Thursday, June 9, 2011

An Interview with Fellow Creative Compulsive Gary Kanel

            The numbers of ways to express creativity are endless, and though the end products are all uniquely different, there is a commonality in the creative process itself.  Regardless of the medium, regardless of the technique every project begins with an inspiration and a dream.  Throughout the creative process inspirations will be expanded, lessons learned, and dreams modified.  I am very fortunate to know so many wonderfully creative people, some work in clay, wood, textiles, photography, metal, or paint, others are musicians, writers or actors, and some do a little of everything.  The following is the first in a series of interviews with fellow Creative Compulsives. 

            Gary Kanel expresses his creativity in metal, more specifically in creating custom car designs.  In his free time Gary, a.k.a. Kanel Kustoms, designs and builds custom cars.  Though Gary and I grew up in the same part of rural Missouri it was not until the wonders of Facebook that I began to learn about his creative process.  From half way around the world I have watched the process unfold, and have gained an expanded appreciation for the work that Gary does.  Gary was kind and patient enough to share part of his creative process in the premiere Creative Compulsive interview.

              Would you diagnose yourself with Creative compulsive Disorder?

Yes. Most defiantly. If time and money were no object I could keep busy the rest of my life. Everyday I work toward that goal/ situation in life.

            When did you first start designing custom cars?

I started drawing cars before school age, mostly from imagination. I still have many of them somewhere. I started with model cars, probably about age 6-7. I would cut and restyle them for hours.

            What project or projects are you currently obsessed with?

I'm obsessed with this 1961 Falcon Ranchero, and a 1/5th scale Piper Cub airplane. Volumes could be wrote on each.     

            Tell me a little about the process you are going through to customize the 1961 Falcon Ranchero.
To start to understand the "why," a person should understand the history of custom cars. In a nutshell, originally guys took a lower model of a car they could afford to buy and added items from a higher end car to make it look like it was worth more. Grille changes were popular. It would be the same today if I were to adapt a 2010 BMW grille and tail lights to my Mitsubishi.

The Falcon Ranchero was a low budget utilitarian car. The economy was suffering a little in the late 50's early 60's and economical cars were attractive. The VW Beetle was killing sales numbers. The Falcon was Ford's answer. 

The original designers I'm sure wanted a much fancier car. Thru the bean counters and production designers it had to be brought down in scope to mass produce a car at a reasonable price.

I'm using similar design aspects from GM's higher budget cars to try and compliment Ford's designers if they could have done what they wanted to without production restraints.
Here is a link to the Automotive Designer's Guild. Its kind of hidden within another website. Its retired designers sharing original artwork.

I try and get into the designer's head and make it happen.

            Do you know what the Ranchero will look like when it is complete?

I have an "idea" what the Ranchero will look like. There are many variations floating in my head. To me color, stance, and tire and wheel choice make or break a car. Daydreaming of all the different combinations is half the fun.

                 What inspires or feeds your creative compulsions?

Inspiration is everywhere you look. Everything has been created either by God, Man, Mother Nature, or a combination thereof. Being creations they all were once a vision.
(Kustom cars have always had a sex appeal to them. The female form has always been a big influence.  Most every vintage car was designed by men. Men have women in their mind all the time. So to me, its a natural thing for the passion of design to be mixed with passion for the female form.  The flying lady hood ornaments many makers used, 1957 Cadillac is a fine example also:
               I remember seeing a picture where you used a stainless steel bowl for behind a headlight.  Have there been other household items you have recreated into parts for a project?

Household items: Not exclusive to cars exactly. A friend of mine wanted a HUGE charcoal starter for his grill. So I made him one from a large stock pot. 
I guess its more about the form than function. The mixing bowls fit what I needed.

            When you look back across your creative endeavors, what are you most proud of?

I'm proud to have met, interacted, and expanded my mind with other artists.

            Have you ever done any collaborative projects with other artists? 

Yes. My first job after leaving the Air Force was at Bass Pro Shop's blacksmith shop. This was 1998 and they were adding onto Bass Pro. I helped to build many individual pieces there. I also helped to build the fireplace doors just inside the grand entrance.

I did not make the framework, the handles or the owl, or the painted details, but everything else is my work. Thousands of people see this every year and I'm kind of proud of it. Its representing a man with his dog (Lacey is stamped on the collar-she was stray that showed up at the shop) sitting at his campsite beside the fire with a creek nearby complete with cat tails, rocks, a coffee pot, and swirling water.

            Tell me about this picture.

That is the valve cover from my Ranchero. The valve cover (if you don't know) sits on the very top of the engine. I took this one off, sandblasted it, primed, painted silver with extra metal flake (glitter kind of), and then painted it kandy organic green. The wheels were done in like manner.

Candy paints are transparent and need to be shot in several thin coats to achieve the desired color shade. They got their name by resembling hard candy when applied. Kandy organic green is made by House of Kolor (starting to see the tie in? its a kustom thing.....).

I then boxed it up and sent it to California to have a young man named Jowee Ramirez aka "Mr. Rhythm" pinstripe it. I don't personally know him. He is a friend of a friend on FB that I also don't know personally. I had seen his work, liked it, and feel he has much promise in pin striping. It could have been done locally but its just not the same. I now own a piece of this up and coming artist's work

Pin striping is truly a dying art. It is done by hand, with a short handled, long bristle brush. It is very, very difficult. I've tried it myself. The origins of pin striping dates back to horse drawn carriage days when the were decorated by hand. It has evolved to where it is today.

If you would like to see more cars and styles, I'm giving you this link:  Rik Hiving has the most comprehensive photo archive and knowledge of anyone.

Well, I've probably given you all the info you need and then some-lol. I can go on for hours actually.

              Do you get to use your creative side in your day job?

Yes, I do get to be creative at my day job most of the time. Its in different forms though.   As a machinist you literally carve things from solid pieces of metal. The machines used do the cutting and with a series of actions there is a useable part in your hand when its done. A machinist prides themselves on accuracy, part finish, and fit.  A section of the machinists' world is CNC machines. Computer Numerical Control. This uses a series of code using numbers and letters to control a machine by computer rather than by hand. The accuracy is as incredible as the repeatability. The code is written by humans so it is open to some artistic form. Proper feed rates, rpm, tool selection and setup order. 
                What car do you drive to your day job?

For my daily transportation I drive a boring 2003 Mitsubishi VRX.

            Recently I tried to explain to my 7 year old about "Happy Accidents," where you plan for a project to go one way, it takes a turn, seemingly for the worse, but ends up creating something new and wonderful. Have you ever experienced any Happy Accidents in your work?

I truly believe art comes from the soul. Sometimes the soul takes over and guides the hands for eyes to watch. The brain is along for the ride. Its a beautiful thing. ---Except when you are trying to make something symmetrical and the second side is better than the first and it forces rework.

           Gary, Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview.  I have thoroughly enjoyed learning more about your creative process.  I look forward to seeing your future projects.   Happy Creating!

Kanel Kustoms

I have included just a few more pictures of some of Gary's other projects. 

"Made for a fellow Bob (Tim Rogers) in honor of his marriage and first born. Thats a steel rose, a copper rose, and a rose in the middle made of both metals. Fellow Bob JB (John Zerr) made the roses in the fashion that I taught him. The overall idea was mine. Cross came from Hobby Lobby. Stems overlap the cross and are tied together at the bottom with copper coated steel wire. I wept when this was finished. Dont know why, and still do."
1966 Chevy Biscanye

"Sunset at low tide is the best. The sun reflects off the water like a mirror. This day the sky was all purple. Reminded me of a Prince song..."
Beautiful colors, it actually reminds me a bit of the colors you used on the 1966 Chevy Biscanye.  


  1. That is some impressive work. I've looked at those fireplace doors at Bass Pro many times.

    I also went to school with Gary, and I remember him drawing cars and talking about them a lot. It's great to see someone who is successful at something they are passionate about.

    Great interview Daisy.

  2. Good interview. I think it's always interesting to see the creative urge expressed in different ways.

  3. For me knowing someone else's creative processes and history brings a much deeper appreciation of the finished product. I too remember Gary drawing cars a long long time ago, it is exciting to see he followed his passion. He does beautiful work.