Arts council escapade lets locals tour the imagination

With a keen eye, Harry Tapley paints a freehand pinstripe. His work will be shown at the annual Open Studios Tour this weekend.

Hollister Resident Harry Tapley didn’t need a sign to know painting would become his profession.
But he got one. He was in the sign-making business by age 12, when a family friend asked him to make a “Goats for sale” placard, and offered $20, he said. Tapley, now 51, is the owner of Harry’s Auto Signs in Hollister.
He and his friend, Clay Peer, are two of 21 artists participating in the Open Studios Art Tour, which allows the public to see creative people at work in their home spaces in Hollister, Aromas and San Juan Bautista.
“I like it because it’s not your typical art event,” Peer said. “You can go in and actually see the artist at work.”
Tapley adds pinstripes, classic Hot Rod flames, murals, marbling, gold leaf and wood grain effects to parts of big rigs, bikes, custom cars, furniture and signs, according to his website. He will also add color to helmets, mailboxes, computer cases, ice chests and guitars.
“If it will hold still long enough, Harry will decorate it,” his website says.
Peer, 30, creates paintings of vehicles when he is not working six days a week at the International Paper Co. in Gilroy. Phil Leonard, one of the San Benito County Arts Council’s board of directors, introduced the automobile aficionados. The artists quickly recognized their shared passion for things with an engine.
“He’s usually painting on cars,” Peer said. “In my case, when a lot of kids were having storybooks read to them, I was having Hot Rod magazines read to me.”
Tapley’s story isn’t too different. He grew up in a family of mechanics, as the kind of child that did more sketching than homework, he said. As a child, he visited the Fremont Dragstrip and a raceway in Watsonville where he saw cars with marvelous paint jobs. He worked in a car body shop, but kept doing signs on the side, he explained.
In 1990, he and his wife, Donna, officially opened the doors of Harry’s Auto Signs, located at 817 Industrial Drive, Suite D, east of downtown Hollister.
Over the years, Tapley has completed some memorable assignments. He painted urns. He also painted a prosthetic leg to match a racecar that was orange and purple, he said.
“It’s kind of a double edged sword but to be able to get up every day and do something different than you did yesterday is always a thrill,” he said. “You really never know what’s going to come through the door.”
Tapley and Peer have tried their hand at each other’s artwork.
“I started pinstriping a little bit and then he started drawing,” Peer said.
Their work will be on display from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Harry’s Auto Signs, as part of the Open Studios Art Tour. To see a map of artist studios, go to the San Benito County Arts Council’s website: sanbenitoarts.org.

Leave your comments