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Roy Campos, the Trailblazing Show Painter
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Johnny Meah.  Joe Gallaso.  Fred Johnson.  Jack Siglar.  “Snap” Wyatt.  Bobby Wicks.  Jack Cripe.  Kevin Rosentreter.  Bill Browning.  The Wizard.  Roy Campos.  Roy who? 

To carnival industry veterans, plus carnival “fanatics”, all of the above names conjure memories of some of the midway business' best painters/artists EXCEPT for the last one.  Even so, Roy's talent and excellence is not to be overshadowed merely because he lacks the national notoriety of his brother artists. 

“I was mostly here in Texas…and west coast and a lot of shows in-between,” delineated the 73 year-old outdoor amusement “visualist.”

 

DESIGN ENGINEER

Roy's first profession was as a Design Engineer for none other than Texas

Instruments in Dallas  He “trained”, as he put it, at the University of Texas/Austin.  Afterward, while being contracted to create a sign involving neon lighting, he be- came interested in forming and painting plastic molds.  One day, he met a man carrying painting paraphernalia, from which he produced a color-laden, exquisite painting upon a surface.  Roy was so impressed with that artistic rendering that he decided that he had found his new calling.  Upon learning, at a convenience store no less, that Paul's Concessions, an independent games operator in San Antonio,  needed an airbrush artist, Roy drove directly to that south Texas locale and presented himself as such.  

Pertaining to his status as a Carnival Painter/Artist, Roy is a pioneer of sorts.  That is to say, he's the SOLE Hispanic-American involved in this particular segment of the U.S. carnival industry.  “I haven't met others,” responded Roy to the inquiry regarding whether there are other, fellow Hispanics engaged in this type of activity.  Indeed, Roy stated that, as of 2023, he's been “show painting”, for carnival companies and other midway entities for some 35 seasons.

 

IN DEMAND

When asked where his artistry has been utilized, he replied,  “Brother, I've painted for so many shows, from Texas all the way to California, perhaps all the way up north to Chicago and down to Florida.  That includes many of the old shows, some that don't even exist anymore.  I've also worked for several shows here in Texas,” Roy replied.

Concerning Texas carnival companies, Roy identified the Pride of Texas Shows,  independent ride operator S. J. Entertainment, Family Fun Entertainment, and Magic Valley Rides  Currently, is in the employ of Mark Cox, Executive/Ride “Indie” for Alamo Attractions.

Roy also specified that the largest carnival entity that he ever worked for was Ray Cammack Shows.  Roy remembered, in detail, the various jobs he did for the Guy and Charlene: “I did most of the rides.  The longest was the ‘Moscow Circus', a three-story walk-through.  That took me a couple of months.  I did a couple of the Himalayas for them.”

 

“GRAPHIC” CHALLENGE

On the other hand, there's a severe challenge that's been facing traditional midway painters/artists for about two decades: vinyl wraps.  Roy said that the Ghandi Brothers, developed the technology in their native India.  In fact, Roy was sent to Ontario, Canada to learn the process as the Ghandis expanded their enterprise to an international scale, eventually reaching the “lower 48.”  Roy also did some “wrapping” for the H. E. Butt Company, a  supermarket retailer in Texas. 

Regarding one of the earlier-alluded-to RCS riding devices, the Sound Wave, Roy recalled, “Until recently, they got it rewrapped...  …I mean, the industry wraps everything now, brother,” described Roy, adding that, “…I never got into the ‘Wraps.'  I could have invested in equipment but a lot of people still like visuals that are painted by hand”.

Furthermore, Roy analyzed, “Carnival paintng's becoming) a lost art.  Now, any kid can jump on a compute and design something, press a button and bam, there it is.  But, I tell you what, it's real effective and it's cheap.  It's cheaper than hiring a painter.  The only thing with ‘wraps' is they don't last what a paint job lasts.  Nowadays, they make good paints and a good substrate for it so you get about six years out of ‘em”.   If, Roy stressed, “you get the right people to handle them carefully.  I've had to go fix a lot of damaged wraps for people.”

Exhibiting his preference, Roy contrasted, “You can't compare wraps to hand-painting. Paint jobs do look good. They come out looking top-notch.  You can compare paint jobs to anything being wrapped today.  In fact, an old-fashioned painting will outlast a wrap by several years,” observed Roy.  Not surprisingly, Roy intoned, “There's a lot of the old timers who hate ‘wraps.'  There's a lot of stuff you cannot wrap.  For example, how do you wrap a carousel horse?  That's one of the reasons that keeps me in business; there will always be a need for hand-painting”.

This account began with the naming of numerous, industry-renowned carnival painters.  Roy noted two others, himself.  “I…worked, years back, with a guy named ‘Wizard'…out of California.  I think he worked for Owen Trailers  Then, guys like Duncan came in,” the septuagenarian.

 

JOB PROTOCOL/RELATED IMPLEMENTS

Roy explained that a paint job begins with him discovering, from the owner, the type of design/style requested.  “I don't use computer graphics.  I sit down the old way and sketch it out with a pencil.  I show them the preliminary sketches and if they like them, I turn them into color, make any changes and I use that sketch to scale and I take it from there.  The customer buys all the materials.  I just charge them for the labor,” Roy explained.  For large jobs, the assembly and situating of scaffolds takes time prior to beginning the application of his color-laden artistry.  Roy has a small staff that does the “prep work”, which entails sanding down the surface, priming, and painting it white.

 “I use auto- motive primer because they're lacquer-based and you can put anything on top of them without affecting the primer.  Mostly, I use one-shot paints.  All of it is hand-done.  I limit the use of spraying because it creates a lot of over painting.  Dependent upon circumstances, Roy accomplishes his work at his studio, which he acquired only last year.  Yet, he performs a lot of his creations outdoors, lauding “Here in Texas, we get beautiful weather”.

Roy's latest project is focused on a walk-through purchased by the earlier-noted Mark Cox.  “I'm gonna' paint everything.  I'm not gonna' use any vinyl wraps,” he emphasized.  Roy has already accomplished numerous, rainbow-hued color jobs for Cox; amongst those are Harlow's Happy Dragon Coaster, a rethemed Wisdom Dragon Wagon, Venture Mini-Himalaya, kiddie train, Sellner Berry-Go-Round and a kiddie Jeep ride.  He also repainted, inside and out, the McDaniels' aged, but still smart-looking, Ghost Pirates dark ride.  Roy detailed that, for small shows, he'll do multiple rides as he has for Mark.

 

“COLOR ALCHEMY”

When asked to characterize his current status, Roy replied, “I'm independent.  (I'll work for whoever calls me and whoever can afford me,” Roy continued while  sporting a toothy grin.  Upon a serious note, Roy continued, “I'm pretty much  phasing out of this.  I get two or three jobs a year.  I've only managed to hang on to some of the guys who've really treated me good.”  He added that, up to several months ago, he was still charging  “ten-years-ago prices.  That's why a lot of people still call me.”

When asked about the lack of Hispanic, or Hispanic-American carnival painters, Roy countered, “You'd be surprised.  There could be some …  I tried to train several people…but their heart wasn't really in it.  Once they see the massive work involved, they lose interest.  I knew a kid that was a real good painter.  But, he was having trouble painting large-scale graphics.  It was a little bit too much for him.  He'd rather do small canvasses.  You gotta' have your heart in it, that's the bottom line.  You gotta' love this work.”

He hasn't used business cards for the last twenty years.   Roy considered naming his company “Color Alchemy”; however, “That's a little too fancy.  People know me as ‘The Carny Painter',” he reckoned.  Ray makes no distinctions between any of the approximately 100+ major jobs he's performed throughout his career.  “I'm not one of those guy that takes photographs of my paintings.  Every painting is just one more job,” Roy claimed.

Despite his relative lack of fame in the business, Roy was covered once by ESPN regarding art work he'd done for a boxing promoter's gymnasium in Las Vegas.  With his depth and breadth of work, Roy Campos merits remembering as one of America's best, all-time show painters/artists in the annals of US carnivals. 


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