Reputation is the most crucial part of any entrepreneur’s success. Your consistency and work ethic shape this reputation more than anything in the eyes of the people who matter the most; your clients. Ask Danny Galvez, the well-known custom automotive painter and pinstriper Southern California lowriding enthusiasts respectfully refer to by the nickname of “Danny D.” Making a name for oneself is the goal of any passion-fueled individual, and Danny D has done just that. An obvious abundance of popular top-notch car builds that have graced Lowrider magazine’s covers easily capture attention thanks to the candy-painted eye-popping colors and intricate pattern-work done by this master painter. So who is the man behind the paint gun, how did he get his artistic talents, and how does he come up with these unique paint schemes he uses throughout his intricate paint designs? Finally, Danny D found the time between car projects to sit down with Lowrider magazine to shed some light on how his career came to be and why he remains one of the lowriding culture’s most sought after custom painters.
Danny is a Southern California native, born and raised in Los Angeles, which has long been a hotbed of lowrider culture. Given Danny’s Hispanic descent, it was almost inevitable that he would be exposed to the culture while he was growing up; as lowriding is simply a way of life within the streets of L.A. Danny eagerly jumped into the culture headfirst, absorbing the automotive phenomenon on a daily basis. There were all kinds of cars he dreamed of owning, but with money being tight and living under his dad’s roof, there wasn’t a lot of financial room to chase these automotive dreams. Fortunately for Danny, his dad gave him an old ’72 Chevy El Camino. Sure, it may not have been the dream car he wished for, but it ran well and it was more than something special to the young Danny! Danny did not hesitate to begin making the car his own, as he quickly took off all of the family-oriented options like the camper shell and the stock wheels. A set of 5.20s went onto the ride as soon as Danny could muster up the funds, and air shocks were installed in the back of the ride. He lowered the front end, stripped the car down and primed the car to receive coats of black with a violet pearl. Considering the car’s humble beginnings, it was a more than street-worthy cruiser for taking trips down the infamous Whittier Boulevard. Danny says the car wasn’t much; but he still has love for that car today, wherever it may be!
That El Camino did more than earn stripes for Danny as a lowrider—it also marked the first time he put his artistic talents into a large-scale project. Danny recalls building car models as a kid and before doing that, he remembers being grounded and confined to his room with nothing more to do than draw the Charlie Brown and Snoopy figures on his bedroom window drapes. He would visually copy the characters and then draw them on paper, completely freehand. More than just a talent; Danny found drawing fun, and it sure helped him get through “doing time” on bedroom restriction! As he got older, Danny’s drawing and model car building eventually evolved into airbrush painting. Danny was also a devout student of the streets; as a trip to the local library in search of paint techniques paled in comparison to the hands-on painting lessons he would get by watching local lowriders in his own neighborhood. There was no Internet at the time either, so Danny’s resources were very limited in terms of getting information on technique and application. Opening up the latest issue of LRM provided him with some much-needed insight on the styles, patterns, and colors that the car owners were flaunting on their rides. Danny loved it all. He’d often wondered aloud to himself, “How did they do that?”
After a lot of self-taught trial and error, Danny really began to pin down his niche. In the ’80s, he started airbrushing murals on the trunks and hoods of cars and mini trucks, then started to progress towards hand-painted lettering and pinstriping. Danny quickly made a name for himself and became the go-to guy for many established car painters, who needed pinstripe work done on their client’s rides. Throughout his time in doing this, Danny caught on to the painters’ methods of paint application and mixing and it lead him to the realization that what they did was basically just over-sized pinstriping. He knew he could do that, too.
Danny opened up his own paint shop in 1987. Although he was a lowrider at heart, he wanted other car cultures to recognize the uniqueness and beauty that lied in the innovations of lowrider-style paint techniques. He knew that his achievements, particularly in candy, metal flake, and patterns could garner the attention and respect of hot rodders and bikers, as well as the mass market in general. “Getting the hot rodder guys to like my work was a big bonus,” Danny says. Despite the differences between the cultures, he definitely earned their respect. “We are talking about guys who generally hate lowriders, but would still like my [paint] work and the colors and patterns I used. It just meant that I was on a good path.” This thought process might come from Danny’s own personal inspirations. He says his unique styles come from a collection of different painters and pinstripers that he looked up to as he was getting into the game. He takes the best of those touches and combines it into his own brand of one-of-a-kind work using metal flakes, pearls, candies, gold, silver, and copper leaf, and a plethora of other precious metals.
When a customer drops off a car, Danny sees it as a blank canvas, and will reflect on it for a while before getting started. Initially, he will stand back and stare at the ride for a moment. He waits for what he calls, “The ‘Top Gun’ Moment.” In that hit film from the ’80s, Tom Cruise’s character, Maverick, would hold onto his deceased wingman’s dog tags and ask for his guidance. “Talk to me, Goose,” the character would ask aloud. This, Danny says, is sort of the moment he has before getting a vision of what the car should ultimately look like. It may not always be instantaneous, but often times it is. Danny says it helps if his client is not too picky and gives him free range to do what he wants to the car as an artist.
Danny’s current shop is in Baldwin Park, California. This is the same spot he has been located for the past decade. His son, who recently graduated from a trade tech school for sign painting also helps out at the shop. Danny says he recently formed Danny D Studios in an effort to branch out to corporate America. Under the Studios umbrella, he hopes to do more paint work and other services for movie production companies and other big businesses (he recently did up some custom roller skates for singer Beyoncé). Danny also sees the Studios reaching more into the fashion industry soon, hopefully combining his talents along with those of his sons who possess a breadth of education and knowledge within the fashion and textile fields.
Regardless of where Danny D Studios may go from here, Danny says he will always be doing what he does best; painting.”I plan on painting until the day I die,” Danny defiantly states. “I just hope that when I’m gone, people will remember me for what I did for the sport and lifestyle of lowriding.” Danny feels that his destiny is painting these cool cars, leaving his mark, and pushing a positive image of the lowrider world.