It is with sadness that I report the passing yesterday of Sonny DePalma, one the most influential and inspiring artists of our generation. Sonny’s work, a combination of airbrush and paintbrush resulting in murals and graphics with a unique, crisp and clear 3-D style, is adorning many of the most acclaimed motorcycles and cars of our Kustom Kulture.
Sonny “Tha Doc” DePalma was originally from New York. As far as he could remember, he loved to draw. In the late 60s, his older brother brought home a Ed Roth catalog with Ed “Big Daddy” Roth designs in it. One look and he was hooked for life. One day, he told me “I would sit around the kitchen table drawing hot rods and monsters with bloodshot eyes, shifting gears through the roof of a wild looking hot rod. For me it was the coolest thing ever…” In the early 80’s, during a car show, he had a chance encounter with “Big Daddy” to whom he showed a small album of his first drawings. Of course, he was encouraged to pursue an artist career.
30 years ago, self-taught, never attending any art school, he moved to West Palm Beach, Florida and rich of the inspiration of those he admired the most (Ed Roth, Ed Newton and Robert Williams) he developed his own style as much for airbrush than for pinstriping, rapidly establishing his name at the top of the best in the custom paint field. During all these years he never stopped producing Krazy Art for the worldwide who’s who of the custom industry and inspired many others to dip the brush.
Without him, our world will be less colorful. I guess Sonny DePalma and Ed Roth met again in heaven and together will be painting the Rat Fink on everything they can put their hands on. My condolences to his family and all his friends.