With classic rock playing in the background, Eddie Mandela makes his work fun. But then again it isn’t work to him, it is art. Eddie is a very creative guy that emits a feeling of exuberance. Just stepping into his studio makes you smile, and it isn’t just the music from by gone years; it is the entire atmosphere.
His studio is peppered with groovy art all over the walls. In fact, his business cards say “Groovy Airbrush.” Much of the art is his, but he also has other works that have been gifted to him by other artists. Signs, paintings, and even a numbered sculpture is on display. He stands at his easel, air brush in hand, making cool creations for all kinds of customers. Thousands of CDs and stacks of classic rock magazines fill the space. He is moved by the songs of his youth and the wonderful memories that they bring back. They set the mood for him to paint what he loves.
Eddie paints T-shirts, signs, and does lettering and pinstriping all without stencils. Everything that comes out of his studio, whether it is T-shirt orders or fine art drawings, are all done by hand. “I am doing a series of paintings based on songs,” Eddie said, “I have one based on ‘Love Shack.’ There are a lot of songs that tell a story—songs that people can relate too. I want to do a painting for Sammy Hagar’s ‘I Can’t Drive 55’”.
His ‘Love Shack’ painting has a big hot rod car with Frankenstein and Dracula’s bride riding in it. One of the lines from the song is that the car is “as big as a whale,” so there is a whale in the car. The Love Shack is down in the corner, and the painting is so fun it makes the viewer want to go dance there too.
Eddie has been drawing hot rods and monsters since he was in the second grade, when he got in trouble because he was drawing superman and army tanks instead to doing his school work. No one understood his need to constantly draw. “Back then there were no video games and no TVs in your room. In elementary school we would have “drawathons.” That’s what kept us entertained and out of trouble,” he explained. “I didn’t like art class in Junior high and high school. They taught a broad spectrum of art skills and I just wanted to draw. I didn’t know it then, but I was trying to perfect a skill that was inside of me. All the paper and pencils were worth it. I wasn’t a sports geek, so I would stay in and draw.”
“I like other kinds of art, but I am passionate about drawing; and it has ballooned into this business,” Eddie said. “The fascination I have with cars has paid off. When I am at a car show, and I airbrush a classic car on a T-shirt, people gather around and watch. Once they see what I can do, I have business for hours with everyone wanting a painting of their cars. They use them for displays,” shared Eddie. “Another form of passion is when I can’t sleep, and ideas will just come. At 2 or 3 in the morning is when I get my best ideas, and it helps when I am stuck on something. That’s a form of passion when you listen to your thoughts and put them on paper,” he said, “I spend nights doing fine art portraits too.”
“Other artists inspire me. Their art captures you. I love the murals downtown. What this artist is trying to tell you is what is in his mind. It’s easy to see what is in my mind from my art —monsters and cars,” Eddie said with a laugh. Eddies art sometimes has a cartoon look to it, and other pieces are true to fact.
He is versatile and is also painting large aluminum serpents for Sheppard Air Force Base. He designs logos and does commission work also. The internet has opened things up for him, as well as, his Facebook page. He has sent out his various forms of art to customers in every state in the United States of America except Hawaii. He says that if you can do airbrush and pinstripe and lettering you are in demand, and his sales prove that is true. He paints unusual items like helmets, skateboards, and furniture. His art is as diverse as his imagination. “People don’t want stencils or copies of other things. They want an original idea. The number one catalyst is my pencil and paper, and from drawing and drawing and drawing, you leave other people’s ideas behind and develop your own style. However, other artists keep you inspired. There is no such thing as running out of ideas,” Eddie said with a grin.
Eddie married his biggest fan Ester in 1984 and had 2 sons. She helps, and pushed him to keep drawing even way before his business took off. He says that no matter what, Ester always said, “Keep Drawing!”
– Cindy Thomas