The art of custom motorcycles is reaching brave new heights. Just when you start to think it can’t get any better, something comes a long and you realize it’s just getting started. This year at the Liquid Steel bike show in Charlotte, NC we saw something that might change the way bikes are designed. Traditionally the paint job comes last. Could it be that we have we been building bikes backwards? The surprise at the show that wowed judges and captivated the crowd was custom tank graphics by David Bollt. There was a huge display featuring mind blowing tanks and other artwork by David. More then one builder expressed an interest in building a bike to match the theme of one of the tanks. With detail and color like this, it’s the paint job that comes first.
So who is David Bollt? He is widely recognized one of the most famous tattoo artists in the world. It’s hard to find a tattoo studio anywhere that does not have his art on it’s walls. His airbrush work has appeared in countless magazines and on lots of CD covers. For years David has been an underground legend until his unique style and unmatched rendering ability pushed him over the top. We took some time after the show to talk to David about his artwork and these new motorcycle tanks.
Tell us something about your airbrush work and career as an illustrator?
I started airbrushing around 18 years ago. Working with the airbrush helped me cut loose and do the kind of artwork I had always dreamed of. When I airbrush, images pour out of me. It’s like i get flashes of visions in perfect detail. I have to paint as fast as I can before it fades away. People liked the work I was doing and before I knew it I was doing all kinds of magazine illustrations. From there my work started appearing in galleries and museums.
How did you get in to doing Motorcycle tanks?
People have been asking me for years to paint tanks. I always wanted to but, I was not familiar with the chemistry and materials that make a show quality custom motorcycle tank. I could do the artwork, but you have to understand a lot more then airbrushing. About a year ago I met the expert, Chester Hamblin from Custom World in Tampa, FL. Chester is an accomplished airbrush artist in his own right, but his real genius is in his deep understanding of the science involved in top quality paint jobs. We decided to combine our talents, and together we have been able to produce some exciting results. Chester makes sure that everything from the base coat to the clear coat comes out perfect. His experience with celebrity projects and show work has been invaluable. His technical knowledge lets me focus on artwork and design. Together we have been pushing the envelope of what is possible.
Your tank and fender graphics are incredibly detailed and precise. What’s the secret?
Chester and I have been dissecting the whole painting process. We have taken a good look at how custom paint jobs are traditionally done and compared that to the illustration techniques I have developed for CD and magazine covers. We are taking the best of both worlds to come up with some really innovative methods. Our combined approach is helping us achieve a level of accuracy and detail that was previously unavailable.
You have been tattooing for a long time. How has that effected the work you do for motorcycle tanks?
Both art-forms actually have a lot in common. Each one requires a lot of technical skill and a steady hand. Each client has a different need. Each body part requires a special approach. The trick with tattooing, just like with paint jobs, is to do something that the client will always be happy with. When you get the right tattoo it feels like you were born to wear it. I take the same approach with tank and fender designs.
What are you going to paint next? What can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
People really liked the “Beauty and the Beast” poster that I painted for the Liquid Steel show. To have thousands of people want me to sign one for them was a great honor. I’m planning on doing a series of fantasy bike paintings that will be similar, including a fresh image for next years poster. The most exciting thing for me has been working with the builders. It’s rewarding to work with such dedicated and talented people. We have some interesting collaborations going on and the results are going to be unlike anything people have seen before. I don’t know where it’s all going but I’m looking forward to finding out.