March 21, 2010

You’re Gonna Nub This!

An Interview with ‘Nub’ of Nub Grafix

Part 2 of 2 (link to Part 1)
Click on any image to enlarge it to original size

Nub, you’re obviously pretty well known for your work with
Orange County Choppers (crap, I mentioned them by name, now I have to send them a check), but you also seem to have a good following among the ‘fine instruments and performing arts’ crowd. How did you get involved in painting and detailing for bands and musicians?
I was contacted by
Pearl Drum a few years back to pinstripe a kit for them to display at the NAMM show in California. It was a massive kit ... like 22 drums ... an enormous set-up. (ZN: for a very interesting collection of photos detailing Nub’s work on this from start to finish, please see this link).

I was also doing some work with
Martin Guitar at the time. I was painting some one-off guitars that they were going to have in their booth. It’s always a great thing when you can display your work to a completely different customer base.

How do I explain that? Let’s say you make flower pots. Well, if you went to a flower pot convention to show off your work, you would be surrounded by flower pots. But if you took your pot to a flashlight convention, you would be the only idiot in the building standing there with a flower pot.

I’m not saying that there aren’t any other companies that work with custom painters, and in no way did I invent the idea of custom painting a kit, but the custom painted instruments at a show like that are far outnumbered by the plain stuff. So it was an eye opener to me to pursue a different avenue to sell my artwork. It’s also refreshing working on a different shaped canvas every now and then too.

Nub, switching gears slightly (every pun intended): in terms of the ‘raw materials’ you use currently, and since I’m sort of on a green kick myself lately, are environmental or safety concerns (e.g. working with solvent- vs. water-based paints) playing more of a role in not only your work but also your customers’ wishes?
Well, when I first got into this industry, everything was primarily urethane based paint ... it still is. But in the last 10 years or so, the waterborne/water-based systems have been making great strides to compete with the ‘uros’.

I even worked directly with a paint company testing their water-based stuff for a while. And I’ve got to admit: while some of it seemed great, there were still certain things about it that I just couldn’t overcome. So, I sort of stepped back and let them work out some issues. That was about 5 or 6 years ago.

Fast forward to today in terms of these paints: the stuff is pretty damn good. There is still some tweaking that needs to be done in my opinion, but it’s pretty much a reality that this is what the future custom painters will be squirting. I also know that in certain parts of the world, all you can get is waterborne paint. So eventually it will be the norm.

While we’re on the technical side of your raw materials, how much do you yourself have to know about aspects such as fastness to light or solvents (e.g. gas), scratch resistance, or other key points? Or do you mostly just rely on your suppliers for this type of input?
You’re actually putting a lot of faith in the paint manufacturers’ ability to make a solid product. Plus, now with all the laws coming down on the paint manufacturer’s having to lower the VOC’s (volatile organic content), I believe that a lot of what gave the products their longevity in the past is slowly being extracted from the mix.

But, I really hand it to some of these chemists that keep tweaking the formulas to meet the current standards. It also boils down to people just like me ‘learning’ to use the new products. I mean, a water-based paint is not going to spray and cure the same way a urethane based paint will. They can say it’s similar all they want, but it ain’t.

So I think if custom paint is what somebody wants to do for a living, they should get as much schooling as they can in the products before they start to paint for a living. You’re always going to have stuff go wrong; it’s inevitable. But the more knowledge you have on the products, the better your chance is to dig yourself out of a catastrophe.

Without naming names (again, this is NOT meant to be an OCC exposé), when you work with a client, how much of your own creative input is really allowed? Or does that vary a lot from customer to customer?
It really varies from customer to customer. Some people know exactly what they want ... and some do not have a clue.

One of the reasons that I didn’t last doing work for OCC is because they started taking that creative input away from me and putting the decisions into the hands of – what’s the nicest way to put this – untrained monkeys. (ZN: vs. using say, trained monkeys, commonly known as bloggers...)

Again without going into given competition details (e.g. ‘
V Force Customs’ or other topics circulating around the web), it seems that the custom painter business is fairly friendly, that is, I get the feeling the different guys doing it get along pretty well and will help each other out as needed? Or is there a darker side to the business I’m missing?
This industry is probably the closest knit circle of friends you could ever find. And I have been fortunate enough to become friends with artists across the globe.

I think as artists, we can appreciate the work that someone else does without looking at it as ‘competition’ ... or maybe it’s just the fumes that has us all messed up. But if you put the ‘business’ aspect aside, we are just a bunch of lunatics living the dream, you know, doing what we love to do and getting paid for it.

Seriously though, I would do whatever I could for the guys I know if they needed my help. And I know they would do the same for me.

Have you had situations where you’ve just had to say to someone who comes in with their own ideas that: ‘there’s no way YOUR idea will work or look good!’ If so, how did you handle that?
Sure, I do it all the time. I simply say ‘that’s gonna look like shit’ ha ha ha.

No, I don’t say that. I really just tell them that it won’t look right and try to guide them into the direction that I feel it needs to go – sometimes ‘helping’ them feel like the changes were their idea anyway – but hey, that’s just the kind of guy I am.

Still, to be honest, the ‘best’ customers are the ones whose friend, spouse or whoever has an art degree. So of course, when the customer first comes in, they point out to me that this person they know said this or that is what would look best. Every so often, they will have a pretty cool twist on where to go with the design, but this is usually how that conversation goes, almost word for word, each time:

Customer: Well, my wife has an art degree and she said this should be like this.

Nub: Hm ... I think that we should do it the way I had it.

Customer: Well, again, she does have a degree in art.

Nub: What does she do for a living if you don’t mind me asking?

Customer: Well, she’s been unemployed for a while ... still looking for work to be honest. But she’s about to start working again any day now, it’s just she’s holding out for a managerial position.

Nub: So, how’s that art degree working out for her?

So now 1 of 2 things will happen: either the customer realizes that their idea really isn’t that good – or they will be so pissed off at me for standing my ground that they leave. And to tell you honestly: either scenario works for me.

I’m also curious to know how you’ll know how a given design will look good when something is moving fast (like maybe how NASCAR has to design their stuff). Or is that less of a concern in the motorcycle area?
I really believe that it’s less of a concern with the motorcycles.

With graphics, I’m usually trying to convey movement in the piece. You know, I’m trying to make something look like it’s moving while it’s standing still. But even that varies a lot and depends on what kind of artwork you’re trying to do.

I have to ask as well: what do YOU think is the fascination with flame designs and also especially skulls? Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool and I’ve drawn a few thousand skulls in my notebooks over the years, too! But what’s the staying power behind these types of designs?
I really don’t know.

Skulls have been featured in more paint-jobs than probably anything else. I gotta be honest: I’m almost getting tired of painting them, too. I guess the trick to not feeling stale is by doing them in different styles and trying out new things ... but in the end it’s still a skull.

The flame design on the other hand is just one of those things that will never go out of style. To me it’s kind of a nod to the original custom painters who started doing it in the 50’s. Those were and are the guys that paved the way for what we’re trying to accomplish today.

The best part about this industry is when one fad comes blowing in, eventually it will get mixed with all the other paint trends and new things begin to emerge. The cycle never ends and for me it all just keeps getting better.

Finally, what’s next for Nub and his grafix business?
Well, like I mentioned before, I’m going to do everything I can to make this comic strip happen. I feel like that is what I should be doing until I’m an old man. But you never know: I may find some other crazy stuff to keep me busy.

This new show I mentioned has been taking up a lot of my time lately, but we’re having so much fun with it. I can’t let the cat totally out of the bag yet, but let me just say that it will have nothing to do with me painting motorcycles. I’ll be sure to let you know when everything gets sorted out!

So, Nub it’s tradition that we allow you a little free space for any rampant self-promotion or other inputs you’d like to add that won’t get us sued or otherwise impaled:
I just want to thank you for wanting me to do this interview. Sorry it took longer than the building of the pyramids to get it to you. There’s been a lot of stuff happening here that seemed to make my all good intentions go to, well, shit.

I’ll definitely be sure to let you know what’s going on with this show. Seeing what you’re doing with this blog, you’ll definitely get a kick out of it!


If you want to find out more about Nub and his Nub Grafix efforts, don’t just visit his website but also sign up as a ‘member’. It’s free, it’s fun and the shots you have to take really don’t hurt that much. It features not only lots on neat stuff about Nub but a lot of great photos, too.

One of our favorite parts about his web-site is his own brief biography which reads as follows:

Hey everybody....I'm Nub. When I was a child, my parents told me I would draw pictures on the walls and blame my older brother. They kinda knew I was lying because he couldn't draw anything. Now, here we are 30+ years later....the walls are now different canvases....and there's nobody around here to blame.

So, we’d just like to conclude by saying: Nub’s older brother, if you’re out there man, well: thanks for taking it all in stride, dude!

All pictures, videos and other media are used with written permission of Nub Grafix, or are available in the public domain (noting copyright and other restrictions, accordingly). No further reproduction or duplication is permitted without contacting the artist directly. For further details to illustrations, commercially available pieces, and much more, please visit

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