With tears in his eyes, Skip Kratzer talks about how his economic life was in ruins when God led him to life as an artist.
Kratzer lived and worked in Redmond for 40 years as a distributor of yacht parts until the luxury tax destroyed the market. He was out of a job and had no idea how he and his wife would survive. He asked God for help and was led to working with his hands, something he always has enjoyed and is good at.
"I can fix anything," says Kratzer.
He started a handyman business but he was led to airbrush artists Mike Lavallee and John Hannukaine. Kratzer says they encouraged him to try his hand at painting pictures on cars. He learned and practiced their techniques until he felt confident to try on real vehicles.
Paints almost anything
His first commission came from a friend to customize a 1947 Studebaker pickup. Kratzer hasn't stopped painting since. He's a featured artist at auto shows in the Northwest and has clients who seek him out.
However, Kratzer didn't stop with painting cars. People ask him to paint pictures, wall murals, toilet seats, guitars, drums, kitchen cabinets and signs for stores. And he's willing to try.
One of his favorite stories is about a picture of an old plane he painted for a woman who explained that her son had been killed flying such a plane and she wanted something special to remember him.
The picture is an exact copy of the aircraft, complete with the woman's son in the pilot seat. Above the plane is a heavenly castle and below it is a quotation from the Bible.
For another family, he painted a picture of the family dog on a rug.
Crewed for John Wayne
In a bar, he painted a mural of several actors including John Wayne. Kratzer says he was first mate on one of Wayne's yachts and, in fact, delivered Wayne's last yacht to the actor.
Kratzer has painted murals of cartoon characters on bedroom walls, in children's stores and in his wife's craft room.
"My philosophy is, if it's just about money, I don't want to do it," he says.
"If I've gained a new friend, that's what it's all about."
Another favorite story is about painting an eagle with tears falling from its eyes surrounded by burning buildings soon after 9/11. A man asked Kratzer if he could buy it, but he could not afford it.
When the man explained that he wanted the picture because he had a friend who was killed in the attack, Kratzer asked him what he could afford and gave the picture to him for a fraction of the original price. Kratzer's eyes well with tears as he remembers.
'Bullet holes are popular'
One woman brought Kratzer her new Volkswagen right after she purchased it. She wanted a large chicken painted on the front. When she came to pick it up she asked him to paint a bullet hole next to the chicken.
"Bullet holes are very popular," he says.
Kratzer will be the featured artist at The Buzz, 130 N. Sequim Ave., in January.
Examples of his car and motorcycle art will be on aluminum panels. He also will have some of his paintings in the exhibit.
"This thing is evolving," he says, "and I don't know where it's going.
"I don't want to do art like anyone else."
Reach Dana Casey at email@example.com.
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