Business Reviews

Swampy Pete's Custom Painting

Written by  May 31, 2004

Whether you want to give your daily ride a new look or build a wild, show-winning custom, you need to meet Swampy Pete. He doesn’t work in the Louisiana Swamps or the Bayou, he is right here in the Midwest! He works out of several shops in Missouri and Kansas, and the fastest and easiest way to contact him is by calling the phone number above.

Swampy Pete can do mild candy repaints to killer, wild graphics. He obviously is a creative perfectionist who never lets a piece of work leave his shop without his and the customer’s approval. He will advise and work with you to get the design and color scheme you have envisioned on your motorcycle.

CC: What is your title?

Pete: Air Brush and Custom Paint Artist.

CC: How did you get your name Swampy Pete?

Pete: A friend starting calling me that years ago and it just stuck.

CC: How did you get started in the business?

Pete: After 16 years of not painting, my wife Rhonda encouraged me to pursue an art career. She is very supportive of my work.

CC: How long have you been professionally painting?

Pete: Four years

CC: Did you have a mentor?

Pete: No, but my grandparents were very artistic.

CC: Do you design the artwork or does the customer provide it?

Pete: Either or but, the majority of the time I design the artwork myself.

CC: What is the cost for basic graphic work and show-winning, head-turning custom jobs?

Pete: Anywhere from $700 to $5,000.

CC: How is price determined?

Pete: The level of detail you have, the price increases because more time is invested in the job.

CC: How many hours does it take to paint a tank from beginning to end?

Pete: That depends on the colors chosen, bodywork required, art work and the like. A real basic opaque color would take approximately 10-12 hours for just the tank.

CC: Can you detail the process for us?

Pete: *Remove oil and contaminants from base metal
*Sand to prep for body work
*Body work - all tanks are going to require some body work regardless of whether it is new or not
*Sand body work in preparation for Primer
*Primer paint
*Sand primer in preparation for sealer
*Seal
*Basecoat - if a candy, paint desired color over chosen base
*Clear Coat - this is my preference. I like to do the art work over the clear so I’m not rushed to clear the tanks before the window of opportunity closes
*Art work/Graphics
*Clear Coat - if pin striping is required, sand, stripe and clear coat again
*Wet sand, buff, and polish

CC: How many times do you have to wet sand and buff before its perfect?

Pete: That depends, but usually once if you spray your clear correctly. It’s a function of how good you are.

CC: What are PPG colors and how many are there to choose from?

Pete: PPG is a paint company. There are literally hundreds of colors to choose from and when you custom mix different colors or candy, your choices are almost endless.

CC: Where do you get your paint colors?

Pete: Generally, I prefer House of Color paint, but I have used PPG and Dupont.

CC: What are Pearls? Candies? Metal flakes? Dagger strokes?

Pete: They are different types of effects. Metal flakes are ground up material that reflects light. You see this a lot on bass boats. Dagger strokes are specific lines that start out thicker and gets narrow. There are thousands of flame designs to choose from, it’s like going into a tattoo studio and looking through all the books.

CC: Do you have a particular style or technique you use?

Pete: 90-99 percent of what I do is freehand. There are stencil kits, but if someone is spending big bucks they don’t want to see a duplicate design on another bike. Also, doing freehand saves the customer money because I draw it, cut it out and actually use it on the bike.

CC: Where do you find the places you work out of?

Pete: Through some of my referrals and friends.

CC: Who do you admire in this industry and why?

Pete: Cris Cruse and Craig Fraizer. I enjoy looking at their artwork and their inspiration.

CC: Where do you see your business in five years?

Pete: Painting more show bikes and cars. I would like to have my own shop and have Rhonda as the office manager so I can focus on the painting versus the administrative work.

CC: Tell us about the DARE truck paint project.

Pete: This was the first paint job I ever did. I knew the DARE officer who convinced his boss to hire me to paint the truck. The truck was recently involved in an accident damaging the driver’s side. So I was again hired to repair the damage and match the artwork. Three years of experience really expedited the process the second time around.

CC: How long did it take?

Pete: Approximately 80 hours the first time.

CC: How long does it take to design and paint a helmet?

Pete: It depends on the design and how much detail the customer wants.

CC: What is your dream project?

Pete: A theme bike or car, wild in nature. My oldest son wants a bike and a car and my other two kids just want cars, and of course, they want me to paint them.

CC: Have you painted anything for your kids?

Pete: Yes, I painted my son’s rollerblade helmet.

CC: I bet he has the coolest helmet on the block! What has been your most bizarre custom request?

Pete: A pumpkin head helmet. A DARE officer brought the helmet to me and said, “I don’t care what you do to it, I just don’t want to get beat up at Sturgis over it!” I used a candy tangerine color and went in the house, got a kitchen knife and then started painting. It was a little demented, but fun to do.

CC: Where does most of your business come from?

Pete: Almost all of my customers come from referrals. I also had a display at a bike show a couple of years ago and that brought in quite a bit of business. But a happy customer is the best form of advertising.

CC: You are awesome at doing portraits; do you see your business expanding to that area?

Pete: I would like to do more, especially drawing the owner posing with their bike.

CC: Wow! That would be a cool gift for a motorcycle enthusiast. What advice would you give to someone wanting to make a career in this business?

Pete: Lots of practice.

CC: What do you want Cycle Connections readers to know about you and your business?

Pete: I’m a perfectionist. I won’t let something out of my shop unless I’m proud enough to put it on my own bike.

Okay, so if you’re looking for that custom paint job, whether it’s traditional, extreme or anything in between, call Swampy Pete at (816) 506-8547. He works mostly out of Scotty’s Carriage located at 1105 Ashland Drive in Cameron, Missouri.

Story by Goldie Arnold
Photos by WTA

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