Swampland Panel Jam
I first heard about Joey's Swampland Panel Jam from a posting on another BB by Lil' Toot back on October 21 of 2000. My son and his family live in West Monroe, LA so when we visited them during the Thanksgiving holidays, I took the opportunity to find Joey's shop and meet him.
All the words about how nice this guy is are absolutely true! A real Southern Gentleman ....personified! When I arrived at Joey's shop early January 12th. Joey, his wife Kay, and daughter Joani met me at the door with big smiles and the offer of fresh coffee and donuts. They told me to make myself right at home.
I signed my name tag "PUNCH", then took them up on their offer and began wandering around the inside of the shop. You need to keep in mind that this was the very first Panel Jam I'd ever attended and after seeing Joey's own work and his souvenirs of work by others from past meets, I was a bit more than intimidated!
Man! Why in the world did I ever think I could be a pinstriper? Look at this motorcycle tank and fender. Holy moley! Look at this panel. Oh my, look at this, and so on all around the room. Close your mouth, Punch. You're drooling on yourself.
I hid behind my camera as long as I could, all the time hearing Joey calling to me to break out the brushes and grab a panel. He had everything anybody needed to participate in the event; paints, panels, thinner, extenders, wipes and cans. If whatever else you needed wasn't visible, he'd come up with it! Need a brush? Here. No problem!
After watching a young man for a period of time working on a flame design, I introduced myself and asked a question about his method of applying the gradient. Well, knock me down! He turned out to be Lil' Toot himself and it was almost like hometown then. We'd never met but I felt like I'd known him for years through the bulletin boards. He introduced me to Ron Meyers and after just a few minutes with these two guys, there was no ice left to be broken.
Lil' Toot took me under his wing and showed me how to trim my Mac sword for better tight lines and then a few other tricks with the handle. Ron chipped in and added quite a bit of information about color compatibility and layout. This happened time and time again, always someone willing to help you and answer questions. No closed shop here!
Other folks began arriving and I started taking photos and introducing myself. I know everyone wants to know who was at this Panel Jam so here is the list as I have it and if I've left anyone off, I apologize to the "N"th degree! I'll do this in the order I remember meeting them... Lil' Toot, Ron Meyers, Bobbo, Brad Smith, Fred Self, Bob and Mike Padilla, Billy "Mr. Bill" Koenig, Leon Samples, Monte and "Patsee" Jumper, Pat "King Duck" King, Russell Rowe, Mike Lavallee, Rhonda Price, R.T. Thomas, Unkl Ian, Mike McGilory, Joe Normal, Roy Frisby, Mickey Parker, Nuclear Designs' own Robert, Joanna, Mike & Sherrie and last but not least, the up and coming Josh "Slime" Hutson!
I was now able to put faces to people from the BullBoard that I had conversed with over the last year and, although there were a few miscalculations on my part as to what I thought they'd look like, everyone was now a part of my memory apparatus, frail as it is. I wasn't prepared for Pat King, though. When this guy walked in I thought he'd been involved in a multiple paint can explosion! And it looks like the inside of his van is where the cans blew up.
Well, the only one at this meet called normal was Joe. I finally got the courage to secure a panel and find a spot at the table. My main desire was to learn how to pull a straight line with a striping brush. I wobble pretty well with the outliners but that short handled sword drives me nuts!
The haircut Lil' Toot had given it made things work better line wise...but this 'ol boy needs lots and lots of practice. I figure about thirty more years should do it.
Leon had the best of the Blues cranked up on the sound system and everyone was grooving. Every minute or two, the blues would be punctuated with a peal of laughter from somewhere across the room and you just knew this was the place to be. There was absolutely no pressure on me to finish the panel I'd started. I was able to get up and wander around and watch other people doing their thing.
Fred Self was molding a Flying Eyeball and answered all the questions I could throw at him. I believe he enjoyed me asking. He was laughing and smiling all three days!
Bobbo was doing some magic with a striper and invited me to watch him start and end the line to make it look like it was supposed to. I REALLY needed that lesson!
I watched the Padilla's at work and marveled at Bob's Southwestern themes that were beautiful in their natural colors.
It's really rather amazing to see. Rhonda Price. Besides creating the most awesome chrome effects I've ever seen, she is also quite a talented carver. Her alligator came to life in three dimensional form right before everyone's eyes from a flat piece of material.
And speaking of alligators, Mike Lavallee's airbrushed swamp thing was so realistic that it appeared to be crawling off the panel! And, Mike's flames technique is sure to revolutionize that long time old favorite! If you get a chance, look at the Prowler in his photo album. I STILL think it's really on fire.
RT claimed to be only an airhead, but when Monte finished showing him how to letter a particular alphabet, RT was ready to do some window and truck lettering! Watch out world!
Monte says he can't stripe, either. If what Monte can do ISN'T striping, then I think I'm in a lot of trouble. I saw the striping that Pat Jumper had done on their automobile and she says she can't stripe, either. Yeah, right. Do these two always fib the new guy?
I finally got to meet Unkl Ian and what a great Canadian neighbor he is! If I had one other word to use to describe him, other than talented, it would be..TALL! I was amazed at his ability to hold a Tabasco bottle balanced on his little finger as he striped it with his other hand. He and Monte Jumper would both win first place in the category called "Laid Back"!
I'd go back and pull another few lines on my panel and then get up and start talking again. This went on all day Friday and into early evening.
The Padilla gang made a sure 'nuff salsa and I thought Fred and I were going to eat the whole bowl by ourselves. The meal that Joey and friends prepared that night was as good a stew as you could put in your mouth anywhere. Ahhh, what a good time I was having. And it was like this for all the next day too. Just better.
Saturday morning brought more coffee and donuts and more new arrivals. I did my best to introduce myself but more often than not, they beat me to the introduction. I finished up my Friday panel and started on another one to which I dedicated more time and effort. Several kind folks commented on how well I was doing and with that type of encouragement, I kept plugging away.
Lunch was another treat provided by our hosts and the gumbo that night was a special treat. I'm the guy who was going to bring the Abita Turbo Dog beer to the meet in Jimmy Chatham's in Commerce, Georgia. I failed to make that one, but I brought the Turbo Dog with me this time to herald it as the World's Worst Beer! You know that Padilla gang drank every last bottle of it! With gusto! They told me if I really wanted to taste some BAD beer, come on over to New Mexico. Uh, thank's guys. I'll take your word for it! Brrrrr!
The gang from Nukedlines arrived and Joey told Robert I wanted to learn straight lines. No sooner said than done! The weather wasn't what was promised but Robert took me to the damp, cold parking lot and proceeded to show me "HOW TO". I owe you for that lesson, my friend, and I really appreciate it. You are really swift!
Later that evening, Robert and others striped a truck in Joey's paint room and it turned out looking just as you'd expect. Great! At the door prize drawing that night I was lucky enough to win a couple of brushes that were really appreciated and a roll of banner material I'm sure to put to use. I believe everyone won at least one door prize.
Joey asked that we all sign the panel that was being sent to the folks at One Shot. The fellow who was supposed to be there to represent them was under the weather and unable to attend. Everyone appreciated the supplies One Shot sent along. Thanks!
It was late when I got back to the meet Sunday moening. Some had already left, and others had not yet arrived back from the previous evening. If I didn't get to tell you how much I enjoyed your company and friendship. Please believe me, I did!
There is so much more to this story than can be told here. I'm sure there are some things I failed to report that others remember. Hopefully someone will fill in the gaps that I missed. But I'll say this; if anyone had a better time than I did, you can only tie me! I had the time of my life!
Being a first timer, there were a couple of things I was unaware of. Had I paid more attention, I'd have picked up on it, I think. Everyone worked on each others panels. Even though Brad Smith asked me if I was going to add to a panel he was waiting to line, I was too timid to even consider laying a brush on the beautiful work he was talking about. I just shied away and found an excuse to make use of my camera. Next time, I'll add my lines, bobbles and all.
And, everyone did panels to TRADE with other folks. This is what I didn't realize. One nice lady asked if she could have a panel I'd done and I was so flabbergasted she wanted it, I gave it to her without knowing to trade for one. So, a lesson learned. I came home from my first Panel Jam with nothing to show my family about the art my new friends were capable of. Will I attend another Panel Jam? Will I continue to participate in the Letterhead movement? Will I show someone else what I learned from those who were kind enough to show me? Will I keep singing the praises of all those talented people I met at Joey's? You better believe it!
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I live in the little town of McComb, Mississippi about 100 miles north of New Orleans and roughly seventy miles south of Jackson, right off I-55. I've married to my high school sweetheart since 1961.
We have two great kids; Scott and Delia, and between the two of them, we have three
I learned a lot from this gregarious little man
and he taught me to letter everything from showcards to stucco walls, windows to airplanes and firehydrants
to firetrucks. God speed, Ray.
decided that's what I want to do when I retire from my present job and if the good Lord's willing, that's
what I'll be doing, too. Practice, practice, practice!
Look for me! I'll be looking for you!