Leg­endary car pain­ter Robert Van­der­slice


Pasatiempo - - NEWS -

When you’ve got etched, pol­ished chrome ex­haust pipes snaking down the length of your ride, a gold or sil­ver grill, a sparkling en­gine, rims, hood or­na­ments, and hy­draulics, you need a flashy paint job to go with it. You would be hard-pressed to find a pain­ter with a rep­u­ta­tion as solid as that of Al­bu­querque na­tive Robert Van­der­slice, who puts his dis­tinc­tive spin on paint jobs, cre­at­ing de­tailed lin­ear de­signs that fol­low the con­tours of the ve­hi­cles, com­plex con­fig­u­ra­tions with el­e­ments that over­lay and merge into one an­other. Van­der­slice’s de­signs have won mul­ti­ple awards at tour­ing car shows. Rollin’ Malo, a 1978 Chevro­let Monte Carlo owned by Fa­vian Gar­cia, for which Van­der­slice was com­mis­sioned to do a cus­tom paint job, was named Car of the Year at the Las Ve­gas Su­per Show in Ne­vada in 2002. The event is among the largest in the lowrid­ing com­mu­nity. An­other Monte Carlo with a cus­tom Van­der­slice paint job, an ’83 owned by New Mex­ico His­tory Mu­seum em­ployee Or­lando Martinez Jr., is on ex­hibit in Lowrid­ers, Hop­pers, and Hot Rods. The Monte Carlo is a daz­zling sight, with al­ter­nat­ing candy stripes in shades of pur­ple, sil­ver, and ma­genta and shim­mer­ing with metal flake paint. “I go with the shape of the car,” Van­der­slice told

Pasatiempo. “That’s my in­spi­ra­tion. I study the car and come up with what I’m go­ing to do. A lot goes into it. There’s a lot of pac­ing, color-co­or­di­nat­ing. There’s a lot of trial and er­ror.”

Van­der­slice be­gins by mak­ing an out­line of the car’s shape. “A Monte Carlo like Rollin’ Malo — it’s got those beau­ti­ful shapes, so that would be what I call my frame­work,” he said. “I frame the car with eighth-inch or quar­ter-inch tape, then I be­gin to build in. I call it puz­zle tap­ing. What I tape first is go­ing to get sprayed last. It’s all men­tally thought out, re­ally in­tri­cately taped. When I have peo­ple help me tape, some of them get lost.” Af­ter fram­ing the car, he comes up with a theme. While many of his de­signs flow with the shape of the car, his “wild style” de­signs do not. “On most of my paint jobs, both sides are iden­ti­cal. With the wild style, both sides are to­tally dif­fer­ent.”

His paint­ing on Du­al­ity, a 1996 Cadil­lac Fleet­wood Brougham, a pho­to­graph of which is in­cluded in the ex­hibit, has dif­fer­ent pat­terns on the sides. One side is vary­ing shades of blue, pink,


pur­ple, and sil­ver, and the other side is orange, sil­ver, pur­ple, and ma­roon. “It looks like two dif­fer­ent cars,” he said. “Plus, I drilled holes in­side the pan­els. Wher­ever there were pat­terns, I drilled holes along them in dif­fer­ent sizes. There will be LED lights be­hind the pan­els. It can strobe. You can pro­gram the col­ors you want. You can pro­gram the lights to go back and forth like Knight Rider.”

Van­der­slice be­gan work­ing with cars as a child in Al­bu­querque. His fa­ther did paint jobs on the week­ends for extra money. “I started help­ing my dad when I was six or seven, and when I was about twelve years old, I started do­ing paint jobs on the neigh­bors’ cars. If my fam­ily had wrecked any­thing, I would fix it. My dad showed me how to do flames. Those got bor­ing real quick, and I couldn’t ex­press my­self. When I re­ally started to get my stuff to­gether, Lowrider mag­a­zine started rec­og­niz­ing it. They ac­tu­ally did two sep­a­rate ar­ti­cles on me. They had me on Martin Luther King over­pass with 15 of the cars I painted, had me run out into the street, and took a pic­ture. They called me ‘New Mex­ico’s in­no­va­tive stylist.’ ”

Flames are a com­mon de­sign el­e­ment on lowrid­ers and hot rods, but in Es­pañola and other parts of North­ern New Mex­ico, tra­di­tional paint jobs of­ten in­clude mu­rals de­pict­ing Our Lady of Guadalupe, Je­sus Christ, and other re­li­gious fig­ures, along with fam­ily portraits. “I give Es­pañola the ut­most re­spect be­cause they keep lowrid­ing tra­di­tional,” Van­der­slice is quoted as say­ing in the ex­hi­bi­tion’s text. His own de­signs are a rad­i­cal de­par­ture: pre­cise, ab­stract com­po­si­tions whose col­ored bands grad­u­ally shift in tone and bend back on one an­other like Möbius strips or some­thing from the mind of M.C. Escher. “I don’t do mu­rals, just pat­terns,” he said. “They’re re­ally hard­core lowrider pat­terns.” Van­der­slice calls his prac­tice “taste­ful overkill”: “I try not to leave any space un­touched.”

Van­der­slice can work quickly once his pat­terns are taped, and he still does cus­tom projects. “On my last paint job, I went up to Po­joaque right be­fore Good Fri­day and I did a whole pat­tern job in a day. The car was ready for me — al­ready based, flaked. I just had to go lay my tape and shoot my col­ors.” Reach­ing this stage of ex­per­tise, along with earn­ing recog­ni­tion for his craft in a state mu­seum ex­hi­bi­tion, came at a cost. “A lot of those paint jobs I did on metham­phetamine,” he said. “I have quite a past. I’m four years clean from crys­tal meth. I gave my life to the Lord three years ago. I give all honor to him. For a lot of us, we’ve got our recog­ni­tion, but it’s been a long, long road.”

Michael Abatemarco

The New Mex­i­can

Or­lando Martinez Jr.’s 1983 Monte Carlo (in NM His­tory Mu­seum), painted by Van­der­slice, photo Blair Clark; right, from top to bot­tom, Gabriela E. Cam­pos: Pin­stripe Precision, 2014; Dot­tie Lopez: Precision, 2014; Wil­liam Davis: 1933 Ford Coupe gold

flame paint job, 2005 Op­po­site page, Don J. Us­ner: Robert Van­der­slice, 2016

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