Adam Stone is one of the hottest emerging automotive painters in the country today, especially after he got three incredible creations in the 2015 SEMA show. With a car, a truck and a motorcycle on display in Las Vegas, Stone’s work garnered accolades and positive reviews from major names like Gene Winfield Rick Dore and the cast of Overhaulin’ just to name a few. It was an exhilarating show for Stone, 38, because his journey to success hasn’t exactly been a smooth ride.
In fact, for several years it looked like Stone wouldn’t be able to get out of his hometown of Lindsay, CA, an agricultural area with a population of around 12,000. While most of the people in Lindsay work in agriculture in one capacity or another, Adam wanted to do something else, after seeing his father toiling hard as a produce broker for decades.
“My Dad ran a local fruit & produce stand for 25 years on Cairns Corner in Lindsay,” Stone explained. “He made a great living and was well-known for having the best produce in the area. He then began taking his knowledge of produce and became a broker selling to supermarkets and cold storages throughout North America. It was a good job and he supported his family, but I knew that I wanted to do something that would be more fulfilling and help to make a difference in some way.”
A career as a teaching looked like the viable alternative, but jobs were hard to find even in the closest big town—Bakersfield. “I could only get work as a substitute teacher,” Stone said. “The schools were passing out pink slips and it just did not look like it was going to provide me with a good career. So, I started looking for something I could do that I like and maybe tap into my creative side.”
So, Stone began teaching himself how to do pin striping on cars—any car. Within six months, he was adept at this detailed work and ready to start a little business on the side. “I started doing pinstripes on new vehicles for local new car dealerships,” he said. “During that time, they were taking the newer trucks and turning them into low riders. They liked my work, so the business started to grow.”
As more and more dealerships requested his work, substitute teaching quickly became less appealing, Stone said. “At first, I was making decent money. I charged $50 per vehicle for pinstriping and the dealerships started lining up. A lot of the jobs started out at $50, but ended up costing $250, because they would ask me to also paint the hood and the tailgate, etc. Pretty soon, I was making some serious money every day, so I knew then that my teaching days were basically over.”
But, when the economy imploded in 2008 and several local dealerships folded, Stone had to re-invent himself or risk being painted into a corner. “The pinstriping business fell apart, so I decided maybe I should think about painting complete cars,” Stone explained. “The people at Lalanne’s Paint Supply helped me out, by setting me up with my first spray gun (an Iwata) and pointing me in the right direction.”
Gary Lalanne, the owner of Lalanne’s Paint Supply in Porterville, CA is a third-generation owner for this jobber that has been in business since 1921. He has seen Stone’s path to success from the very first days and is happy to see the painter’s recent acclaim.
“Adam came in here the first time and I think he was a teenager then,” Lalanne said. “He was asking questions and we’re very technical here, so we helped him, just like we do with every customer. We’re not surprised to find out that he is doing well. Axalta is working with Adam now and he is gaining a lot of exposure through things like SEMA. He still comes in here and buys stuff now and again, so he has been a customer here for more than a decade.”
Two major highlights in his artistic journey happened in 2009, when the very first car that Stone painted completely, a 1974 Chevy Caprice, ended up in Lowrider magazine, followed by an introduction to Danny Galvez (aka “Danny D”), the well-known custom automotive painter and pinstriper who is a legend in the lowriding world.
“Meeting Danny was a big deal, because he started introducing me to some of the right people and gave me a lot of encouragement,” Stone said. “He is a very generous person and he’s a true artist in every way, because he is always about the work.”
If you get a car painted by Stone, you can rest assured that you won’t see any factory colors in the finished product. “I make all my colors, including the pearls, candies and toners,” he said. “When I talk to the paint supplier, I tell them don’t give me codes, because I don’t want a standard color. That way, when you get a car, truck or SUV painted by me, you’re getting a custom, one-of-a-kind paint job, because I create them all myself.”
Several positive things that come with success include the media exposure you get and the fact that companies are willing to sponsor you, according to Stone. “I am now working with Axalta for my paint and INDASA is providing me with all of my tape, sand paper, abrasives and tools. It helps a lot, because when I am pinstriping, I use a ton of tape. When we’re done with a job, we often have a huge ball of used tape on the floor—the size of a big beach ball! On one truck I painted recently, we used more than 10 cases of tape.”
Today, Stone Color Studio operates out of a 6,000 square foot facility with two employees. By attracting clients where money is not an issue, the business has been thriving. “We’re doing approximately 10 complete jobs and probably 20 smaller projects, adding graphics to other companies that are restoring vehicles. We also have some Arab customers and they’re willing to pay for premium work. We’re currently working on a 2003 Ferrari Spyder with a complete tribal paint job in black and charcoal custom colors and red trims.”
How can Stone follow his success at SEMA? “I want to get more into painting hot rods, but I don’t want to forget my roots in pinstriping and lowriders either. SEMA opened some doors, no doubt, but now I just have to walk through them.”