Pinstriping artists highlight car show

David Hightower was a teenager when he decided he wanted to be a pinstripe artist.

It was 1957. "You could get $3 for a dashboard, rather than 50 cents an hour at Dairy Queen," Hightower said.

Now, his art can be seen on the streets or hanging framed on walls in 35 states and eight countries.

"Pinstriping is American folk art, like rock 'n' roll," Hightower said Saturday during the Darryl Starbird National Championship Exotic Car Show at Century II.

Hightower, of Pittsburg, Kan., has been pinstriping longer than the car show has been coming to Wichita. He's been at it for 57 years. The car show is in its 53rd year.

He's seen the art move from straight lines on the sides of cars to intricate painted designs. Hightower said each car inspires what he paints.

"Every car has a design all of its own that just fits it," he said. "It's like music."

Ron Pinkston of Wichita said he's seen interest in pinstriping rise and fall in his 28 years of painting cars.

"But it's really exploded in the past two years," he said.

Bringing pinstripe artists together at car shows has also pushed the art past cars, Pinkston said.

The artists sell wall panels for $50 or more.

During the show, Pinkston said, the artists will have "panel jams," where eight artists each have one color.

"You stripe for two minutes, then you move onto the next one," adding to the work of the previous artist. "Then we auction them off for charity."

Basic pinstriping on a car averages $275, Pinkston said, with the more elaborate designs running up to $1,000.

Some artists have specialties.

Aleycia Crawford is an airbrush artist who specializes in classic pinups — models of scantily clothed women.

Crawford perfected her art at Big Dog Motorcycles.

"I don't know what got me interested in pinups, but maybe it was growing up in Wichita and seeing the nose art on the old fighter planes," Crawford said.

Motorcycle gas tanks are Crawford's most requested pallet.

"Sometimes they bring their girlfriends in and want them painted," said Crawford, who also runs a photography studio in the style of the 1930s, '40s and '50s pinups.

Besides vehicles and wall art, the artists say they've been asked to pinstripe kitchen cabinets and woodwork in houses.

Blaine Scott of Kansas City showed a guitar with pinstriping.

Said Scott: "If it will hold still long enough, you can stripe it."