Peace and Paint off the Florida Coast
The muffled rush of sea foam on the shore is music to the ears of Miguel Perez.
“When I retire I’m going to dedicate my life to the ocean,” he says.
Talking to Perez, you can almost hear the gulls in the background, taste the salt on your skin. Perez is the head of the paint department at Extreme Performance, a massive and well-known custom automotive shop in Palm City, Fla., a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean. As one of the premier custom shops in the country, typical metrics such as car count and average revenue don’t really apply—from custom builds, restoration and car and truck modifications, some jobs demand hundreds to even thousands of hours and some clients wait years to see their dream car to completion. Despite the workload, though, Perez tries to keep a healthy mind and body away from the shop floor whenever possible.
“If I can go 20 miles offshore and catch some mahi or kingfish, that’s what I’m doing,” he says.
As one of the premier painters in the southeast part of the country, however, those times are few and far between.
Keep an Open Mind to Succeed
“In high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he says, “but I knew I liked to paint.”
After working his way through vo-tech school, a Chevy dealership and several shops in both fabrication and paint, Perez eventually rose to run the paint division of Extreme Performance. Like the rest of his experience, nothing was given, but much was earned.
“If you had asked me twelve years ago: Could I take the job I have now? No way,” he says. “I was not there mentally, nor were my abilities up to the task. I couldn’t have run the paint shop.”
But run it he does, and what a shop it is. Extreme Performance is a huge facility of more than 30,000 square feet and over 30 employees. Focusing on high-end and custom work, the business is divided into the paint shop, performance, motorsports, and custom interior divisions, with a goal of expanding the paint division within a year or two. At Extreme Performance, Perez is able to draw on a lifetime of both paint and body skills.
“I love fabricating and metal work and have loved it as long as I’ve loved painting and carried both with me through my career,” he says. “Keep your mind open to more than one skill—you’ll make yourself more valuable.”
Part of being valuable, however, is understanding it takes time, patience and practice to acquire the skills necessary to work at a premier paint shop or run one of your own. Practice may make perfect, but be prepared to stumble a bit along the way. It’s just part of the process, Perez notes.
“You can’t let some obstacles get in your way; not knowing what to do isn’t an excuse for quitting,” he says, “because some of your mistakes become your biggest teaching moments.”
Sneak a Peek at @RefinisherPorn
One of the most notorious Instagram accounts in contemporary paint came about because Perez wanted to share his work, and social media—specifically, the photo-focused simplicity of Instagram—was on the rise with artists everywhere. @RefinisherPorn, his Instagram account of 70,000+ followers, is where he’s been posting candy panels, works in progress, finished cars, merchandise, and more since 2014.
“Once I went to a custom shop, my eyes were opened to that community,” he says.
Today, most every painter has an Instagram account to show their shop, their skills and their sweet, sweet paint jobs. Perez didn’t see much of a unifying force, though, and realized there was space for a community portfolio.
“Finally, around 2014 the community had reached critical mass and I realized the work could be seen by a larger audience if we all contribute. Many post to their personal accounts, but to have a community spreads that work tenfold."
Perez is proud of what he’s achieved with @RefinisherPorn and has had over six years to watch the community grow.
“That’s what @RefinisherPorn will always be—the community for all of us to come together, see each other’s work, and improve our own.”