Today, our story features Atomic Dice Studio Arts.
"It’s like a tattoo studio for cars, motorbikes, skateboards, coffee cups - anything, really." says Bob and Sara, the dynamic duo behind the studio.
Atomic Dice Studio Arts has been featured on the Discovery Channel and is a regular at the International Cycle Show amongst other racing events, where Bob usually painting stickers, logos, or pin-striping something up.
The lowdown on lowbrow.
Bob’s style can be classed as lowbrow. It’s an underground, cultural art that began in the ‘60s, with roots in comics, graffiti, rockabilly, and hot-rod cultures. Lowbrow has been in the dark from the mainstream until recently, with artists like Bob bringing lowbrow into the light. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s an undeniably impactful branch of art - and taste for it is growing.
The International Cycle Show is always a success for me, as are all the racing events over summer. This year I’m definitely taking a hit because of COVID.”
For the past few years, Bob has been designing digital sticker designs for motorcycle drag racing. This year I’ve gone with a drag racing cartoon shark and some pinstriping details.
But his skills go way beyond that.
Preserving the past
Bob has a genuine passion for doing. He believes in using your hands and creativity to create a real physical thing, be it ink on paper to welding together a structure.
“Art is kind of like a time capsule. Let’s preserve the traditional methods and the way we used to do things. Art evolves, but we need to remember the roots too - especially in this digital society. I still use techniques like gold leafing and hand lettering - I even hand-lettered a fire engine. They were blown away - most people just aren’t used to hand-crafted art anymore. Things like pinstriping brushes have been made from Siberian squirrel tails for over 50 years. If something works the way it is, why change it? I’m really passionate about preserving history and doing things the way it was back then. That’s the only way you can truly preserve it.”
“It feels like we’re the last real hands-on generation - my kids can spend hours and hours on their phones, just wasting time and not achieving anything. It’s a real concern for me. That’s why I’ll always encourage art. I would much rather see someone spending their time creating rather than scroll their life away. In the past I’ve even given away good quality paint brushes and bits of art equipment to kids that expressed a real interest in art.”
From art school to old school
Bob went to art school in the late ‘90s to do illustration. Besides the bright inks and lowbrow art, Bob’s a dab hand in oil painting. “There was no YouTube back then - we had to learn the hard way!” Bob grins. “I’ve always been a traditional artist but most people have no idea - they see my work and they don’t expect me to do classy stuff too!”
“I used everything I learned at art school to go my own unique way. I’ve travelled with artists; people that I’ve looked up to have become my friends. I’ve learned that customer service is a big part of getting your name out there. Most illustrators go into freelance work. It’s unreliable and you can be really restricted as to what you can design. I like being old school!”
Rolling onto Atomic Dice
“I set up Atomic Dice about 10 years ago now. Me and Sara have been working together professionally for the last 6 years or so which is when it started taking off as a viable business. I’m able to work on my art when I want, with complete creative freedom. I actually got famous for painting squids and it was my middle daughter that suggested it!” Bob recalls. “I get to spend more time with my girls and get them off their phones for a bit!”
There’s a couple that come down to the shop at least once a month with something for me to pinstripe. They brought down a set of vintage cases for me a couple of months ago. I swear they just find stuff in their garage for me to paint up!” he laughs.
“Pinstriping is like a tattoo for an object. I work a lot on cars and motorcycles - a lot of those of repeat customers. People start off with one design but like getting a tattoo, it’s addictive. After a while some customers just leave their car with me and let me come up with the design myself, because I already know what they like.”
Spend a second on Atomic Dice’s Instagram and you’ll see why. Bob’s work is anything but repetitive. There’s no template or formula. Each piece is completely unique - something Bob is incredibly proud of.
“A lot of artists find something that works and stick to that sort of thing. I’m passionate about creating something new each time because I get bored of a design after painting it a couple of times. I spend 10 to 14 hours on each hand-painting I do with the sketching, ink, and colors. It takes a lot of time and people really appreciate that.”
I really like to personalize items when I get the chance. Really personalize ‘em - like you can tell that it’s theirs. [example project]
Will Atomic Dice go digital?
I’m a bit of a late-comer to the digital art scene as I’ve never really believed in it. I’m all about creating,” Bob says. “But I’ve been using a ProCreate and Apple Pencil for a while now and I have to say - it’s good!” he sounds impressed. “It’s hard to get used to but digital art gives you so much more opportunity to expand. So I stand by my traditional methods but it’s not something I’m gonna ignore.”
Atomic Dice x Yes Welder
The project with YesWelder combines Bob’s love of creating with the scaling capabilities of digital art.
“It all started because my best friend’s son, Ethan, started welding last year and my friend asked me to paint him one up for Christmas. I did a stitched design with ragged teeth around the bottom edge of the helmet to look like a mouth - it was really cool! I posted the photo on my Instagram and YesWelder got in touch with me from there.
It’s a new experience in so many ways. I’ve done helmets in the past for Biker Pros and others but with this, the design literally comes from my hand to the helmet. There are no changes. I have complete creative freedom and it’s so refreshing. Most designs are all flames and skulls and I relish being able to create something completely different.
Each one has its own personality - the Aggressor is a green monster with a huge open mouth and the Patriot is American-inspired with a bald eagle.
“It’s incredibly rare to see an original idea make it into production without the client whitewashing it or making alterations. Having complete freedom to create without being stifled is amazing. Most of the time you have to stick to clean-cut, specific styles. It’s not that I don’t like that type of art - it all adds to the design - but having the freedom to stray away from that style and add my own touch is really rare. For ”
Everybody has worked really hard to make this happen. It’s really exciting and I’m so looking forward to seeing where this project leads.”
Find Bob and Sara on Instagram @atomicdice