It's a sticker! It's paint! No, it's Sharpie markers.
Chris Dunlop has become accustomed to shocked reactions when people learn that his intricate car artwork is created entirely by hand by with Sharpie brand permanent markers. For the past two years, the Rockville native has been traveling across the country with his markers, detailing vehicles for a growing client base.
Dunlop makes his living creating custom car paint jobs and currently works at CW Restoration in Huntington Beach, Calif., where he and his wife moved a few months ago. He returned to Rockville this week to continue a work on a 1999 Mustang GT. He detailed the car's roof last year. The client asked him to create a similar pattern on the front and rear of the car to tie the design together.
When beginning a Sharpie project, Dunlop first spaces out the larger elements of the design and then goes back to do the details. Because he is dealing with permanent ink, there is no going back if he messes up.
“Every line is exactly how it lays,” he says.
Usually, the tips of the markers wear down to a nub before they run out of ink, Dunlop says. He used five markers on the Mustang's roof, and estimates he will use six more on the front and rear of the car.
Dunlop's work on the front and rear of the vehicle will total 50 hours alone. He declined to share what his commission for the project is.
Dunlop was first inspired to create a Sharpie car when he saw photos of a Lamborghini decorated with similar art. He found a client two years ago who was willing to let him try it, and the rest is history.
“I'm so lucky that any client is enthusiastic at all,” he says.
To date, Dunlop has completed Sharpie detailing on seven cars and one black motorcycle using silver Sharpies. He has also done other Sharpie artwork on car parts that are on display at a dealership in Rockville, as well as laptops and motorcycle helmets.
Stephen Mele, who owns Auto Italia automotive repair shop in Rockville, will put a clear coat on top of Dunlop's work on the Mustang when he is finished. Mele hired Dunlop to do a Sharpie detail on his 1971 Pro Street Camaro in December.
“It's unique,” he says of the detailing on his Camaro. “When I met Chris and I had the car, I decided I wanted him to trick it out.”
Mele takes his Camaro to car shows and says most viewers are shocked when they learn about the detailing.
“They don't believe it's Sharpie” he says.
Dunlop says the Sharpie style is not for everyone, and about half of the people he talks to don't like it.
“A lot of people say, ‘You took a perfectly good car and did this to it? It's kind of bizarre,'” he says.
Still, of all of the custom car work Dunlop does, the Sharpie projects are his favorite because he loves to draw freehand, even if it means spending hours hunched over the hood of a car.
“It is a little daunting at first when you look at everything that's blank.' he says.” To me, the right music in the iPod is all you need.”