Gary "The Local Brush" Kupfer
Gary "The Local Brush" Kupfer of Roosevelt, New York is an East Coast painter and customizer, known for his radical builds and custom painting. Kupfer might be the first person to apply a lace paint job on a car, a technique that has become iconic in the custom car culture.
Early Life and Education
Gary Kupfer is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York City. From a young age, he had a passion for art, painting portraits on canvas and lettering names on the front fenders of hot cars. "It's in my blood," he told Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama late in 2022. "I really am a product of the '60s, so most of my work relates from 1964 through the present."
"I was always into art. In high school, I painted portraits on canvas and lettered names on the front fenders of the hot cars. My best friends were into drag racing and custom cars. I lettered and pinstriped during the day and custom-painted their cars at night. I also worked in a local sign shop. On Friday and Saturday evenings, I was one of those guys at the hamburger hangouts, pinstriping. That's where I got my trade name, Gary, "The Local Brush."
In the 1960s, Kupfer was involved in custom cars and wild paint, working on drag racing cars and custom-painting vehicles at night. He also pinstriped new cars for car dealers, a skill that was in high demand at the time. "I was also lucky enough to do pinstriping for Herb Gary, who taught me the real fine art of quality custom painting. I also knew Andy Southard, who's shop was right around the corner from where I live now. I was so much younger than these guys and eager to learn."
In 1965, while attending the School of Visual Arts, Kupfer got the idea of painting lace after observing a fellow student using spray cans and inanimate objects to create silhouette shapes on canvas. He decided to use lace for the center panels of his own personal [[Gary "The Local Brush" Kupfer's 1963 Chevrolet Corvette |Corvette]], which he had already panel painted with Candy Apple Green and Blue.
Lace Paint Job Technique
For many years, Larry Watson of Watson's House of Style was recognized as the inventor of the lace paint job. However, recent information has surfaced that challenges this claim, suggesting that Gary "The Local Brush" Kupfer might have been the actual inventor of the technique.
In November 1966, five months before Watson's famous debut, Kupfer showcased his panel and lace-painted 1963 Chevrolet Corvette at the ISCA New York Coliseum Show. According to Kupfer, no one knew what it was at the time, and people referred to it as the "paisley paint job." The following year, almost half the cars at the same show featured lace paint jobs. Kupfer has always been aware that Larry Watson has been attributed to doing the first lace paint job but acknowledged that California received more recognition as the Mecca of custom car culture, overshadowing the East Coast's contributions.
After experimenting and practicing on a Masonite panel, Kupfer successfully applied a lace paint job on his Corvette, predating Watson's famous work. As of today, the origin of the lace custom paint job technique can be traced back to Gary Kupfer in the mid-1960s in New York City. Southern California, with its thriving car culture and creative atmosphere, provided an ideal environment for the technique to gain popularity, with Larry Watson playing a key role in promoting the method.
Notable Works and Collaborations
Throughout his career, Kupfer worked on various custom cars, hot rods, race cars, and motorcycles. He built and painted the famous Baldwin/Motion muscle cars, GT Corvettes, and Maco Sharks that are now highly sought after at Barrett-Jackson Auctions. Kupfer has had his work featured on the covers of over 40 national magazines and in two hardcover books.
At 20 years old, Kupfer met Joel Rosen, owner of Motion Performance, later rebranded as Baldwin/Motion Performance. "This was a super speed shop in Baldwin, New York, associated with General Motors, Baldwin Chevrolet Dealership. They needed an artist, custom painter and fabricator. I was at the right place at the right time." He opened his own shop, Ultra Automation, to accommodate the amount of work he was given. With the help of custom fiberglass specialist Joe Wuerth, they built and painted the famous Baldwin/Motion vehicles.
In 2011, Kupfer was contracted by Pep Boys marketing division in association with Sherwin Williams Automotive Paints and Barrett-Jackson Auctions to airbrush at all the Barrett-Jackson Auctions.
"Now, at 75, I am trying to retire. It's hard because I love what I do," Kupfer told Kustomrama in 2022. His impact on custom car culture, particularly the lace paint job technique, remains a testament to his creativity and dedication to the craft.
Gary Kupfer's Cars
Gary "The Local Brush" Kupfer's 1963 Chevrolet Corvette
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