Art on the Go

Even a simple stop at a gas station to fuel his tank can become a 45-minute ordeal for Randy Gilliland. Folks stop to talk to him about his colorful art on wheels, he said.

Gilliland, 52, a Warren native now living in Florida, is home visiting relatives. With him is the 1995 Chevy Astro conversion van he drives and the thousands of plastic bottle caps that cover it.

The vibrant canvas on wheels slows traffic, garners second and third glances, and causes a stir at convenience stores and other stops Gilliland makes during his travels.

“Sometimes it takes people a few minutes to figure out they’re actual bottle caps,” Gilliland said. “They see it, then look again and start asking me questions about it. Wherever I go, I’m usually there for awhile.”

Gilliland, a professional surveyor, said he got into the car art scene several years ago. That led him to creating a driveable queen-sized bed on wheels, which he transports in a trailer hitched to the back of his van. He built the bed on top of a ’69 E-Z-Go golf cart that he dismantled and rebuilt.

Gilliland has displayed his work at shows in several states including Florida, Arkansas and Texas.

He started his bottle cap design by making a peace sign that now decorates the hood of the van.

“I figured I already had the car art that I haul around in the trailer so why not do another car art project I can use to pull the first one around,” he said.

He started the van project in 2009 and worked steadily on it for about eight months before taking a break when he got hurt at work. Recently he rekindled the project using bottle caps supplied by friends, relatives and acquaintances from Ohio to Florida. Some of the caps have come from overseas.

The process is fairly simple, he said. He typically works out his designs on his living room floor before piecing them together on the van frame.

Although he can’t say for sure how many caps are on the vehicle, he said he’s gone through 178 tubes of silicone, which he uses as his glue to fasten the caps to the vehicle. He said he has dedicated countless hours to the project.

Along with the caps from soda bottles, he also uses plastic tops from coffee containers, peanut butter jars, juice and water bottles and other plastic drink caps. The result is a multicolored design made up of several smaller works of art.

“People stop him all the time and ask him about it. They want their pictures taken with the van. It really gets a lot of attention,” remarked Julie McLandsborough, Gilliland’s girlfriend.

Gilliland said it’s not uncommon for motorists initially to try to pass him on the highway, then slow down to get a closer look when they realize the van is covered in bottle caps.

“I can’t say I’ve stopped traffic but I have slowed it down a bit,” he explained. “I usually drive it pretty slow so when people go to pass me and they see what I’m driving they actually slow down so they can see it better. We haven’t caused any accident though which is a good thing.”

Although the design looks finished at first glance, Gilliland said he still has some spots on the roof to cover. Plus, when he loses a cap he just replaces it with another one.

“It’s actually pretty low maintenance,” he said. “It holds up pretty well except that the Florida sun tends to wash out or fade the colors some. But I’m actually pretty happy with it. And it runs good.”