20 Questions with Hot Rod Jen
Originally appearing in Gnarly Magazine issue #4
Art addict, pinstriper, gearhead, and music lover is how Pennsylvania's
HotRod Jen describes herself on her Instagram profile. We wanted to know more about this gnarly artist, so we bombarded her with twenty questions.
What was it that initially inspired you to pick up a pinstriping brush and dip it into a can of 1 Shot?
A conversation at a car show someone suggested that I learn how to pinstripe, so why not give it a whirl, right? I was already heavily doing art of cars so why not try doing art on them?
What’s a typical Hot Rod Jen work day look like?
My days are different if I'm staying in the studio or on the road. If it's on the road I load up all my gear and hit the road, donuts, and set up at wherever the customer is. Throw some tunes on and get the brush slinging. If I'm at the studio it's wake up, donuts, tunes, and paint or layout work. Some days I don't start painting until 2 pm but don't stop until 2 am. I really feel like I'm at my most creative state of mind at night.
What is your art background and what were you doing before you were pinstriping?
As long as I can remember I've been doing some sort of art. Creativity runs deep in my family. Before pinstriping, I was doing photorealism drawings, working off of my own photos, and a full-time florist.
Who inspires you –past or present– from an artistic and creative perspective?
I get inspired by an array of people, art, time periods, architecture (art deco), different cultures, traditional folk art.
In the pinstripe world, it's Alan Johnson, Willis Dormer, David Hightower, Karen Souza. Tattooists are another huge outlet for me creative wise.
What’s it like being a gal in a guy-dominated field of work?
I'd imagine the same as a guy other than the occasional Internet troll making sexual comments now and then. Haha. But maybe men have to deal with that too – ya never know these days. But my peers, veteran artists, fellow gearheads have always treated me with respect.
What would you say is integral to the work of a pinstripe artist?
Doing the best job you can, every job that you do.
How has your pinstriping style and workflow evolved over time?
A fear of mine is always doing the same thing. I've seen other artists do the same stuff over and over, never changing or growing. So with that said, I'm always trying new things and willing to grow – be it grabbing inspiration from oddball sources or changing it up on the color spectrum.
What do you like about your work?
Is it conceited to say everything? Haha. Because that's the truth. I really am passionate about what I do and feel lucky I am able to create every day for a living.
What is your dream project?
Empty '51 Merc trunk lid, no limitations ... and a carousel horse. That is actually a bucket list item.
Can you tell me an artist who you’d like to be compared to and why?
Alan Johnson, because he is a very well rounded artist. Everything from pinstriping, airbrushing, gold leafing, sign painting, and fine art. His work across the board is breathtaking and very innovative.
What’s the best piece of pinstriping career advice you’ve been given? By whom?
Don't be afraid to wipe off.
What are your professional goals?
To just keep growing and get more comfortable with different lettering styles and layout.
Taxi Driver, The Face of Life and Other Dirty Jokes by Willie Nelson, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Willie Nelson and family, and Metallica (can't pick one). Artist: Bernie Ramirez.
How do you know when a project is finished?
You just know.
What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
My brushes of course!
Name your top three most rewarding projects.
The '53 Chevy bread truck I designed and painted the logo/lettering on; a Cadillac batwing air cleaner I went balls-to-the-wall on for a charity event; Dodge truck hood I pinstriped the other year. Each time I see it, it makes me smile.
How is your personality reflected in your work?
I would say with color!
How do you overcome creative blocks?
Do everything else but paint. Dancing is one of my other biggest outlets – from swing dancing, country, to ballroom dancing.
What song do you sing along to the loudest when you’re alone in your car?
Lullaby of Birdland by Ella Fitzgerald
What was the most difficult part of pinstriping to overcome when you were starting out and what tips would you give to an aspiring ‘striper to help them overcome that same difficulty? There’s only one rule when answering this question: You can’t say “practice, practice, practice.”
I will say the most difficult thing is getting the feel of palleting the brush, where you get the right paint consistency. Tips to overcome that would be, go from one extreme, let's say really loaded up with a lot of paint, making the hair flop around with the weight. Try that out and then pallet some of the paint off. Try it, pulling some lines, and keep doing this. Pallet some more out, lay some lines, and repeat until when you pallet out you feel major drag, and the lines you try and pull have skips in them. You will have a sheet full of lines from one spectrum to the other in which you can see which ones worked better for you. You will eventually get used to that muscle memory feeling on what works for you. That sweat spot is different for everyone, but once you find it and feel it, the next thing to overcome is brush control...and practice, patience, perseverance!
Find HotRod Jen on Instagram: @HotRodJen