Kenneth ‘Doc’ Stewart – Lowrider Original

He May Be A Self-Proclaimed, Under The "Shade Tree" Painter, But His Final Product Has Been Etched Into The Minds Of Lowriders Everywhere.

Imaginative, Eccentric, Genuine, Unique, Distinctive, MasterWhen you see the art and design of a lowrider paintjob, you’ll be able to recognize artist/custom painter “The Doctor,” or just plain “Doc,” since his work has graced magazine covers, centerfolds, and, most importantly, the streets for the last 40-plus years. Doc’s distinctive style makes him well known throughout the world as one of the masters of patterns and schemes.

Doc’s influence in the custom car game came from his father. Fords, Lincolns, and Mercurys were his dad’s cars of choice back in the day, which he was modifying low and slow. Cruising skirts, Continental kits, spotlights, custom paint, and lowering were all standard practices for his dad’s rides. He was exposed to flashy paintjobs throughout town while riding around with his dad who had a rubbish hauling business. Quite a few of the stops were at body shops. Doc would check out what they were doing and stare in amazement at the colors and patterns.

The first car Doc ever painted belonged to a family friend named Clown. He owned a Chevy Monza and wanted some patterns painted on the roof. Doc’s uncle, who worked for the City of Pasadena [California] painting trucks, let Doc use his paint gun equipment to do the job. For motivation his dad told him that if he did a good job painting the Monza he would buy him a compressor. The enthusiasm in his youth, combined with the thought of having his very own compressor, propelled Doc into another world. At the time Doc was only in the seventh grade, but what he turned out was stunning. His dad held up his end of the bargain and made the trip to Sears to buy the compressor. Doc was now equipped with his very first of many compressors, which began a career that has spanned over four decades.

Not long after that car was done, Doc’s dad bought a fiberglass boat, which was a big deal at the time-especially for a black man. Being the custom kind of guy he was, he gave Doc the job of tricking out the boat with some patterns. Doc went to work laying out a project design that turned his family’s house into, in his words, “a tourist attraction.” Doc says, “People used to ride by our house just to look at the boat that sat in the front yard.” It might have started out with them checking out the boat, but soon people were riding by the house every Saturday just to see what creative paintjobs Doc was working on. “Every Saturday people would come by the house to see what I was doing … They knew I was up to something. Wherever you were going on the weekends in Pasadena, you were going to drive by our house,” he says. That would make Doc the go-to guy for the 411 on the weekend’s happenings because people would come through to see what he was painting and then he would get all the information on where the parties were and where the cruising spots would be for the weekend.

Doc’s first car, which was almost as colorful as his personality, was a blue ’49 Chevy complete with a red, white, and blue interior. He bought the car previously owned by his patriotic uncle. The car received a blue fade around the windows and a chrome trim. “Then, every car had a name, and I was painting the names of the cars on them then. Whatever a person wanted I put it on there,” Doc says. He named his first car “Fading Fancy.”

Doc is quick to credit Larry Lee, a custom painter in Pasadena, for teaching him how to do custom painting. Flames and scallops, which were mainstream back then, were the first things he learned. But Doc’s own creativity would soon take over when he used his first stencil-a piece of garden lattice. “Garden lattice was the first thing I used to put a design on a car. The Standard Brands store had different ones you could buy that had curly cue designs. I would spray it and shadow it all before anyone got to the house and they would be like, ‘How did he do that?'” Doc says. Still to this day he uses whatever is around to create his designs, in addition to pulling tape. His “swirl and curls” style has been mimicked by many lowrider painters, but no painter seems to have his “get down style” locked down as well as he does. Doc is a self-proclaimed “shade tree” painter, but his final product is anything but that.

There was a time when Doc (like any good doctor at the time) would make house calls and paint entire cars. Much like the Temptations’ song “Poppa was a Rolling Stone,” wherever Doc laid his hat (or in this case his airbrush) was his home. House calls weren’t uncommon so Doc could be found anywhere in the country painting in someone’s backyard or his own, as long as the price was right. Although those days have slowly withered away.

When the trend toward painting frames, undercarriages, and firewalls came into vogue Doc decided to concentrate on doing roofs, unless the price was right. Since he’s gotten up in age, he’s decided to stay close to home so he can be around his wife and family.

Like any artist, Doc’s style has evolved and he finds inspiration in different things but he always seems to get pulled back into his classic “swirls and curls” style. He estimates he’s painted about 20 or more cars, including the likes of the famous Santana cover car and recently Todd Lands ’63 Impala (July ’07 center car) “Main Event.”

As for the roof, he estimates he’s painted about 70 or so and shows little sign of slowing down. Doc’s creativity and “get down” mentality isn’t limited to just painting cars. You can find him on any Sunday afternoon at a park in Los Angeles playing the conga drums or rolling around in roller skates at a roller rink “getting down” to the music.

The paintjob of a lowrider is one of the things that sets him apart from any other car genre. Doc is one of a handful of painters who has firmly laid down his place in lowrider history. His style is known all over the world and he’s painted a couple of lowriding’s most prolific cars. With Doc still painting, creating, and evolving, it’s quite possible we haven’t seen his last work yet.