Artistic Revelation: A Sitdown With Renowned Pinstriper Paul Mackie

Paul Mackie has been a prominent name in Portland hot rod culture for a number of years. A Grade “A” pinstriper, Mackie describes the art form as “hand painted graphic design that is symmetrical, geometrical and improvisational. The design emerges the more you work on it.” Pinstriping is a sister profession to sign painting and hand lettering. “Pinstriping began in the age of horse drawn carriages,” he says “it was a way to designate which buggy was a work buggy and which one was for show presentation.” When Henry Ford developed the first automotive production line, the first group of ‘pinstripers’ were hired to quickly paint accents on the cars as they were moving past. In WWII, those artists were commissioned to garnish bombers and boats. After the war ended, those people moved into the custom car and racing world. “The father of modern pinstiping as an art form was Kenny Howard, also known as Von Dutch” explained Mackie. Come the late 60’s and early 70’s Mackie worked alongside another renowned striper of the area, Mitch Kim. “I ‘striped anything that moved” he laughed.

Mackie gained practice by accenting cars in used car lots. “I got to be really fast and that’s important. Those car dealers were selling them the same day.” Looking back on his career, Mackie estimates that he has worked on conservatively 26,000 vehicles over his career. “Five cars a day, five days a week, for twenty years. I did the math on how much ¼ inch tape I’ve used in 20 years and the number of miles could go around the earth 4 times” he laughs.

Mackie has mentored many a young ‘striper’. “The first thing I would tell them,” he explains, “is to believe in yourself. There has been a bad reputation associated with this kind of art. Drinking and drugs do not make the artist talented.” He emphasized. Next he would ask his pupils what they wanted to accomplish as a pinstriper. “Third I would teach them the technique. I would have them try out the brushes and see what works with their hand motion best” he says. The tools involved in pinstriping are very specific. Evidently there are lots of brush makers that have subtle differences right down to what the bristle is made out of. “I have one made out of camel hairs and one made out of squirrel” he showed.

Mackie is focused on bringing pinstriping to the fine art world. “This style can go way beyond the truck door or the ’32 hood.” In order to gain attention to this transition, Mackie has taken it upon himself to educate others outside of car culture. He pushes his creativity onto cradleboards and mounted showpieces. It is an ever-evolving look in which he integrates other artistic styles. “I have never been so inspired,” he beams. Both on a car body and on a wall, pinstriping can be beautiful, intricate and artistically dynamic.

To see Mackie’s online portfolio go to: 

To be inspired via Instagram go to:

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