Made On Earth — Dirty Car Art

Craft & Design

car art

Scott Wade of San Marcos, Texas, thought he could do better than write “Wash Me” on the backside of a dusty car. He started drawing caricatures. His father was a cartoonist of sorts and had taught him to draw funny faces. It was Wade’s idea to make a dirty car window his canvas.

“For the last 20 years living on a dirt road,” he says, “there’s always dirt on my car.”

With the sun baking it, the dirt takes about two weeks to form a stable work surface. Wade began, like anyone else, by using his finger, and then tried popsicle sticks. To introduce shading, he decided to use brushes. Over time he developed a range of techniques, which included using plants and rubber paint-shaper tools.

Wade particularly likes the dirt of central Texas, where crushed limestone mixed with clay serves as a road base.

“It makes the perfect dirt,” he says. “It’s very light-colored and the contrast is great against the dark shadow inside the car.”

As he got more requests to create his Dirty Car Art in public, he realized that he had to figure out how to dust up a car himself. Now, he can prepare a car in minutes using a light coating of oil and pyrolite, a less toxic alternative to fuller’s earth.

At the Austin Maker Faire in 2007, Wade dusted up his Toyota and created Monsters from the Movies, featuring the Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman. The next day he painted a tribute to Willie Nelson that included Waylon Jennings. “After a good rain,” he says, “it appears to wash off, but in a couple days it comes back in a ghostly form.”

Recently, he was asked to draw Biff Henderson for the David Letterman show. In addition to portraits, he enjoys dusting up the old masters. “I have this grandiose idea of parking cars all the way up the ramp of the Guggenheim Museum and painting in dirt reproductions of the pieces that are on the wall next to it.”

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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

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