Hobbies help Watkinsville business owner find ‘balanced life’

Darcy Lapointe, owner of Watkinsville Service Center, airbrushes flames onto a firefighter helmet.

Owning and operating a small business is always stressful, and whether it’s golf or fishing, a vegetable garden or exercise, every small business owner understands that to preserve sanity they’re going to have to have some sort of hobby to take them away from the business.

Darcy Lapointe, who owns Watkinsville Service Center with his wife Kathy, doesn’t call his hobbies “art,” but you’d be hard pressed to look at the results and not see an artistic touch.

One of Darcy's metal sculptures that should be familiar to anyone who has visited his shop.
One of Darcy’s metal sculptures that should be familiar to anyone who has visited his shop.

When he leaves his Oconee County service station, it’s not uncommon for Darcy to go home and unwind in the workshop beside his home. Lately, the hobby he spends his time with is something that captured his interest when he was just a kid: airbrushing.

“I’d probably seen it in a hot rod magazine or something,” Darcy says, trying to recall where the interest originated. “But I loved it ever since the first day I’d seen it. When I was 13 or 14, I had a paper route, and when I started making money the first place I went was down to this hobby shop. I’ll never forget, the air compressor I wanted was $113, so I put it on layaway.”

Sometime later, he’d saved up enough money from his paper route to buy an inexpensive paint gun to go with the air compressor.

“I tried it three or four times, and that was it. I gave it up because I couldn’t do it,” Darcy recalls. “I couldn’t make it look good, and I had a hard time controlling the gun. Then life started, and I never picked it back up until eight or nine years ago.”

That’s when Darcy found a DVD that offered recorded, step-by-step lessons for airbrushing. The kid that was drawn to the pictures of airbrushing he’d seen in hot rod magazines came rushing back.

From the DVDs, Darcy started learning the basics. He got more advanced. He worked skulls and flames – true fire – into his artwork. With practice, and the DVDs, Darcy’s ability grew. Though he remains modest about his talents, the proof of how far Darcy has come from that teenager who couldn’t control the airbrush gun is in the demand for his work.

Darcy airbrushed this air tank to look like a bomb, even airbrushing rivets onto it.
Darcy airbrushed this air tank to look like a bomb, even airbrushing rivets onto it.

In recent months, Darcy has been airbrushing flames onto firefighter helmets and air tanks for local volunteer firefighters. He recently airbrushed rivets and warning labels on an old air tank to make it look like a bomb.

But airbrushing isn’t the only artistic hobby that Darcy has indulged in to take his mind off the stresses that come with owning a small business.

Over the years, Darcy started seeing something in the scrap pieces that came off cars he was working on. One of his other hobbies is turning scrap car pieces into small metal sculptures.

Anyone who has visited Watkinsville Service Center has seen the metal truck on the counter.

Again, Darcy said the metal sculptures began as a way of relieving stress.

“When we were building our house,” Darcy recalls, “I would come in to work early in the mornings. I would try this and try that, instead of throwing all this stuff out. It’s all scrap pieces. I made a motorcycle, a dragster, I made a John Deere tractor for a friend who was retiring from Wildlife Services. I had a friend’s dad who was a bulldozer operator. When he retired, I made a bulldozer for him. I built a Huey for an employee’s son who was into helicopters. We had a neighbor who was a Harley guy, so I built him a chopper. I made a firetruck for a fireman.”

Over the years, Darcy says, he’s made a couple dozen pieces for himself and for friends. His latest piece is a robot toting a machine gun.

“I sandblast the heavy rust off of them, paint them with a clear coat and then weld them together,” he says. “I’ll just throw a bunch of pieces on the counter and see what comes to mind.”

One of Darcy's most recent metal sculptures is a gun-toting robot.
One of Darcy’s most recent metal sculptures is a gun-toting robot.

Darcy says he collects scrap pieces from cars he works on at Watkinsville Service Center, and he makes the metal sculptures “sporadically,” as he gets enough pieces.

“If I see parts, and I think someone needs something, I’ll make it,” he says.

In his workshop at home, Darcy also has a fairly extensive collection of fishing lures he’s made. At one point, he even learned how to do upholstery.

Darcy doesn’t call it art, and he shies away from the notion.

“It’s just stuff I do to get away from everyday life and bills and stuff,” he says. “It keeps my mind and my hands and my brain working and cleared out. It’s piddling in my book. I don’t consider myself any artist whatsoever. I figure if I ever retire, it’s stuff I can piddle with. My kids laugh at me and say, ‘Dad, what’s the hobby this month.’ But it’s all stuff I do to have a balanced life. It gets my head cleared up. It’s stress relief.”