UTC Alumnus Creates Hydro Dip Art for Chattanooga and Beyond

By Stephanie Swart, Photo Editor

Post graduation can be scary for many college students, but Zach Riddle has it all figured out. This University of Tennessee at Chattanooga alumnus unknowingly started his own small business back in December of 2019 when he made hydro dip canvas paintings as Christmas gifts for his family members.

Riddle’s process of hydro dip painting involves a container filled with water, colored spray paint, clear coat paint, a canvas and a vinyl cutter. After he applies a clear coat and the customized design of vinyl to a canvas, Riddle sprays a specific variety of colors onto the surface of the water and then dips the canvas facedown into the container. Once he pulls the canvas out of the water, the paint sticks to the clear coat on the canvas in a unique marbled design. He pulls the vinyl off once the paint dries, leaving the design white and untouched by the paint.

Riddle’s inspiration began when he watched a hydro dip painting video on the popular social-networking app Tik Tok. Following his first attempts at hydro dip painting in December 2019, Riddle saw potential in his art. He began building his own business the following month in January 2020. Luckily for Riddle, the COVID-19 pandemic has not negatively impacted his business. He works remotely from his family’s garage-turned-art studio in Chattanooga and ships his canvases to his customers.

A large number of his canvases have been crafted free of charge. Riddle enjoys gifting his artwork to Chattanooga-based stores, local activist groups, such as I Can’t Breathe Chattanooga and the versatile pop culture and sports media company Barstool Sports, founded by Dave Portnoy. In April 2020, Portnoy Instagram Live streamed his #Unboxing series where he opened all of the packages delivered to his P.O. box. With his go-getter personality, Riddle took the opportunity to get his work into the hands of Portnoy.

“I saw that [Dave Portnoy] actually appreciated people sending him art,” Riddle explained. “So I thought, ‘I have to send him some,’ and I made 14 pieces, two-day UPS’d it, sold my PS4 to do it, and I got a great reaction. Couldn’t have gone better to be honest.”

Following Portnoy’s appreciation for the customized canvases inspired by the Barstool brand, Riddle produced many more pieces for them.

“I ended up finding [Barstool’s] headquarter’s address in New York, and I just drove up there by myself with a hundred plus pieces,” he said.

He continues to create custom canvases for Barstool’s multiple teams of bloggers and vloggers, but now they reach out to him with personal order requests. Riddle recently delivered a large order of canvases to a Barstool group called Barstool Sportsbook at their house in Philadelphia.

Riddle earned his Bachelor’s degree from UTC in Sports Management, with a minor in Business Administration. Even though his current business ventures involve making artwork, his college career and love of sports have played a role.

“I like making stuff with my hands and creating things, but never really would think sports management would, you know, be involved in this necessarily but I think I can interrelate it into whatever I want it to.”

Future plans for Riddle involve expanding his current brand into a clothing apparel company. He hopes to grow his business one canvas at a time.

Riddle’s business Zack Riddle Art can be found on his website customhdcanvas.com and his Instagram @zachriddleart.

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