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About the cover

D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e  June 2012

Creative Impulses

Art on the Move

Silver City painter Eric Carrasco puts automotive art into high gear.

by Pat Young



Eric Carrasco was just a first grader when the road to his future art career started on its course. He earned rave reviews for a composite of a semi tractor trailer on construction paper. Today, Eric has followed that road to a thriving Silver City business in automotive art. The likeable 32 year old, who believes in having a personal interaction with every single customer, took a few "side roads" before Thunder 1 Rod Dezigns took off, however.

car art

Eric says he got his first airbrush for his 12th birthday, just before Christmas in the early 1990s. (His birthday falls on Dec. 21, so he always gets one big "birthday/Christmas present," he explains.) That began his love affair with airbrush art, which started showing up on everything from T-shirts to license plates. He says he became the "go-to-guy" for airbrush artwork at Silver High School.

His first "real job," he continues, was doing painting and general labor for Ed Stevens in Hurley. Then, at age 19, he worked at Bright Funeral Home. Recognizing his artistic talent, the funeral home had him do artwork for the business. He also hand-painted new business signs for the funeral home, which stood there for many years. "This was the first time I applied art to work," he says.

car art

"I thought about going to art school right after high school," Eric goes on. But he says his friend and former boss, Stevens, was instrumental in his career choice. "I decided to put my art into the automotive field. I always loved cars."


Eric took the money he would have used for tuition and built a shop behind his parents' home in 2003. As he puts it, "I started applying my art work ‘automotively.'"

He borrowed money from Western Bank, taught himself how to repair sheet metal, and began working on friends' cars. All this time, he also worked for Luis Terrazas at a sign shop.

car art

In 2006, he opened Thunder 1 Rod Dezigns. Actually, Eric says, he didn't have a name for the business. But he and wife Emily had two Thunderbirds. He was airbrushing his Thunderbird at the time, when his father, Robert Carrasco, called Eric's car "Thunder 1."

"I did a lot of drag racing at the time," Eric recalls, "so I called it "Thunder 1 Racing." This evolved into Thunder 1 Rod Dezigns.

His father taught Eric the art of hard work; at 77, he still works in Eric's shop.


Most of Eric's artwork is now emblazoned on cars and motorcycles, but a few examples are still displayed on canvas. He created an oil painting, a southwest landscape with an Indian woman in the foreground, as a gift for his godparents. And some of his high school artwork, mostly pencil sketches, hangs in his home.

His high school sweetheart and wife of seven years, Emily, kept it. "When I saw his high school drawings, even the ones from grade school, they were so detailed," Emily says. "I fell in love with his artwork and then the man." She laughs and adds, "I asked him out."

car art
Eric and Emily Carrasco (photo by Pat Young)

Emily serves as the friendly office manager at his shop. Their two-year-old son, Jaxon, serves as "live entertainment" as he toddles around the shop or "drives" his push car. "One day Jaxon picked up some sandpaper and just started sanding," Eric says. "He looked up at me like, ‘This is what we do, right, Dad?'"


The Carrascos recently moved their business from an industrial park east of Silver City to a spacious building they purchased at 1605 Corbin, just west of AmBank, as their business has grown. It features a state-of-the-art spray booth, a major plus for Eric. It also has a "playroom" for Jaxon, a plus for both parents. Eric does paint jobs on cars, including paint work for the Lawley Ford and Toyota dealerships in Silver City. Most often, his talent is displayed in flames (traditional flames, true-fire flames and ghost flames), and in murals "ghosted" on the sides of vehicles. He also paints "portraits" on vehicles. Recently, a man brought in a motorcycle given to him by his deceased uncle, and is having Eric put his uncle's portrait on the bike, as a tribute.

Sometimes, Eric says, he starts with a pencil sketch, or fine-line marker. Then he uses an airbrush, and sometimes a striping brush. And on custom jobs, he adds a very subtle logo or his signature.

"I try not to take away from the artwork," this unassuming artist says. Usually the signature or logo is so subtle it might take the vehicle owner a while to even find it.


Eric frequently works at night, when it is quiet and he can concentrate on his latest project. He has won many awards for his work, including "Best of Show" and "Best Paint." He also creates and awards a "Best Flames" trophy at the annual Copper Country Cruizers car show in August at Gough Park.

"Sometimes I look back and think, I can't believe I'm doing this," Eric says. "And I would like to thank my high school art class and Spanish class teachers. They were my mentors."

He also credits Stevens for helping with his career decisions, combining art and the automotive field.

"Anyone I ever worked for, I learned a lot from," he adds.

"After a job is done, that's when I really think, that (art) wasn't there two weeks ago," he muses. "A joy comes over me when I think, I get paid to do this, and it doesn't feel like work."



Contact Thunder 1 Rod Dezigns, 1605 N. Corbin St. in Silver City, at (575) 388-1992.


Pat Young is a retired journalist who lives in the mountains near San Lorenzo.



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