Scotty Ziegler and his Vault

There are people who live within the constraints regular hours...and then there is Scotty Ziegler. The San Diego artist and craftsman doesn’t like to be confined by the cycle of day and night, by the way the hands spin around a clock, so he built himself a Vault.

The Vault is Ziegler’s downtown workshop and general purpose art/living/party space. He acquired two units in the middle of an old building, and clad the interior with his own steelwork and painting. He also has a cave, a “legit Batman cave,” out in El Cajon, but that’s another story.

The doorway to the Vault.

The doorway to the Vault.

“I wanted a place with no windows,” Ziegler says of the Vault. “A place where I control time. I control the climate. There’s no nighttime. There’s no daytime.

“It’s amazing how many people can be here and not miss the windows.”

Sometimes, Scotty opens up the Vault to private parties. It has a bar, space for a DJ along the catwalk, and the unique capacity to go 100% blackout dark, which, to hear Ziegler tell it, is actually a little freaky. Angela Brannon (It’s All About the Kids) has used the facility before for “Partying With a Purpose” to raise charity monies, too.

Most of the time, the Vault is a private space for Ziegler to get busy with any one of the numerous projects that take up his time. He is a very busy man.

“I’ve been a toy inventor for 27 years,” Ziegler says, “Fisher-Price, Mattel, and those guys.” If he had a singular profession, that would be it. But he also paints, designs jewelry, works on hot rods, builds motorcycles, and sculpts. The fact that he works fifteen hours a day is no surprise, considering the vast number of projects he has his hands in at any given time. Ziegler recently worked on customizing an RV for his friend. The vehicle was perfectly good, but the inveterate modifier couldn’t sit by and let something stay “stock.” He had to put a custom skin on the entire thing, painting it green and pinstriping it. Why?

“I’m just that guy,” he says.

At first look, Ziegler’s paintings, which he calls “tastefully edgy,” have something of the Velvet Elvis about them. He uses aggressive iconography--buxom women in small clothes, glasses of syrupy wine, gambling paraphernalia, motorcycles--and those things might seem kitschy at first. But that judgment doesn’t really hold up when Ziegler talks about getting his inspiration to paint women from an unlikely source.

“When we go to galleries, my daughters always want to look at the nudes. They said, ‘paint women,’ so I started painting women.”

If anything, Ziegler’s exaggerated portraits of “sexy-cool” women, all acrylic on canvas, aim to have more in common with a nude by Renoir than a Bettie Page poster.

The exacting lines that Ziegler uses don’t have the texture and structure of conventional painting. There’s very little evidence of brush stroke, and his heavy, smooth contour lines are without error. He learned to paint by pinstriping and airbrushing cars and motorcycles, so the precise lines of that craft transferred into Ziegler’s paintings.

“When I paint,” he says, “I paint tight. I try to keep my lines really crisp and sharp. I don’t like it messy.

“It’s funny. It’s a real struggle for me. I’m doing [a series of paintings] with loose lines, with a more...painterly touch to them, where you should see strokes....I’m getting better at it. I just have a hard time because I always feel like I did a shitty job.

“It feels like lazy painting to me,” he laughs. “And it’s not, and I see people that do these really loose things and I really like it, but for me, personally, I just...struggle.” Ziegler squeezes the words out, trying to convey the difficulty in breaking years of perfect automotive painting with a few, errant brush strokes.

Locked away in his Vault, it’s hard to guess what Ziegler will turn his attention towards next. Whatever it is, there’s no doubt he won’t be inconvenienced by something as simple as time.

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