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THIS IS MY STORY…AND I’M STICKING TO IT! by Nub
When I was 15, my father pulled into our driveway with his newly lettered work van. I was in complete and utter awe at what this guy had just done with a paintbrush and a few cans of paint. I’ll never forget it. The painter’s name is Cliff Burgess … and that lettering job pointed me in the direction I’m still following today.
I’ve always been into art. Most of my family is artistic in one way or another. I was drawing on the walls by the time I could steal my brother’s crayons … and blaming him. But this was that “moment”. The spark that lit the match under my ass to actually WANT to learn how to do what this guy just did. So I pestered my father to ask Cliff if I could work for him. He drove back down to his sign shop to talk to him. Cliff told my father he didn’t really need any help, but directed me to ask another sign painter he knew. So I did. This guy said yes. His name is Leif Syvertsen. Leif’s shop was the starting point to this wild ride that I’m still sticking quarters in to this day.
Looking back at it now, I was probably a complete pain in the ass. I have had a few apprentices at my shop, through a local school program, and I keep asking myself – “How the hell did he deal with me back then?”. Well, he did … and I thank him for that.
I worked under Leif for about 4 years. He taught me a lot about layout and design … about stuff he may not have even known he was teaching me. Techniques and skills, things he probably didn’t give a second thought to, were soaking into my brain in the same manner that a puddle soaks into a sponge. When I would leave his shop for the night, I would go home and practice hand lettering on everything in my parents basement. I had ordered some lettering supplies from a catalog, and I was determined to paint every damn thing I could get my hands on. After about a year or so working for him, I asked if we could paint my car. A 1981 Honda Civic, with about 300,000 miles on it. He agreed, and helped me prep the beast and paint it……….process blue. I believe it was Centari single stage enamel. I knew absolute dick about automotive refinishing back then, so I was glad he jumped in and helped squirt the thing. So … now I have a bright ass blue car. In my head, I’m thinking – “too much blue … I need to add something to it so it’s not so … blue”. I have access to a sign shop with an unlimited array of colorful vinyl to make some graphics … what colors do I pick? LIME GREEN and HOT PINK. Hey, it was still the 80′s…..gimme a break. So now I have a bright ass, blue car, with hot pink geometric shapes and lime green accents … perfect! What next? I opted to test drive my new brushes on the hood, by painting a cartoon kid with his finger jammed up his nose.That’s what I’m talkin’ about! I was the coolest…
Fast forward another year or so, and another “moment” happened that has had a lasting relationship with me … the name “Nub”. The question that I get asked the most is “where did you get that name?”. Ok … here’s the official answer. I’ve made up so many different stories over the years … but here’s the truth … the boring truth. I was watching Saturday Night Live one night. The skit “Buckwheat Sings” with Eddie Murphy was on. He was singing a bunch of different songs … all of which were being spelled out incorrectly on the screen, exactly the way he was singing them. He busted out “looking for love in all the wrong places” and I laughed my ass off. I now knew my inconspicuously cool car needed one more addition. Done in petite 8 inch tall lettering, “WOOKIN PA NUB” was now emblazoned across my rear window. What the hell was I thinking? People just started calling me Nub. It was kind of comical, and I thought maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to have a name that was easily remembered … especially if I opened my own shop. So that is exactly what I did.
The original business name was Nub Designs … though shortly after I decided to swap the “designs” for “grafix” … it just sounded cooler. You have to be cool right? Remember, my car was the epitome of cool. The next 25 years, 4 shops, lifelong friendships, hardships, learning, being filmed painting bikes almost every day for 10 years, 5 dogs, 4 cats, an unexpected raccoon, moving into my dream shop and getting married to my beautiful wife has been an unbelievable ride crammed with madness and loads of fun.
I’ve met a lot of people through the course of the last 2 decades that have shaped who I am, what I do and where I’m going. A list far too long to write here. I hope you all know who you are. I sometimes wonder if something I paint will have the same lasting effect on someone, that Cliff’s truck lettering has had on me. I look forward to another 25 years of doing what I love to do … bringing my customer’s and friend’s visions to life … and feeling like that 15 year old kid standing in the driveway.
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