CLAYTON — A local airbrush artist who operates out of “Star Trek” painted van has found a different venue for his art that’s not as mobile.
For the month of April, art work by Bill Chase will be on display at the Hocutt-Ellington Memorial library. He is being featured as artist of the month.
Any day of the week when it’s not raining, Chase’s black van, and trailor can be spotted parked on U.S. 70 near Johnston County Airport, where he sets up a booth and sells art to passersby. The casual fashion of the setup resembles street vendors in bigger cities, like New Orleans, where art abounds everyone on the streets. Vendors, like Chase, make their art their life’s work and rely on work from people who take the time to stop and look. Chase is from New Orleans.
Some passersby may be misled, thinking there’s nothing for them if they’re not interested in the neon license plates that have beach scenes or couple’s names spray painted on them, although those items have been very popular, Chase said.
Chase is not just an airbrush craftsman, he’s an artist of many styles. He could sketch a portrait perfectly resembling someone, and make it affordable. He doesn’t boast his work as being fancy, though the level of detail and precision, especially with the portraits, hints at years of dedication. The work on display at the library shows the varied styles Chase is capable of, ranging from brightly colored animal paintings that could be perfect for a child’s bedroom, to meticulous sketches that have won awards at the State Fair.
He does airbrushing on site at his mobile shop on U.S. 70.
“I go by what I think is popular,” said Chase.
He has been hired to do work for a couple towns, including Archer Lodge, where one of his paintings permanently decorates the outside of the Fire Department.
People often ask him to do custom pieces, such as spray painting a scene or a name on a jean or leather jacket, spray painting a team logo on a T-shirt, decorating the gas tank on a motorcycle to make it look unique.
“I’ve been doing it since I was a kid,” said Chase. He formerly worked as a truck driver in the Marine Corps for six years. Now, his art is his full-time work.
“This is what my passion is,” Chase said. He has three children. When they were young, he would visit their schools and do airbrush demos, eliciting oohs and aahs from the kids who got to take home an air-brushed T-shirt made especially for them.
He has been operating out of the van and trailor set up since 1999. Prices for Chase’s art range from $20 for a license plate to $400 and up for larger pieces, depending on how detailed the design is.