growing and putting out amazing work like that it is enough to concentrate on being the best you can be. There is always something new to bring to the table with paint work.
    All the best,

    David Bohm
    Bohemian Bicycles

    Facebook www.facebook.com/bohemianbicycles
    Framebuilding courses http://www.framebuildingschool.com

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    dbrk's Avatar
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    anyone who thinks that paint doesn't actually sell bikes either knows better than to care (i.e., really races, race bikes get buggered) or has reduced bikes to function (that's a choice that doesn't register with me). i don't race anymore and never will again (injuries), despite living and riding on gravel roads, my bikes look great ('cause they're not raced). when i get home, i hang them up; i travel with them inside my car. paint jobs stay pretty clean.

    now let's assume a bike is properly designed and built, that being a matter that a good bit of "custom" building in the past decade has thrown into question imo (which is why we need brendan and joe's articles, something some of us have been saying effectively for the past decade or more), then there is the build which can overcome other aesthetic question marks; and then let's assume that a fasterbackwards aescetic=proper function is actually surmounted, ahhh, how the assumptions accumulate: the rest is paint. paint sells bikes the way bodies sell lap dances.
    Qui plume a, guerre a. Ce monde est un vaste temple dédié à la discorde.

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    Ken Robb is offline VSalonistas
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    I have been to JB's shop many times and seen naked frames arrive and glossy beauties depart. Some frames from famous builders arrive looking like jewelry and others need a lot of prep work before the painting can begin. If you had Dave Kirk build your bike you got step-by-step pix from raw tubes to ready-to-paint frame/fork so you know you got the jewelry. In the end they all look good.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Robb View Post
    snip... In the end they all look good.
    a truer thing, esp about JB and DK, has never been said. i have a few bstones with JB paint jobs. if ever there were lipstick on a pig. i mean, these are great riding bikes and i love them dearly enough to paint them JB quality but really, underneath the paint they are nothing special. most bikes aren't. what paint covers on the best made bikes are details you couldn't see anyway, many of which have nothing to do with the way the bike will ride, they are just part of the quality that the builder wants to leave there, again, often in ways that couldn't be seen even if you were looking. the velocolour paint on my new very old cinelli sc is far, far superior to its original quality. the build remains as it has always been.
    Qui plume a, guerre a. Ce monde est un vaste temple dédié à la discorde.

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    WayneJ is offline VSalonistas
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbrk View Post
    paint sells bikes the way bodies sell lap dances.
    True dat !

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    Noah speaks very humbly, he's both a true craftsperson, and a very talented artist.

    Colour is a very powerful signal to our visual sense. Somehow we've become more and more fetished
    with the 'surface' of our objects of desire. I suppose it's understandable, we're very visual creatures,
    and our society adores beauty.

    Our choices say things about who we are, but dig too deep, and it all seems to matter too much.
    So what if a great riding bike is an ugly colour. How much cheaper would you expect a pink ferrari
    to be to buy it instead of red? Would you drive one for free, knowing people would see you, and
    think, "why did that guy buy a pink ferrari?"....

    Bikes can be many things to different people, so i see no reason they can't be both art and function
    simultaneously. As a bike retailer, i've long believed that a paint finish has only one job:
    to sell the bike!

    Simple or complex, historic or avant garde, Noah is your guy if you need new paint!
    He did a fantastic job on restoring my 3Rensho from the early 80's. He found the perfect balance
    of making it look great, but also period. He fixed many things so they look right on top, but really
    you'd likely never know the frame has been repainted.

    For me, that's the magic of the best frame finishes - creating something that doesn't look out of place.
    It has to look like that's how it's supposed to be, not an afterthought or over-designed.

    -g


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    Ahneida Ride Hide's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by velocolour View Post
    It is rarely said however, I am waiting for my new Kirk/Bell bike.

    noah
    I have to respectively disagree. Joe is frequently mentioned by the builder and bike owner ...

    If a seller has a JB paint job .... JB is always mentioned.

    Keith Anderson and JB paint most of Kelly's frames and he almost always mentions these gentlemen.

    A good builder puts his soul into a frame, the painter makes it come alive. Don't underestimate your power.
    A perfectionist painter unburdens the builder and soothes the purchaser.

    Consider yourself on the top of the Totem pole. Be the next JB.
    The Definitive Performance Wrap
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    Wilkinson411 is offline VSalonistas
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    How about a list of frame builders who actually paint their own frames? Or is it painters who actually frame build?

    Brian Baylis
    Keith Anderson
    John Slawta

    Does Dario actually paint his frames or just come up with the scheme?

    mIKE

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    caleb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wilkinson411 View Post

    Brian Baylis
    Keith Anderson
    John Slawta
    Chris Kvale

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    HAppyKAmikaze is offline VSalonistas
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    Anthony Maietta

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    Ken Robb is offline VSalonistas
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    I think Peter Weigle's bikes are now painted by is wife---that's a neat partnership.

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    As a bike junkie and someone who spends his own hard earned money... I personally think a painter is very important to the frame as a whole. I requested Keith Anderson paint my Jonny Cycles, and when it's built, I asked Drew (Engin) to have Keith paint my road frame. I'll personally pay a little extra for quality and to get exactly what I want. I've seen beautiful frames at NAHBS ruined by less then perfect paint jobs. If I'm shelling out $2500+ for a new frame and fork, you can bet that darn skippy I'm paying an extra few bucks to have it paint correctly.

    Also, I treat a painter like a frame builder. I'll tell them basically what I'm looking for, and then you build it or paint it. I've chosen the builder/painter for a reason, and that's because their work speaks to me. If it comes back wrong, then it's my fault for choosing the wrong builder/painter.
    Jeff

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Robb View Post
    I think Peter Weigle's bikes are now painted by is wife---that's a neat partnership.
    that was about 20 years and a few s.o.'s ago atmo...

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    Tom Kellogg's Avatar
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    Interesting thread. WAY back in the day, back when all "good" frames came from either England or Italy, most builders had their frames painted out of house. In the 70s, as the American builders gained prominence and numbers, most of them painted their own frames ... with a few notable exceptions, a real switch from the "Old World" system. Now, there seems to be a move away from that model and back to the Paint-only shops. Not good or bad, just a switch. Because of the level of quality of American builders and painters currently, I think that the way that we do it here; all in house, makes less sense except for the extra costs and time for the shipping of frames around the country. I'm not going to stop painting, but for folks who are building and who do not paint yet, having an outside painter do their finishing work is the logical way to go. We get enough calls from other builders looking for paint work that it seems to me that more paint specialists are needed. See y'all in Richmond!
    Tom Kellogg
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