It all started Bike Week, Daytona Beach, Florida 1978. My wife Sharon and I owned and
operated a small restaurant “Subs N Suds” located on Main Street. Today that space is or
was occupied by Easy Rider.
That week I mingled with the crowd outside Subs N Suds to see what was happening.
Understand the crowds were big and busy. If you attended Bike Week you know the
excitement. Adjacent to our store was a small vacant parking lot. A Pinstriper
temporarily set up there for business during Bike Week. At that time, I was unaware of
the profession. But I was awestruck by the art and talent as I watched Tom Stratton,
pinstripe a good old Harley.
I said, “Wow! I would like to learn how to do that.” as I struck up a conversation with
Tom. Little did I know I was one of many to utter those words to a Pinstriper. Tom was
very obliging, he told me, “Go buy a can of paint, a brush, some thinner, and come back
and see me.” He never thought I would follow up. My experience as a Pinstriper, showed
me few people do.
To his surprise, I came back. This was the beginning of the best part of my life. Tom
would come into the Sub Shop every night to eat, (free of charge) and I began my
pinstriping and Sumi Art lessons. Tom had just finished learning Sumi from an artist out
I practiced daily, as many as 20 hours a day. I fell in love. I set up an easel at work and
one at home. I striped art board, paper, and sheet metal. Designs hanged all over. I was
hooked, no such thing a monkey on my back; it was a full blown gorilla. I loved it. I
think I striped every piece of furniture we owned, right down to our tropical fish tank.
Well, thirty days later, Sharon and I drove down the Daytona strip looking for my first
paying pinstriping job. GOT IT! Stripe a Jeep in the underground parking lot of a hotel. I
was getting paid twenty dollars for it! Can you believe this?
Now, I can honestly say I performed the longest time abortion in the history of
pinstriping. But the man loved it. Whew! That was all I needed. I sat in my pinto station
wagon along side my wife. Sharon looked at me and asked, “Well, how do you feel?”
My reply, “I want to do this all my life till the day I die. Please pray with me over this
now.” So, we prayed. We asked the Lord to bless me with this talent for my lifetime.
Results; I have received, lived, loved, and taught, the greatest blessing I could ask for, the
ability to work a profession that I love - Pinstriping. Tom Stratton and I became very
close friends who worked together many times over the years.
I was off and running, pinstriping everything I could get my hands. Or should I say my
brushes on. I was the man. Or so I thought. That was until I decided to work the Turkey
Rod Run in Daytona of 1980. Hell yea, I was gonna make some money now. I was
good. Ok time for a pinch of reality. I showed up to work the rod run, so did Mr. Jim
Norris. Needless to say Jim worked continuously and I watched, in amazement. I had
not seen anything as beautiful as what Jim was doing. He could work a crowd. He was a
master. I painted one job Jim sent over to me. He felt sorry for me. Oh well. The show
was over. Jim never stopped; I never started.
Jim came over after the show and we conversed about the art. I asked him every question
imaginable and he didn’t hesitate once to give me an answer. The sign of a true
professional, share your knowledge every opportunity. You can only reap from it. When
our conversation was over, Jim handed me a brush and said, “If you want to do this work
learn to use this brush.” He handed me a Dominican. You old timers will remember that
one. I still think it’s one of the hardest stripers to control and one of the best to stripe
with. Use your fingers to pallet if you really want to control paint flow and don’t forget
to “Dazzle Them with Color”. I have spoken with Jim a few times over the past 24 years;
I still believe he is, if not the Best, one of the Best Pinstripers I have ever seen.
So now, after meeting Jim, I had to start all over. Easels came out along with the sheet
metal and practice began again. Only this time, I needed to master the brush, the paint,
fine lines, and color co-ordination.
Not to much to learn asap.
On the Road:
Off I went. I lost the Restaurant, moved to Keystone Heights, Florida and began my
career on the road. I worked every show I could find. Street rods, hot rods, antiques,
motorcycles, tractors, antique engines, horse buggies, and furniture, you name it. I
painted it. I spent nine months living five days a week at a Christian Truck stop on
Interstate 75, chasing home to the family every chance I had. They gave me a bunk to
sleep on. When I wasn’t striping Big Rigs, I was studying scripture. During this period
of my career I was know by a few names; Pinstripting by Art, Goldenrod and/or The
In 1983, I started working the Yamaha Family Affair Events in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
I was hoping to land a contract of sorts with Yamaha Motor Company working the major
Biking Events under their Tent. I finally got that opportunity while working an event at
Busch Gardens, Florida in 1985. They offered me a contract to travel under Yamaha
Motor Co. at major biking events. Only there was a catch. I had to live in L.A. Who me?
Nah, thanks but no thanks. I’d rather move to Tennessee. So, I packed Sharon and the
kids up and moved to Morristown, Tennessee. Later that year (1985) I heard about a
Harley Event coming up in Branson, Missouri. So I called Harley Davidson Motor
Company and said, “I want to work your show!” Pretty funny huh!
Well, Mr. Steve Piehl was quite a gentleman, also the event manager. His response went
like this, “Sorry we don’t allow any outside venders in our show. Thank you for calling,
On the third re-call Steve put it to me simply. “Here’s the deal. You drive out to
Branson. I’ll meet you at the gate. I’ll talk to you. If I like what I hear and see, you
might work. If I don’t, you won’t”. My reaction simply put, “I’ll be there.”
I arrived. Steve arrived. He asked questions. I answered questions. I became the first
outside vender to work a Harley Owners Group (HOG) Event. This was the beginning of
a 12 year marriage. In 1986, I asked Steve if I could bring in another artist as the show
was too large for just one artist. The show was in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Steve gave the
“ok” and I invited George Williams to join me. George was my competitor at the
Yamaha events. This turned out to be the second greatest decision I ever made. I am sure
many of you either know or have heard of George Williams. We worked side by side for
12 years. My learning days began again. George is a master of technique, style, flare,
and color. From lettering to pictorials, murals, cartoons, striping and graphics, he is
awesome. I have always considered it an honor to work next to George. Not only is he a
professional and a gentleman, but more important; he is a brother.
Well, my Harley days were great. A lot of you stripers had the opinion that I, or George
and I, controlled who work the HOG events. George and I laughed about this just the
other day. We had NO, I repeat, NO say in who worked the HOG events. We were
nothing more than a couple of pinstripers. Hell, after 12 years under the HOG tent,
meeting up with Willie G. at every major event, Willie G. Davidson still thought my
name was George. Willie G. refers to me as the man who paints with his fingers. Does
this really sound like I had control over HOG Venders.
Putting it all together:
What have I learned about pinstriping? Pinstriping is not painting flames on a car, truck,
or motorcycle, it’s not murals, cartoons, lettering or candy flip-flop paint jobs. Pinstriping
is one of the oldest art forms in the world. Take time to research it. Look at the Egyptian
hieroglyphics. Look at the art on carriages of the King of England, France, Poland and
others. Look at the borders on the pages of some antique books. Pinstriping is what it is,
Pinstriping. Most of all it is an art form. What it is not, is just a means of decorating a
vehicle. One of the most difficult tasks that I have found is trying to understand why a
Pinstriper does not consider himself an ARTIST in the true sense of the word!
When I came to this realization, I began painting under my given name: Art Perfetti, Artist, and
went to canvas as well as vehicles.
In closing, I am really going to stick my neck out for everyone to chop it off… so have
Am I the Best Striper out their? Nope…
Am I one of the Best Stripers Out there? Your Damned Right I am!
And you... the guy who just started last week, are you the Best Striper Out there?
Are you going to be the Best Striper… Hell No!
Are you going to be One Of The Best…YOUR DAMNED RIGHT YOU ARE!
And if you don’t believe that… Then put down the brushes and become a banker..
But always, ALWAYS remember you are an artist. You don’t have to paint cars, flames,
letter, murals or anything else. Pinstriping is pinstriping. Custom painting is custom
painting. And pinstriping is an ART.
Best Regards... And Good Luck!