Winter coats

Ryan Fassbender

Ryan Fassbender enjoys painting the kind of cab-over-engine semi-trucks he admired on the road as a kid.

Ryan Fassbender enjoys painting the kind of cab-over-engine semi-trucks he admired on the road as a kid.


Ryan Fassbender’s art will be on display at Hub Coffee Roasters, 727 Riverside Drive, through March 28. An artist’s reception is scheduled for 5 p.m. on March 23.

It’s tough to get a bit of Ryan Fassbender’s time. He’s usually busy painting—both signs and houses. And as spring sets in, he explained, his already busy schedule will become even tighter.

“Well, winter is all interior stuff,” Fassbender said during a recent phone interview. “And then in the summer we go and paint all of the exteriors. So in the winter, we slow down a lot.”

But even during the slow winter months, he dedicates a great deal of time to painting. The slow season for business is when Fassbender gives himself over to painting for the pleasure of it. While he’s done a few large murals, most of his artwork is on a considerably smaller scale than his everyday painting jobs.

An exhibition of Fassbender’s art is currently on display at Hub Coffee Roasters. The collection, which includes things like movie poster recreations and depictions of old semi-trucks, reads like a love letter to the not-so-distant past—but its materials also quietly speak to Fassbender’s current day-to-day work.

“I paint most of my stuff on reclaimed stuff because I’m a carpenter and house painter,” Fassbender said. “So I don’t buy my canvasses. I normally use scrap that’s going to be waste. And I use a lot of sign painting paint, because I’m a sign painter as well. And I use airbrush, pinstripe brush and spray paint—kind of a mixed media.”

Among the pieces on display at Hub is one created from a cabinet door Fassbender built to the wrong size. On it he painted the word “midnight” in flowing gold letters, with swirling blue pinstriping beneath.

Hung to either side of the “midnight” sign are depictions of old, cab-over-engine semi-trucks (the “flat-faced” ones with the engine mounted beneath the driver’s cab). Truck drivers sometimes refer to them as just “COEs.” For Fassbender, they’re nostalgic—and that’s basically the theme of this particular exhibition, which he described as an “Americana road trip.”

“The COEs are a big part of it, because growing up I traveled from California to Minnesota on Greyhound, you know, a couple of times a year—and, so, it was lot of window time,” he said. “I’d be watching semi-trucks, and the cab over engines were always my favorites. And so I’d kind of just imagine, ’Oh, that’d be way nicer than being on the Greyhound.’ So, I’d draw them on the bus.”

A few years ago, Fassbender revisited the memory and decided he wanted to paint COEs. He’s based his recent depictions of the engines on the same make and model.

“I think it’s an’85 GMC cab-over-engine,” he said. “It’s a really cool, kind of, Optimus Prime-looking COE.”

Like the sign, these and the other pieces in the exhibition are painted on pieces of scrap wood. Fassbender explained that, in addition to feeling like he’s reducing waste, the material is one he enjoys using.

“I also like to see the start to finish,” he said. “I like to prep the board, get it ready for paint, paint it, apply the right clear coat, finish, polish, all of that stuff—because it’s what I do for a living.”

It’s getting to be the time of year when Fassbender’s house painting fills up more and more of his schedule, but he’s also hoping to make time for art.

“I’d like to, you know, maybe do another mural this summer,” he said. “I’d like to try to hang some more art this summer—because I have a couple of other styles that are totally different than the ones showing at the Hub. I’d like to get that out there.”