Since arriving on the kustom kulture scene, airbrush artist Jessie Madera has tirelessly worked to challenge her skills while ultimately elevating the medium. Utilizing her fine arts background, Madera has steadily grown her clientele while expanding kustom kulture’s paradigms.
“I feel the only way to move forward is take a risk and do something different. I understand that people can feel safe repeating certain themes and working in certain elements, but that’s not me. Iconic themes are classic for a reason, but as artists, we should always be working to challenge ourselves, and, personally, I feel I’ve gotten the best recognition working outside the box,” affirmed Madera.
Beginning her craft in fine arts utilizing canvas mediums, Madera transitioned to airbrushing after attending various car shows, but only later did she realize just how versatile the medium was.
“Airbrushing caught my eye, but I didn’t feel the designs I was seeing were well-executed. A lot of people when they’re first exposed to airbrushing, don’t always see high-quality work. I’m stubborn, so when I first started airbrushing, I worked on using realism which was in heavy contrast from the normal car-type imagery, but I was determined to paint the designs that spoke to me,” she recalled.
Madera ultimately earned the respect and recognition from Titmouse Inc., one of the biggest animation studios responsible for Big Mouth, Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures, and Marvel’s Black Panther. The recent project focused on creating two van panel pieces to complement the offices and to date, remains Madera’s most ambitious project. Brought aboard by Dave Shuten to work on the kustom paint, Madera quickly learned just how involved the project would ultimately become.
“Dave has been a friend of mine for a few years and essentially subcontracted me to handle the airbrush portion. He thought my style, color, and realism ability to replicate imagery would be perfect for the Titmouse project. After a year of back and forths, the art was supplied in June 2021, and that’s when I flew out to paint,” she said.
Asked how many hours of paint time she invested in both van panels, Madera estimated over 140 hours over the course of 15 days.
“The studio wanted something very specific and I was initially supposed to design the artwork, but they were a little indecisive, so they put it on hold. Then they got their team back together and the resulting design on the blue, Steller Cruiser Booty Mover was done by Bill Sienkiewicz and it came out great!”
Additionally, Madera worked on the second panel, titled The New Troglodyte, named by renowned artist Robert Williams and with art designed by Dungeons & Dragons illustrator Erol Otis. For Madera, the intense collaboration has earned accolades and the opportunity to further broaden her audience, but any project on that level comes with challenges.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity, and I really thrive under pressure. I feel that’s when I do my best work, and it certainly was challenging. The wait time was long and a big fear of every artist is that a project won’t go through, but that was my only reservation. I’m glad they went with those designs, and I airbrushed them all. The blue side took me 14 days, and I completed the gold, trog side in about five days. I was painting 12 hours a day for like 20 days straight!”
Titmouse was not the only high-profile client that sought out Madera’s talents. Her realism and work ethic caught the attention of Paul Teutul Sr. of Orange County Choppers. Known for their over-the-top designs and charity work, Teutul commissioned Madera’s services for their Dream Chopper raffle contest.
“He had reached out to me via social media and wanted to know if I was interested in collaborating. It was very random, and they were in a rush to complete the project, so they came right down to my studio to meet me. Paul was very down to earth and I had nothing but positive experiences with him. I actually told him I had reached out to one of his sons years ago who owned an art gallery and how I never heard back from him. We had a good laugh about that and I felt like I had come full circle with them,” laughed Madera.
The collaboration led to painting raffle winner Joe Rasulo’s chopper, a military-themed piece celebrating his service. The June unveiling took place at the OCC Road House in Florida.
“Paul and I have a good relationship and it was a surreal, little bucket list moment since I grew up near Orange County Choppers. We keep in contact and he knows I am available to work with him again, he’s in Florida now but the door is open,” said Madera.
Madera’s collaboration with Orange County Choppers wasn’t her only military-themed commission despite the imagery’s contrast from her usual realism themes. Motocross racer Carey Hart inquired if she was available to work on a project for his charity, The Good Ride. Partnering with Infinite Hero, Hart organized various motorcycle events to benefit veterans in need. Madera was asked to complete a tank project with minimal direction, which would then be auctioned to further the charity’s work.
“I was very proud to be part of that. I know serving in the military is never easy, and it’s such a struggle for so many. I wanted to create a 3D stereoscopic effect for the piece where the viewer needs 3D glasses to experience. I wanted to create something that would be fun and could just take people back to being a kid again, to offset negativity and make them interact and be part of something. I wanted to create in a different direction while still doing something for a great cause,” said Madera.
If pushing herself and working under pressure are primary motivators to bring out her best work, Madera also shared that sometimes working totally out of her wheelhouse can yield great results, even during moments of reservation.
“This was such a random project! I completed a helmet for a 2022 Winter Olympics athlete. I was referred to Team Puerto Rico Skeleton athlete Kellie Delka by another artist, which is unusual because nobody wants to have to pass off a client and I am personally thankful that I was thought of enough to be recommended to this athlete. Of course, she wanted something specific such as the all-seeing eye on top of her helmet, a winged fairy, mirrored rainbow of roses with microflake, which took me a week and a half,” laughed Madera.
Skeleton Olympic races are very brief, with some athletes reaching speeds of 81 mph! For Madera, she accepted the fact that her work might be seen all too briefly, but she remains excited and grateful to have completed the project.
“That door to work with Delka again is still open. I enjoyed the challenge and pushing myself to work on something that I wasn’t familiar with, but I work on setting new, bigger goals every year. It was a very unique experience. How many artists can say they designed and created for an Olympic athlete?” concluded Madera.