Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Getting Into The Customer's Head

If you are thinking about using your airbrush to make money, chances are you'll be working with customers. Granted, some folks will be using the airbrush to create original designs they hope to sell, but those of the custom world don't have that luxury. And yes, after working with some difficult customers, it really does seem like a luxury.
Don't get me wrong. The customer/custom painter relationship can be a great thing. Much like tattooing, you are making someone's personal vision come to life while adding your own personal touch. In some cases, which are rare and rewarding, you'll get the holy grail of customers: the man or woman that says "Do your thing!" I pray every time I get a phone call that this is who is calling. A person that not only trusts your abilities and judgment but also is open to new things. I got into this business to work with people like that. To take what I learn from them and make something truly unique and personal. It's a wonderful thing.
On the flip side there are those that may have a different way of communicating what they think they want. I say this because often times the customer may be talking in concepts rather than in realities. "Give me a sky with clouds," could mean "Match the gray and white of my truck to what I just said even if it doesn't work". I use this as an example because I recently had a customer ask for a sky, clouds, a portrait of his mother, some doves, and his mother's name. After finishing the piece he said he hadn't wanted the blue. Obviously, there was some sort of communication error on both our parts. He mistakenly thought a sky wouldn't be blue and I mistakenly took his saying he wanted a sky to mean he wanted blue.
All of this could have been avoided had I taken the time to work up some renderings. I have some Photoshop skills at my disposal and I could have made a quick mock up of what he was asking for to see if this was in the right direction. I also work in a shop with a gentlemen who is the owner/operator and has been the face of the shop longer than I have, so communication went from the owner, to him, to me last. Also the customer seemed reluctant to make the trip to see any progress and only saw the work in photos. He, of course, liked the photos but didn't like the finished product. Why? Because I didn't get inside the guys head. I didn't work harder to understand what it was he thought he would get and to communicate what it was I was actually going to be doing.
Yes, bottom line - once in a while you get someone who wears their ideas on their sleeves, knows what they want but also knows you will do your own thing when it comes time to lay some paint. But more often than not you will get a customer that has a vision but isn't sure how to explain it. Someone specific who may not be able to explain the specifics of what he or she wants. I've said this before and don't seem to follow my own advice, but I have to say it again: always draw up a sketch for customers of this nature. Bring them a long for the ride and let them see what is going on so that any changes that need to be made can be made early. Don't rely on third party cell phone photos to convey what is going on. Be the guy the customer deals with and make sure everyone is on the same page. This isn't the first time I've been in a situation where the customer gave me what they wanted but upon seeing the final result decided that I was no where near what they'd requested. It's discouraging but there are lessons to be learned from it and that's what is important. Learn from these mistakes and you'll be golden.

Today's Video of the Post will be from Vl9153x:

Monday, November 8, 2010

Finally, Some Projects

Yesterday I got the chance to get started on a new project at work. Of course, I have also been horribly sick so I didn't get as much work done as I'd wanted to. It would figure that I finally get a project in the doors and I'm too sick to get it out. I'm a trooper though and put in a few hours today as well.
What is really important is that I am still learning. Right now I am learning how to use the spray gun to do full paint. I am also learning that while the airbrush came naturally to me, this does not. In fact, I'm terrible at it. I can handle prep and sanding, but there is something about mixing paint and spraying that scares the hell out of me. I mixed this nice white and pearl basecoat and ended up putting it on so wet that it ran. Oh did it run. I, of course, go to go through and sand all the runs down so I could come back in and respray everything. Lesson learned for sure.
But I got a nice pearl blue base down and it is ready for me to come in with some airbrushing. The work is being done on the back doors of a Suburban. On one door will be the word Faith and the other a series of doves flying past a portrait of the owner's mom (Faith was her name). It's a memorial piece set over a blue sky. The rest of the truck is painted with a scallop design that I will incorporate into a sort of frame around the whole piece. I'm looking forward to moving it along. The owner also has a bike he wants to bring down depending on how this turns out, so that should mean more work. More work is always a good thing.

Todays Video of the Post is from my buddy: CB Graphics

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Wonders of Commission Work

I have been in Pittsburgh now for about a month and a half. In fact, today it will be exactly a month and a half. I want to say that things are going exactly how I thought they would, but that isn't entirely true. Money has been tight. Everyone seems to have chosen now to pull those purse strings up. But having found some determination between here and there I'm sticking it out. There is a lot that can be done in this town but for now the work has dried up. We've done what we could but for the most part, there just isn't anything coming our way.
There are, however, some pretty big shows coming up. One of which is the World of Wheels, now celebrating its 50th year anniversary. This is a make or break show, offering trophies in multiple categories and recognition amongst the car and bike enthusiasts in the area that they are held. I wasn't here for the one last year and I am hoping that I will have some projects under my belt so I can have something to enter. I'm not really interested in the fame of it, but there is a certain allure to having someone present a trophy to me. That potential for a trophy sounds even sweeter when considering the fact I've been living off ramen and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in order to make this thing work.
Before moving I had no idea that I would be dealing with the amount of stress I have been. Not the stress of making this airbrush thing work, or the stress of putting out a good product. But the stress of actually being able to survive. I know things will work out and I'll look back and be able to say it was all worth it. But at the moment that doesn't do anything for my stress. I guess this sort of thing builds character and apparently you can never have too much of that.

Today's Video of the Post is brought to you by:

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Da Burgh and Gucci Mane

I've been in Pittsburgh now for about a month and though I have only really worked on one actual project, I have had the chance to get some stuff ready for various shows around town. I got here late in the season so they've just been little affairs. The next one is tomorrow at the Monroeville Convention center (that's near the Monroeville mall for you zombie fans) and is for a rap concert by Gucci Mane. For those unfamiliar, he is a southern rap artist that is probably most famous for his song 'Wasted'. I'm not that big of a rap fan but I've still heard the song and the artist, which means his name has been around for a while. I thought it would be a good idea to do a little tribute piece of the artist performing while we did our own performance. I went outside the box on this one. I used some plexi-glass, some black primer on the back, and went to town with the black and white on the portrait. I thought I'd play around with his name a little but I didn't really have a plan until I got the name on there. I started airbrushing some white in there and let the wheels turn. That's when I got the idea for some heavy flake. I did a base of small gold flake and put a nice silver flake down the center. It still looked a little plain so I got out the heavy flake and put individual ones right down the center like they were diamonds. I the sunlight this thing is too hard to look at. Under in house lighting it looks like you could wear the thing. I may not be a big fan of rap, but I'm a fan of this look. Keep posted for more.

Today's Video of the Post is brought to you by AirbrushingSchool:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Finally in Pittsburgh

I finally arrived in Pittsburgh and everything seems to be going well so far. This is a pretty decent city with a lot of airbrush opportunities. There is an event this Friday that should really showcase our styles and get a good name for ourselves.
I came here to work with another airbrush artist who also does the custom work. He is an amazing talent but the most surprising thing about it is that he is color blind. Somehow he's able to work with color on a pretty impressive level. It has definitely inspired me to try harder and one up myself.
It's been a crazy last couple of weeks and I haven't really had the chance to take many pictures of the work I have done or the shop, but they are coming. Soon I'll have to get some work of what Jason can do and maybe a little step-by-step for those that might be interested in learning some things that might be done outside the box due to the fact that he's color blind.
Lots going on and lots more to come.

Today's Video of the Post is brought to you by: anjovaman