He turned his artistic talent into a career. Now he's known as a legend.

He turned his artistic talent into a career. Now he's known as a legend.
Posted at 8:57 PM, Apr 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-07 04:23:46-04

HOPEWELL, Va. -- Some call him a rock star. Others refer to him as a legend.

Danny Riddle is known for his steady hand and the ability to transform a car into a piece of artwork.

"He does stuff I can't imagine doing and he does stuff other people can't imagine doing. That's why he stays so busy," Tommy Williams, one customer, said.

Danny Riddle's name is one that is recognized across the country, written up in magazines and seen on national television.

"My forte would be freehand pinstriping, freehand lettering, gold leaf airbrush, that's what I really enjoy," Riddle said.

He turned his artistic talent into a career. Now he's known as a legend.

Raised in Hopewell, Riddle graduated from Hopewell High School in 1965.

"My first job out of high school was at Hercules. I was in a band. We were playing six nights a week and we became fairly popular," Riddle said.

The gig saw him quit his day job and travel the East Coast with the band before he took a job back in Hopewell at Allied Signal.

But for decades, Danny had a side hustle that began accidentally.

"I had taken a bottle of Testors Model Airplane Paint and a cheap brush and I rendered my initials on the doors in Old English. Before I left there, I made $18 doing cars for $3 apiece," Riddle said.

This would be the start of Riddle Sign Company in 1973.

"Truck lettering, window lettering, banners, airbrushing, pinstriping, gold leaf, full custom paint. Pretty much a board spectrum of signs, custom paint business," Riddle said.

He was able to earn a name and a reputation for quality through word of mouth.

"He can draw a straight line and I can't even draw a straight line with a ruler," Williams said.

Riddle is a car guy at heart. However, it's the paint, the image in his mind that brings whatever he touches to life.

"It seems like some days, you could come out here, load the brush and you start working and you just follow the brush around. You're just in a zone and it's so enjoyable," Riddle said.

It's a talent that has turned thousands of cars, motorcycles and anything else with wheels into one-of-a-kind works of art.

He turned his artistic talent into a career. Now he's known as a legend.

"The good Lord helps keep my hand steady but I really feel like, with his guidance, I have developed a talent," Riddle said.

While he said he's semi-retired, his artistry remains in high demand.

"I think it's a gift and I think that he honed that gift over years and years. He's not unlike an Olympic athlete who just said, I want to get better. And now today, it looks easy but it's years of work," Becky McDonough, the CEO of the Hopewell-Prince George County Chamber of Commerce, said.

While some say what Danny does is a dying art form, a few years ago, Danny was asked to help out the school system to show the next generation how to pinstripe.

"An opportunity came up to teach auto body and collision repair at Hopewell High School," Riddle said.

Now at 75, Riddle looks back on a life well-lived and leaves behind his legacy in paint.

"I feel like I'm blessed," Riddle said. "You're driven to leave something so people know you were there. My main motivation is to leave something for my family, my son, my grandsons, my granddaughters."

Riddle said that he's slowing down and trying to retire but his phone just won't stop ringing.

Like any artist, he's really happiest when holding a paintbrush.