PAINT YOUR OWN GUITAR
INTERVIEW WITH PYOG CUSTOMER, JIM FITZGERALD
When Jim Fitzgerald started sending me photos of the guitars he was painting, I knew I would EVENTUALLY do a Q&A with him. His designs were completely original - and he wasn't afraid to take a chance on being different. And, for me - that was one of my goals when I created this book series; to show people how things are done. Then hopefully, many of you would take the knowledge that you learned, and branch off and try your hand at creating your own designs and at being original.
To me, Jim has done that, so let's find out more about him.
JG: Jim, first off - I wish my guitar collection were as good as yours!
JF: Thanks, John! I've seen a few of your guitars, too, and I know I've got a ways to go, but I've had a good teacher.
JG: Well, considering I've been doing it for over twenty years, and you're just getting started, I'm still jealous!
JF: That means a lot coming from you - thanks.
JG: To begin, how long have you been painting guitars?
JF: About 14 months ago, I think - just after Christmas in 2004.
JG: Who was it that influenced you to want to learn?
JF: In the 80's, I was really into Van Halen. Then later, I was really into the "hair-bands" (still am) and you gotta admit - there were some really cool, really crazy paintjobs out there, so it's hard to say. I do remember thinking that one day, I was going to paint one. I guess I was always kind of scared that I'd wreck a perfectly good guitar.
JG: So, worrying about wrecking a guitar kept you from starting to pursue this at least 10 years ago?
JF: Yeah. I’d heard a few horror stories about guys striping them in their garages and it usually didn’t end well, so I just figured, one day, I’d either try it, or have to put up the cash to get one from a Custom Shop.
JG: Aren't you glad you didn't go to a Custom Shop now?
JF: Oh yeah!
JG: Before buying my book, what knowledge did you have about painting guitars?
JG: What convinced you that my book may be the right choice to help you paint your own guitar?
JF: Around Christmas 2004, I decided to try it. I regret that I didn't find out about your books before that, though. Here's the story: I'd sanded down an old Kramer that I had, decided on a paintjob, and then began to paint it. I think I made almost every mistake that I could've made, but I didn't know it yet, and it actually looked pretty good. It looked like it was done in my garage, but it looked better than I'd thought it would. I showed off a few pictures of it and somebody sent me a link to your book on CafePress. I thought, for the money, it sounded like a pretty good deal, so I bought it.
I basically bought the book just to get some idea of what to do with the clearcoat that I'd already sprayed. Imagine my suprise when I read through and found all of my mistakes! I immediately started another guitar and let both of them cure for a couple months; then, I started the finishing steps. The first one wasn't working out; I’d used a different brand of paint, and had sprayed WAY too much, so it just wasn't working out. So, I decided to start the finishing steps on the second one instead, and it was amazing.
I guess my answer would be, while I was doing the finishing steps on the first guitar... that's when I knew that buying your book was the right choice.
JG: That's cool, man. I do hear that from many people who have taken a stab at painting without the right knowledge. It's too bad that most people look at the small price they'd have to pay to get access to the book and video clips as "too much." When in reality, they'll waste more money doing it the wrong way... but that's for them to figure out.
JF: It was a pretty easy choice. I’m a busy guy, so my free time is pretty valuable to me. So, even at minimum wage, the cover price of the book is less than the amount of time it takes to go back and do it a second (or even a third) time.
JG: You're obviously not afraid to take chances and try something different. Do you have an artistic/creative background?
JF: I took an art class in High School, and I worked in a tattoo shop for about a year. I could trace patterns but I never could draw very well. I'd get an idea in my head, but couldn't really do anything with it from there.
JG: Well, so far, you're not looking like you're having any problems with ideas or transferring the art. The actual art is very good. I really like the dragon on the back of that explorer-type body and your Green Bay Packers crest is perfect.
JF: Thanks man, the dragon was something that I found in a box of old tattoo flash, and that guitar didn’t have a tremolo route, so it just kinda fit there. The Green Bay guitar is one that I’m painting for my nephew, he’s pretty excited about it. I’m a Seahawks fan, but I painted it anyway.
JG: Was one of your goals when you bought the book to start creating your own designs almost immediately?
JF: My first goal was to sand down the one I had messed up and repaint it correctly! But yes, I wanted to paint something that was different, and I've always loved the black/yellow EVH paintjob.
JG: Did my book help you to understand how to go about creating your own designs?
JF: Yes. The amount of detail that you put in this book made it so easy to apply the steps from one project to almost any design that I could think of. But I think the most important thing is that your book spelled it out so clearly that I had the confidence to try new things. There are tips and tidbits in there that would take years to figure out on my own.
JG: At any point along the way, did you ever wonder whether your finish was going to turn out as good as the book states it would?
JF: Yes. I suppose alot of the people that have used your book to help them paint a guitar would say the same thing, but I really was scared to start the finishing steps. After reading through the book, I was certain that I could follow all of the steps, but I wasn't sure that it was REALLY gonna look like a factory finish.
JG: Well, you're not the only one who had those thoughts - that's for sure. As you began the buffing step, can you describe your reaction as the shine started to come up on the body?
JF: I actually went in the house and made my wife come out and look at it. I had this little 4"x4" section that I'd been working on and I couldn't believe how good it looked.
JG: That's so funny! We're like little kids when we see that shine, huh?
JF: Funny, that’s almost exactly what my wife said! I guess unless somebody’s done one themself, they just don’t know what it’s like when you see the depth of that shine and realize, “WOW, I did that!”
JG: When your friends see your guitars, what's their reaction?
JF: Most of the time, people can't believe that these guitars were painted with rattle-cans. When it finally sinks in, they usually wanna know when I can start one for them.
JG: And a side-business is born! Are you finding that you want to skip work in order to stay home and work on guitars all day?
JF: No, but I've found myself feeling like I NEED to get home so I can get a few coats sprayed, or get a head start on the next step. This seems to happen more when I’m putting one back together though.
JG: Come on - level with me, Jim - you've skipped work to stay home and work on guitars, right???
JF: Um, yeah. (Man, I hope my boss doesn’t read this)
JG: On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your first finish?
JF: The first one I did BEFORE I got your book, never made it to the buffing stage, until just a couple months ago. The first one I did AFTER getting your book was good - probably an 8.5 - maybe even a 9.
JG: On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your LATEST finish?
JF: I'm pretty critical, but I think there might be a few 10's in my collection now.
JG: I'd have to agree. They all have superb finishes on them. In particular, your red strat looks like you bought it from a music store. Who would ever believe that you painted in in your garage? I'm really looking forward to seeing those camos all done. They're going to be pretty damn impressive with a glossy finish on them.
JF: Thanks, I actually bought that guitar from a friend, for my son, and he decided he’d like something “cool-er.” He wanted to trade me for that Warlock. While I was painting that guitar with the triangles all over it, my wife made a comment about how nice a guitar would look with that shade of red and gold hardware. I sanded down the Peavey and shot it that red color, and ordered all the new plastic and hardware. When I got it all set up, she just loved it, so I gave it to her. It’s a sweet playing guitar... I probably play it more than she does.
My son didn’t really like the flip-flop pink on the Warlock. He’s eleven, so I guess the camo is probably “cool-er.” I‘m pretty sure I read the CAMO book twice before I started, but after doing a couple of them, I think camo might actually be my favorite paintjob to do, so far.
JG: On a scale from 1- 10, how hard would you rate painting your own guitar is using one of my books?
JF: On a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 being the hardest? I’d say that if ya buy the first book, and read it, then follow the directions, it’s a “1” for sure.
JG: Wow! You think?
JF: For sure. I read the whole book in one sitting and couldn’t wait to get started. The biggest thing about painting your own guitar is to have the patience to follow the directions, and the confidence to get started. This book gives you the directions and the confidence, so basically if you have a decent amount of patience, it’s gonna be a piece of cake.
JG: That I totally agree with, although I'd put the difficulty level at a 5 - only because prep work is a bit tedious. I had ZERO patience when I was 20 - which explains why I ruined every finish I did for the first 5 years.
I've seen how many guitars you've got on the go, so can you tell us what you're currently working on?
JF: I do have a few going right now - a couple of "stars-n-stripes" projects, a couple different camouflage projects, some polka-dots, a Green Bay Packers theme on my nephews guitar, and a couple that I wanna keep kinda quiet about until they're done. I will send you the pictures first though, I promise.
JG: I'll be waiting for them.
JF: I am planning on doing a 5150 pretty soon, but I really like doing camo, and stuff like that purple triangle paintjob, abstract/geometric kinda stuff.
JG: If someone reading this interview right now is thinking about painting guitars, but has not bought 'HOW TO Create A Factory Guitar Finish,' what would you tell them about this book?
JF: I'd have to say, for the cost of this book, you can't go wrong, it's such a small investment for this much information, and it's presented in a way that makes it fool-proof. Seriously, it can't get any easier, just follow the step-by-step directions and you can't go wrong. I painted my first 4 guitars with this one book, and none of them were the 4 finishes featured in the book.
JG: Well, you've taken the knowledge that you learned and REALLY excelled with it. For me, that's pretty cool to see.
JF: Thanks again, man. I know it sounds kinda cheesey, but your books set me up with some good knowledge, and that gave me enough confidence to try new stuff.
I just decided that it’s your fault I’m painting all of these guitars, and drivin’ my wife crazy! I can’t wait to tell her.
JG: Don't get me involved! I have my own wife I have to deal with! HA!
Anyway, Jim - Thanks for doing this interview. I'm really looking forward to seeing many more guitars coming from you!
JF: It's been my pleasure, John.
If anyone feels that they don't have what it takes to paint a guitar themself, and would like Jim to do it for them, you can contact him at: email@example.com
You can also visit Jim's website for more photos at: www.strict9guitars.com
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