Design Trends
ST: We've talked to a few designers who feel the tribal influence is overdone, and maybe played out. What's your sense of the trend in paint design?
V: That depends on what you mean by tribal. If you're talking about tribal flames, I don't know if they're overdone, but I can tell you I don't like them that much, even though I think I had a hand in popularizing the style through a few of my designs that were on the covers of magazines a few years ago.

A lot of people call this paint with all the weird lines going all over it tribal. This design came pretty much from Craig Fraiser, at Cal Concepts, and Air Syndicate. Well, Craig started do this quite a few years ago and everyone started copying that stuff. And the main reason was he was teaching seminars on custom painting, showing them how to do that design. So that's why we see so many trucks painted in that manner.

Don't get me wrong, nine out of ten things anyone does includes ideas copied from someone else. The girl on the hood I'm working on comes from an Olivia painting, to the tee, with a just a few changes I make to make it my own.

ST: Yeah, and Olivia was probably borrowing ideas from Vargas and others. Just like we can see the designs of Von Dutch coming back in a big way to influence current designs.
V: Well, I haven't been around long enough to know this for a fact, but it seems like paint design style is cyclical, just like music and clothing fashion. You know, where every 20 or so years it comes back and is known as retro.

Realistic Flames
ST: What's your take on realistic flames? We've got a how-to story with Jerry Sievers of Paint N Place and Mickey Harris in this issue doing them in water-based paint, and I've got another in the works with Mike Lavalle working in a solvent-based system. And there's another painter that's big in flames.
V: Craig Fraiser.

ST: Yeah
V: All those guys are very good. Lavalle was on "Monster Garage" and he really popularized the look. I started messing with the technique so I could teach it in my seminars, and the panel in the middle is the most realistic because that's looking at picture of real fire. So the realistic flame jobs don't actually look like fire. They're an interpretation.

Here's an interesting aside. The guys back East and in the Southeast are thinking realistic flames are going to be the next big thing. I'm not sure about that. I still see more interest in traditional flames and variations on that technique,than realistic flames. I think realistic flames work on specific projects and for certain personalities. But I don't think it'll go mainstream, in part because it already has.

ST: What about scallops and two-tone paint?
V: I love scallops. But I do them mostly on bikes. I don't think I've ever done a truck with scallops. What's really hot now, though, is two-tone. I just did one last week. It was silver on top, blue on the bottom, with a beveled, chrome edge separating the colors. At the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) Show this past year, there were 5,000 two-tones. The cool thing about two-tones is you can do so many things with them. I was even thinking of using realistic flames to break the color, but I saw that someone already did it. But here's the idea: doing the two-tone with something breaking the bottom color and the realistic flames coming out from behind it. Use the technique to add a little icing instead of using it as the cake.

You know we're going a little long here and it'd be fun to talk trucks for hours with Steve Vandemon. But we've got to end it here. If you like to know more about what Steve's up to, don't hesitate to visit his Web site at, or call him at (714) 630-5350.