Vinnie Kochert is spending Forecastle with a paintbrush in his hand and dried latex acrylic in his beard. He is the head artist decorating the S.S. Disco Dolphin, a yacht being used as a DJ station during the annual three-day festival in downtown Louisville.
By Saturday, it was covered with painted outlines, several disco balls and strings of lights — but on Friday, it was nothing more than a 35-foot-long blank canvas.
Kochert has been involved with the festival since its first year in 2002 — when he attended with only an easel and an 18 by 24-inch canvas. This year, his creation is substantially larger. It’s a swirl of black and silver paint that already takes up almost the entire side of the ship.
“It’s a steampunk scuba diver with a harpoon fighting a great white,” he said. “Every boat that I have painted the years I’ve attended always have a battle. The first one was Ahab and Moby Dick, the second was Poseidon fighting a hammerhead, and now this boat.”
As the paintings have progressed from year to year, Kochert said that the hero gets closer and closer to actually piercing the sea creature. Ahab’s harpoon was pointing upward at Moby Dick, Poseidon’s trident pointed toward the shark, and this year, the scuba diver is poised to pierce the great white.
Kochert, who works as a tattoo artist at Twisted Images, said working in the public eye has always resonated with him creatively.
“Something about doing live drawing and live painting during DJ sets and rock bands just makes sense,” he said. “I just always jumped on every live artist piece I was offered.”
Kochert said that while many live artists are graffiti artists who use spray paint, his style is a little different. He uses acrylics, charcoal and paint markers — which makes him marketable to shows both inside and outside.
But he said that there is something really special about working at Forecastle — especially after the shows wind down at night.
“At night I always let the other artists go — and after a while, while I’m packing up, there are usually stragglers,” Kocher said. “They come up while it’s quiet, and they’re the ones who actually want to ask questions about the work. Those are the best interactions.”