Tom Van Nortwick

Automobile Pinstriping
Henry, Virginia

Photo: Skip Rowland

Photo: Skip Rowland

Tom Van Nortwick of Franklin County is Virginia’s master of pinstriping, the precise application of a thin line of paint to create designs on auto body panels. Tom grew up in the mid-1950s around hot rod auto riggers and played around his neighbor’s race car. He saw his first auto races during visits to his father, a mechanic and artist living in California. It was on these visits that Tom first saw the designs of Kenny Howard, also known as “Von Dutch” and generally considered the founding father of pinstriping.

In 1980, Tom started “ripping” his own designs at the encouragement of master hot rod rigger and Virginia Folklife Program Master Artist John Rinehart. His first practice “canvas” was the door of Rinehart’s garage. Within a few weeks Tom earned his first money as a pinstriper. He has since become a legend of the craft, and cars bearing his designs have been featured in countless national magazines.

Tom has a national reputation for his acrylic paintings of car scenes that he sells through galleries and dealers, but he is now one of only a handful of pinstripers in all of Virginia. He will demonstrate this intricate craft on the vehicles of lucky members of the audience at the 2019 Richmond Folk Festival.