12.07.14 Day 4 with Carlos Donjuan
Posted by TAP on January 15, 2015 - 2:00pm

Our fourth and final day with Carlos Donjuan was a very special one. After experiencing the surprising effects of Kenny Scharf’s “Karbombz!” on several people’s vehicles when the artist was in town in October, the teens realized the potential of adorning everyday objects with creative expression—creating a work of art that interacts with the real world.

Kenny Sharf

One of the teens managed to get permission from his parents to have the Modern’s Teen/Artist Project paint the family van!

Last week the students were assigned some homework: make a few sketches of possible designs to be implemented onto the van.


Class began in the studio where Carlos introduced his two brothers and fellow members of SOUR GRAPES, Miguel and Arturo. After a quick introduction, the three Donjuan brothers led a discussion about practical ways to approach the design and painting of the van. Each of the Donjuans has a lot of personal experience, and their combined knowledge is far-reaching.

The class decided to use the preexisting lines on the van and create three different motifs with three different color palettes. On the top level of the van, the teens decided to paint singular paint strokes that resemble hair or fur in warm colors; on the midsection of the van, a geometric design in cool colors; and on the lower level, a paisley motif (which has meaning to the family) using black, white, and gray paint.

At that point, we headed to where the van was parked, the parking lot of the museum’s offsite storage a few blocks away, where we could have plenty of space and not worry about overspray getting onto nearby cars. Before painting, the van needed to be prepped. A few of the students volunteered to help prep the van by taping and plastic-wrapping the windows, bumpers, mirrors, and tires.

We set up all the paint, gloves, masks, and (of course) music, and a practice painting area was designated. The Donjuans gave a thorough demonstration of all the various painting tools and techniques that apply to aerosol paint. Students were allowed to begin experimenting with the material in the practice zone. They tried different brands of paint, tested out types of caps and nozzles, and practiced a variety of application techniques.

Once the students felt comfortable and confident, they attacked the van with paint! A few brave teens started, and then it was no time before everyone was painting side by side. Having the teens stick to the design and color palette really helped control the process and kept the day from spiraling into total aerosol chaos.

Throughout the day, the Donjuan brothers provided assistance to the teens. They were ever-present guiding forces that helped in any manner needed (they also cleaned up if a few marks went astray).

A few times throughout the day we all felt sprinkles and had to fashion a temporary rooftop, but we were fortunate that the rain held off long enough for the paint to dry.

As the teens pulled off the plastic and tape, the van looked better and better. By the conclusion of the project, the teens were blown away with the results.

This was one of the most exciting artist visits, and we all bonded as never before due to the unique process. It was a real lesson in collaboration and teamwork. We hope that it brightens people’s days as it drives through the world.