Zapotok said he “tried to create confusion and wonder” around the truck before adding his company name, “Okiest Dokiest”, this weekend, then hit the road this spring and summer to sell his works at fairs. Put a hard-to-miss pencil on his 1996 Ford Ranger, who then painted the whole thing yellow, certainly did the trick.
“It gets great reactions,” said Zapotok, 28, who specializes in illustrations and fabrications. “Everywhere I go, people wave at me or smile at me, and people stop me all the time to ask me questions.”
Beyond grabbing attention, the concept behind the pencil aligns with the type of artwork Zapotok strives to produce, he said, incorporating “a lot of puns and comedy, or something fun or positive”.
“I think things that are very surprising are great, and scale has a lot to do with that,” he said.
Zapotok bought the truck used in December after realizing his girlfriend’s Kia was no longer big enough to transporting all the items he wanted to sell and exhibit at festivals and art events.
“I was packing it to the ceiling,” he said. “I wanted to have more and for it to be easier to pack.”
From the start, Zapotok knew that no matter what he bought to replace the Kia, he wanted to do something creative and different, and that it had to have “a giant pencil on it”.
“I really like doodling, and I was doodling one day and I drew a small truck with a pencil on it,” he said. “And that really grabbed me.”
Once he bought the truck, which was originally dull beige and did not have a rear cap to cover the bed of the truck, his vision began to take shape. He realized that with the help of some creative friends, it was possible to make and place a giant pencil on the vehicle.
After fixing the truck itself, which required a lot of maintenance, Zapotok and his friends set to work customizing the vehicle based on his brainchild, a process that took just over two weeks.
Zapotok said it printed dozens of 3Ds components to shape the front and back parts of the large pencil, while someone who works in carpentry built the middle part from hollowed out wood with supports.
“I have four 3D printers and I was running them around the clock,” said Zapotok, who shared many technical details of the project on Instagram.
As for the yellow paint job and the details of the pencil, which weighs about 60 pounds, Zapotok said the parents of a close friend donated the group space in their garage in western Massachusetts for a long weekend, allowing them to finish the job.
“For a lot of these things, I don’t have the knowledge, the skills, the tools, or the space to do it,” he said. “But with [the help of] my friends, I had all that.
In April, what Zapotok calls the “Magic Pencil Truck” began appearing on the streets of Somerville, immediately causing a stir. Because there were no words or logos, people were understandably curious and rushed to find out more online.
“Does anyone know the story behind this custom Yellow Pencil Truck design?asked someone on a Reddit forum for residents of Somerville last month.
Theories varied but generally revolved around puns.
“That’s so if they accidentally hit a bumper they can erase their mistake,” one person joked.
“The first thought was, ‘Is this for a tax/accounting help service?’ And yet, no logos or contact info. Mysterious,” another mused.
Zapotok said he was aware of the online chatter, but wanted to let it build a bit to create mystery around his project.
The inscrutable design piqued the curiosity of a Globe reporter who left a note on the vehicle’s windscreen on Thursday. The next day, Zapotok responded and revealed the meaning of the striking accessory.
But it won’t be a secret for long. On Saturday, the truck makes its debut as a “company vehicle” at the “Awaken the Earth Festivalin Jamaica Plain, complete with logos and branding.
Looking to find Zapotok at the event? His truck will point you in the right direction.
“It makes everyone smile when they see it,” he said. “It brings joy to people.”