For Christopher Bennett painting vans has been more than a source of income, serving lately as a form of therapy.
Bennett was born in Moose Jaw, Sask., eight days before the release of Star Wars: A New Hope. As he was growing up, Bennett’s dad would often take the family on ski trips in a Ford van which Bennett says was the start of his "vanthusiasm." At 18, Bennett got his first airbrush and worked his way into the auto body shop of a GMC dealership in Vernon.
That didn’t pan out though and Bennett went on to work for the Downtown Vernon Association where he worked on the mural crew painting on a larger scale. Then Bennett began working an assortment of odd jobs including making toddler play panels, painting for Chuck-E-Cheese restaurants, making Styrofoam sculptures for various theme parks, museums and parade floats.
After living in various parts of the country, Bennett landed in Vancouver 13 years ago and wound up working for Wicked Campers Vancouver -- an Australian company that rents out camper vans to road-going tourists.
While working at Wicked Campers, Bennett says he developed a spray paint airbrush combo and painted around 30 vans with his pop art style liveries. More odd jobs ensued including a job building a water park for Disney. Eventually, Bennett went back to working for Wicked Campers and continued painting vans and murals.
In all, Bennett painted Wicked Camper vans for about five years totalling over 150 completed works. Over this time Bennett had lived in or bought eight of his own vans. Bennett continued painting, moving on to more murals and a psychedelic bus for a tie-dye clothing business.
More odd jobs and five years of working for the TV show Supernatural passed and Bennett’s daughter Peggy was born. She was immediately taken to BC Children's Hospital where a blood clot caused a stroke that damaged her brain.
“She's been in and out of the hospital ever since a couple of times to repair the shunt they put in,” Bennett wrote in a message to Vancouver Is Awesome. Two years ago she started having more seizures and her brain surgery to address the seizures was postponed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Bennett says Peggy was one of the first children to go into surgery when restrictions loosened.
The stress of his daughter’s seizures and surgeries took a toll on Bennett, effectively keeping him confined to his home and causing him to go on short-term disability. He has since begun using art and CBD to mitigate his anxiety and depression.
“The Vandalorian paint job is kind of art therapy for me,” he said. “It's still not finished but will be soon… The work right now is what I refer to my 'lipstick on a pig' job. It distracts from how rusty it is and makes people smile.”