Sunday, July 16, 2000

Artist takes pork in the road

Custom-car striper and flame painter steers three swine into the Big Pig Gig

By Owen Findsen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The man called “Dauber” stood at the back of the crowd of artists who gathered one winter day at the Glass Hand in Cleves to watch a demonstration on “pig preparation.”

(Dick Swaim photo)
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        Eric Kilb, owner of the fiberglass shop, was showing them how to sand, fill, sculpt and paint a pig for the Big Pig Gig. The Glass Hand, creator of 300 of the almost 400 fiberglass pigs produced for the public art event, was conducting a workshop. Mr. Kilb was showing potential pig painters the techniques needed to make silk purse-quality art out of a fiberglass cast.

        “Some of these people don't have a clue about what they're getting themselves into,” Dauber says. “This is not like painting a picture. This is auto body work.”

        Dauber was sympathetic to the artists' plight as they took a quick course in fiberglass technology.

        “I called a lot of the suppliers that I normally work with and told them that they would be getting a lot of strange phone calls. I asked them to be kind and helpful.”

        Dauber — the name's a synonym for painter — is Jim Farr, 52, of Westwood. Although he's also a painter and illustrator, he's well known in the custom-car field by his professional name, Dauber, as a master custom-car free-hand paint striper and flame painter. There's even a striping brush named for him.

(Luis Sanchez photo)
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        “I saw the news about the cows in Chicago, and when I heard about Cincinnati's pigs, I decided it would be really fun to do one,” he says. “I could smell the bacon sizzling. I submitted five designs and got three sponsors.”

        Frank Wood was among the first to be approached to sponsor a pig. His first thought, as a motorcycle enthusiast, was to do a motorcycle pig. His second thought was to ask Dauber to do it.

        “I was honored to have Dauber do my pig,” said Mr. Wood, CEO of Secret Communications. “He's a quirky, unusual, creative guy. He did a bike for me as far back as 1968, and we've worked together on a lot of fun projects ever since.”

        “Road Hog,” the motorcycle pig is a long, low custom bike in deep blue, embellished by yellow and orange flames. It has been in the window of the former McAlpin's store on Fourth Street, downtown, for more than a month but is being moved to the lobby of the 312 Walnut building.

        A biker pig, “Pork Chopper,” was commissioned for Harley-Davidson of Cincinnati by the owners, Ferd and Thelma Meinor. It stands in the window of Westminster's Billiard Club, 1140 Main St., Over-the-Rhine.

        The third pig, “Toyota Hamry,” sponsored by Toyota Manufacturing on North America Inc., will greet visitors to Cincinnati at Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

        Pigs were fiberglass casts, delivered to artists in rough finished form, with lots of holes that needed filling before the pigs could be sanded and primed.

        Some artists took their pigs to professional auto body shops to be prepared, but most sanded and primed in their studios, garages and kitchens to save the $300 plus cost of having the pigs professionally prepared and painted.

        “I can do fiberglass work. I can spray. But I don't do these things because they're not something I do every day,” Dauber says.

        “If you want good work, you go to an expert. If you have trouble with your teeth, you go to a dentist. If you want fiberglass prepared and painted, you go to an auto body shop.

        “Besides, my other work requires a really clean environment. I can't have fiberglass dust floating around where I'm doing custom painting on very expensive vehicles.”

        All three pigs required alterations by the Glass Hand studio.

        “Pork Chopper, the biker pig, was pretty straightforward,” Mr. Kilb says. The pig is a standing pig, dressed as a biker, with black vest and blue jeans in a Chevy truck blue.

        “We added a hat, and my wife, Cindy, modified a real pair of biker boots for it. The other two pigs were among the most extreme modifications we had to do to any of the pigs.”

        Road Hog had to be chopped just like a custom motorcycle. The rear legs of what began as a standing pig were removed to make room for the rear wheel. The low rider pig has extended front legs to hold the front wheel. Boar tusks were added to make it look mean.

        “Toyota Hamry” began as a walking pig but lost its legs entirely to turn the body into a four-wheeled, pig-headed automobile with fender wells and real automobile wheels. There's even a spoiler on the back.

        After modification at the Glass Hand, each pig went to a custom shop. No fine art supplies were used.

        “These are all auto body urethane,” Dauber says. “If these pigs are going to be auctioned for charity, they have to be built to last and painted with the best finishes. I didn't make these pigs to last just six months.”

        Pork Chopper was painted by Dan Morgan at Schmoe's Collision & Custom Designs in Cheviot. Don Loos at Don's Custom Cycle in Miamitown built real motorcycle parts into Road Hog, and Ray Ward at Custom Design in Western Hills added a spectacular paint job to the Hamry.

        Road Hog sports real handlebars, shocks, exhaust pipes and other bike parts.

        “We got a lot of funny responses from people who came into our shop,” says Don Loos of Don's Custom Cycle in Miamitown. “There was so much interest that we put the pig on our Web site so people could watch the progress of building the pig.”

        It has a deep blue-black urethane finish, and like the others, it has the same clear coat used on automobiles.

        Dauber was worried that people would try to ride the pig. “So I got Bob Farrell, at All-Craft Manufacturing in Bridgetown, to create an anti-ride deterrent, an aluminum razorback ridge along the seat. Everybody I went to for help was Johnny-on the spot. I had great cooperation.”

        Toyota Hamry is turning heads because of its paint, a special color called Harlequin that was donated by PPG Industries. The glittering color changes from gold to magenta when the pig is viewed from different angles.

        “It was a pretty big project,” Ray Ward says. “It took us three or four weeks, and everybody in the shop got involved. The pig came in pretty rough. We had a lot of body work — sanding, filling and putting on two coats of primer.

        “The paint is a special European paint you don't see around here,” Mr. Ward says. “It changes color as you walk around it. . . . and it's expensive. You don't buy it by the gallon or by the quart. You buy it by the ounce at about $35 an ounce.”

        Most automobile paints take two coats, a base and a clear. “This has three coats, a black pearl base, then the color coat and a clear coat,” Mr. Ward says.

        “We had the pig standing outside for a while one day, and people were slamming on their brakes and getting out of their cars to ask about it,” Mr. Ward says.

        Dauber supervised and participated in every phase of the pig-making process. He did the striping and other finishing details in his shop. In the end, the pigs are among the most elaborate and expensive to make. But unlike most of the Big Pig Gig artists, Dauber didn't pay out of his own pocket.

        “I treated these pigs as commissions, the same way I would treat any project. The first thing I did was to get agreements from my clients. They agreed to pay for the sanding, priming and painting of the pigs. And they agreed to pay for modifications, which, for all three pigs, totaled about $5,000.

        After half a year of pigs, Dauber says he no longer is smelling the bacon.

        “I'm happy to get back to my cars and motorcycles. If there were another public art project in Cincinnati, I'd have to think real long and hard about it.”

- Artist takes pork in the road
Pig Gig fans can bid on little replicas
Pig Parade: Pig Dreams

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