Many people appreciate a nice paint job on a custom car or motorcycle, especially if it's accentuated with some fine pinstriping. Many of you have heard the name Von Dutch, but few realize he is credited with making pinstriping the art form it is today.
A new documentary film about the life and work of Von Dutch has been produced and you can learn about it on ridernet.com. You can also see a six part series of video interviews with Von Dutch, conducted by none other than Big Daddy Roth, with the artist actually showing you some of his techniques and lettering styles. These videos are priceless.
His real name was Kenneth Howard, but he chose the name Von Dutch in his eccentricity. A master of most things mechanical, he was an excellent gun smith and knife maker besides a talented sign maker, learning much of the latter from his father. Gun smithing was his true passion but it was his skill with a Grumbacher that attracted the attention of body shops, custom car owners and motorcycle builders of the time. He was part of the Kustom Kulture craze gripping the west coast in the 1950's and '60s.
It amazed people that he could create a complicated pinstripe design on one side of a vehicle and then duplicate it almost exactly on the other side, freehand, without any guidelines or templates. He had a photographic memory and read many books on mechanical techniques and gun smithing, and could recite word for word text from the book and even cite pages certain articles were found. When asked why he kept the books after memorizing them, he said it was because he liked to look at the pictures.
Von Dutch was never interested in becoming rich through his art and he never believed that his ideas were new or innovative. He believed everything to know was already in the mind; it only needed to be set free. Hence his statement that "Patents were mostly an ego trip."
His flying eyeball logo became iconic and synonymous to his name. A group of professional painters and pinstripers, known as the Pinstripe Legends, travel to various car and motorcycle shows around the country raising money for charities. To pay homage to Von Dutch, they use the flying eyeball logo on display and souvenir items they autograph and sell to benefit the charity.