We had the good fortune of connecting with Chris Cott and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chris, why did you pursue a creative career?
I was lucky enough to have a little talent and met a man, Lee Puckett, that mentored me and gave me the skills and confidence needed to pursue a career outside of the cubicle norm and be my own boss as a result.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As a result of airbrushing at the Ohio state fair after being hired 3 days prior (and barely able to sleep after practicing all day, every day ), then traveling to other state fairs and the Indy Drag Nationals, I came back to San Diego where I grew up as a kid and opened a shop on the boardwalk on Mission beach. I had been staying on a friends couch after returning, then living in my car before buying a sailboat that I lived on for 17 years! When I was asking the manager of the store where I wanted to set up my airbrush shop on the boardwalk in Mission Beach, he told me ‘I’ll call you.” Well, this was way before cell phones and I told him I had an answering service because I lived on a boat. He asked me ”when are we going sailing?”, I replied ”my first day off!” He told me I could start tomorrow, and I said “I’ll start TODAY!” I went and got my equipment and worked that shop for the next 24 years, with one off when they remodeled and I airbrushed on Antigua. I took him sailing many times.
For the first 7years I rowed out 200 yards daily before securing a slip in Mission Bay at the Bahia Hotel across from my shop. I had met the hotel owner and airbrushed a shirt with his 1900’s 3 wheeled Mercedes! And no, it wasn’t “easy” but it was awesome. Summers were insane, working 100+ days straight. I painted signs, airbrushed a lot of murals and surfboards in the off season to get by to the next season, and I got by with a little help from my friends! I’ve been given the opportunity to decorate amazing bars and restaurants here in San Diego, in L.A. and on Oahu and Maui as a result. I’ve met and worked with awesome artists including Roth, Rush, Colin Webster Watson, and painted with and restored Wyland murals. It’s been fun and I ain’t done! “You say it, I’ll spray it!”
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
With the recent shut downs, I’d most likely go to our epic beaches here in La Jolla, and take my wonderful dogs, Jackson & Gus. I’ve toured many friends around America’s Finest City and look forward to better times; whale watching, sunsets, concerts, wineries, all the restaurants I’ve decorated, and happy hour on our patio. Iconic.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Funny you should ask! Lee Puckett gave me a start at a a young age working at a sign company in Columbus, Ohio, still in high school, although I didn’t say so. I was was applying for a job at nearly 10 times of what I was making while working at the 2nd Wendy’s flippin’ burgers. When he asked what I’d do with the money if hired, I replied ”move back to San Diego”, not knowing his response, but being truthful. It just happened he was stationed here in the Navy, he hired me and we built a friendship that lasts till this day, some 50+ years later. I ran a successful sign shop in San Diego for years after I moved back the first time as a result of his mentoring.
I had found a dirty old Paasche VL airbrush in the paint cabinet at the original sign shop and had started messing around with it. When I applied to airbrush t shirts at the Ohio state fair on a trip back, there were 29 other applicants before me. I felt I didn’t have a chance after looking at their quality renderings of the “57 Chevy we were all asked to paint, so I started doing various lettering styles, my specialty after working at sign shops. When the interviewer came in and saw me messing around, I thought I was in trouble for wasting materials. When I admitted I airbrushed all the samples, he told me I was HIRED! He explained ”While the other guys were good, you love this and not only will get better, but you are the only one who did more than was asked.” I’ve tried to honor the chances given to me and keep giving more on every job. While there are awesome fellow artists I admire and have learned from and will never achieve their level of greatness and fame, I have had a great career and a ton of fun!
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