Tag Archives: geeky art

Family Artist Projects 2016: Who Is Kenny Howard?


Kenny Howard (aka Von Dutch) was a pioneer in pin-striping, among other talents. Try your hand at some geeky pin-striping with this mini hood project. Image: Lisa Kay Tate

Originally ran in GeekMom on Aug. 5, 2016

Kenny Howard was one of most groundbreaking American artists of the 1950s, whose style and work is still influencing artists, graphic designers, musicians, fashion designers, and architects today. However, very few people would recognize his name. They would recognize one of his better-known nicknames: Von Dutch.Born in 1929 as the son of a sign painter, Von Dutch was already painting professionally by age ten. He got his famous nickname from being called “stubborn as a Dutchman,” and also excelled in his professional life as a motorcycle mechanic, metal fabricator, knifemaker, gunsmith, and more.

 His recognizable striping style began gaining attention in the 1950s, and he became one of the fathers of the hot rod-centric style of art, fashion, cars, and more known as Kustom Kulture. He was known for his steady, intricate pinstriping patterns, as well as the “flying eyeball” symbol. His freehand work, often done with a thin paintbrush, was steady and exact, and it helped win him several awards for his custom work.


Kenny Howard, better known as Von Dutch, has been an icon Kustom Kulture art since the 1950s, and has been the subject of, or included in several publications of the movement.

After his death in 1992, his daughters sold the use of his name to the company Von Dutch Originals, which

became a multinational, licensed brand. Today, the company produces and sells clothes, jewelry, and other items worldwide celebrating the style and life of Von Dutch. There was even a Von Dutch energy drink, created for Rockstar Energy drinks, and one of the most complete books on the artist, The Art of Von Dutch by Al Quattrocchi and Jeff Smith.

Even though Von Dutch’s name is now often associated with a successful brand, Von Dutch, himself said in 1992, not long before his own death, that he felt “Copyright and patents are mostly an ego trip.”

His name may now be part of a license, but he welcomed people  taking elements of his work and making it their own.

“Use any of my stuff you want to,” he said of those inspired by his style. “Nothing is original. Everything is in the subconscious; we just ‘tap’ it sometimes and ‘think’ we have originated something. Genes make us more or less interested in certain things but nothing is truly original!”


Before taking on a Von Dutch-inspired pattern on a real car hood, scale it down with a bit first. Image: Lisa Kay Tate

The Project: Little Kustom Hoods

This is a good beginner way to practice Von Dutch’s style of pin-striping, even if you don’t yet have a steady hand–nor a car or bike to work on.

First, make a hood using a square of cardboard or pasteboard. Round it off on one end or taper it to make it


Cut square pieces of corrugated cardboard or pasteboard, and shape to resemble little car hoods.

resemble a little car hood. Next, spray or hand paint it the color you want and set it aside to dry. If you want a more industrial or steampunk look, add a few “rivets” using self-adhesive pearl or jewel stickers painted to match the hood.

Now, this part will take a little effort to perfect.

Find a good symmetrical image you like, (a mask, face, vehicle, logo, etc.) and draw a basic outline of one-half of it

(think of pinstripe work) on the edge of a sheer sheet of paper. Use tracing paper if you don’t want to draw freehand yet.

Next, add your own pinstripe pattern around it, as simple or complex as you like. Pinterest and clip art sites are great places for pinstripe ideas.

Now, place the design on top of the cardboard hood. Slowly but firmly trace over it with a pen or toothpick, so it leaves a slight indention in the cardboard. Flip the design over and trace its reverse side on the hood, aligned with the original pattern.


Draw or trace half a pattern on a sheet of sheer paper and add some “custom” pin-striping. Use a pen to transfer the image onto the cardboard hood, and paint over the image outline. Images: Lisa Kay Tate

Once done, this should produce a full, nearly symmetrical pattern on the hood top.

Finally, use a thin brush with acrylic paint (or paint pens) and paint over the design to give it the appearance of a custom pinstripe job.


Self-adhesive pearl or jewel stickers can give your hood a little industrial or steampunk edge. Image: Lisa Kay Tate

Once you have mastered this technique, try it on other items, and eventually you might even be able to freehand like the master pinstriper himself. Eventually, you can move on to nonsymmetrical designs or more complex patterns. Even if you perfect this method, keep learning and evolving, because Von Dutch felt knowledge was the most valuable thing of all.“The only thing you can truly own is your knowledge,” he said. “For you can sell it, give it away, and still keep it.”



Summer Artist-inspired Projects: Banksy

iron-man banskystyle

Banksy-style art makes it fun to leave anonymous gifts for friends and family.

The Artist: Banksy

Who is Bansky? That’s a question many people want to know, as Banksy is the pseudonym used by the now world-famous grafitti artist. Banksy’s work started popping up around the Bristol and London underground art scenes in the mid-1990s.


Bansky’s graffiti has influenced many other street artists. Images: Wikicommons and Random House UK.

He started out doing freehand art, but soon turned to the quicker stencil method in the 2000s. Banksy has also created stickers, spoof “Bansky of England” £10 notes (which can still be found on eBay), limited-edition posters, and other works. He has traveled beyond the United Kingdom, and left his mark in American cities like New Orleans and New York.

There has been plenty of speculation about the identity of Banksy, including that he might be a woman artist or group of artists, going by “he” to help hide the true identity. His… or her… or their… work is sometimes humorous and often bearing an anti-establishment political or social message. Whether or not the viewer completely agrees or adamantly disagrees with Banksy’s viewpoint, there is one thing everyone agrees on—Banksy’s work is eye-catching.

Many artists use their work to support a certain social or political view, but Banky’s anonymity may have more to do with where his art ends up, rather than what actually depicts. For example, one time the artist somehow climbed into the London Zoo’s penguin enclosure and painted the seven-foot-tall message, “We’re bored of fish!”

Bansky has done his share of behind-the-scenes commissioned work, as well, from exhibitions to art installations. He also co-created the 2010 documentary on street art, Exit Through the Gift Shop, with fellow street artist “Space Invader.”

One problem with anonymity is Banksy isn’t available to give public talks about his work, but he talks about it in his book, Wall and Piece. There are also other books highlighting Banksy’s pieces found in different cities.

No one may ever really know the true identity of artist behind the Banksy name, but really, would that be any fun? Just knowing this artist is Banksy is good enough for now, and Banksy is happy with it that way.

“Speak softly, but carry a big can of paint,” he said in Wall and Piece.

 The Project: Anonymous Graffiti Gifts

grafitti gift

Find a design to fit the environment and leave it where someone you love can see it.

Many artists have used stencil or screen printing techniques, including Andy Warhol, Corita Kent, and Pablo Picasso, but Banksy created a way to make this method bold, detailed, and fast, the latter usually to help him get the work finished without getting caught.

This project is going to take advantage of one of the easiest forms of stencils to find: pumpkin patterns. Anyone who has looked online at for pumpkin patterns recently, or has seen kits in the store, has probably noticed they don’t often have anything to do with Halloween or fall anymore. Some superhero, pop culture patterns could be used year round to create summer lanterns in watermelon, make t-shirt stencils, or in the case of this project, make some quick Bansky-style stencil murals.

I need to emphasize one thing, first. Actual graffiti is illegal. Don’t leave any permanent images anywhere without the consent of the owner. Now, I grew up in an area where graffiti-style art is a true fine art form, but it often takes the form of “murals.” One artist I talked to a few years ago told me the difference between a mural and graffiti was “you have permission to make the mural.” In short, get permission.


So, how do we leave surprise art bombs without getting permission? Easy! Create portable graffiti on poster board or cardboard, so they aren’t permanent.

Find a stencil (start out with a fairly easy pattern), and print it out. For larger images, this will take a few pieces of paper, so print on scrap paper at the lowest draft setting. Print two or three copies of the image, in case you need extras. Good, clean stencils are important in getting a layered effect.

Cut the first pattern out as just a silhouette, no details, and leave the cut-out piece for later. Place this image on the poster board or other surface and spray over the entire image. Younger artists can do this sponging or brushing on the paint.


Create design’s shape with a silhouette (top), the add the details with other layers.

Now, if you are just choosing a two-color method, take the cut out potion of the pattern and cut the  details, and place it over the first pattern. Then spray, sponge, or brush the detail layers on. Once you’ve mastered this, you can try it with three or more colors by just cutting out certain details on each layer. You can add smaller details freehand.

This method can also be used for sidewalk chalk art graffiti. Use a thicker cardstock paper, so it doesn’t rip or warp when coloring in the pattern.

chalk art

Chalk art is another way to leave a non-permanent graffiti-style gift.

The finished pieces can be left behind as a fun “thank you” to family or friends who you were staying with for the summer, a birthday gift for a parent or sibling to wake up to, or an end-of-school gift for a teacher who made a difference.

Some artists have criticized Banksy’s use of stencils as “cheating,” but when stealth is key, they work best. Banksy, apparently, doesn’t care what others think, as stated in Wall and Piece:

“Become good at cheating, and you never need to become good at anything else,” he said.

Okay, this isn’t something to follow in all aspects of life, but in Banksy’s high-speed art world, it’s okay to take a short cut sometimes.

It is also totally okay to reveal yourself as the artist after a couple of days, but make them guess a little first.

Originally ran July 11, 2015 in GeekMom.com.