Harley artist to show work at Joplin motorcycle shop

Harley artist to show work at Joplin motorcycle shop


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David Uhl has no interest in new Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Or any other newer vehicle.

“There’s no character to a new machine,” Uhl said. “I guess a good comparison would be painting a supermodel compared to a street person. There’s so much more character to the street person, and it’s a better piece of art.”

Called the “Norman Rockwell of Harley-Davidson artists” by Charles Osgood, of CBS’ “Sunday Morning,” Uhl has earned an international reputation of turning old motorcycles into works of art. Hideout Harley-Davidson will host a meet-and-greet with the artist this evening, then feature a collection of his art Saturday.

Uhl got his start as an illustrator, working for clients such as Coca-Cola and Apple before starting his own studio in 1989. But the year before that, the purchase of a motorcycle and a trip to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota redirected him. He started creating T-shirts for the Harley-Davidson company in 1993, then in 1998 became the company’s first licensed oil painter after a friend got him hooked on working with oil.

Since then, Uhl has painted works sought by people such as Jay Leno and Steven Tyler. The Vatican commissioned a painting from him in 2013.

The chrome on a new Harley is one of the last things you’ll see in one of his works, Uhl said. His reputation is rooted in capturing the details of the older models of Harleys, Indians and other vintage cycles.

Vintage photographs from Harley-Davidson helped him also capture the spirit of the people who rode those vintage cycles when they were newer. The people who rode motorcycles back then didn’t have the advantages of modern handling or smooth roads, Uhl said.

“Use your imagination about what dirt roads of the ’20s were like,” Uhl said. “You couldn’t just drive anywhere. You had to plan where your next gas stop was. There was a lot of fortitude involved, and it had to be pretty tough. I love that perseverance of ‘me and my machine.'”

Uhl focuses on rusty, worn and dirty motorcycles. Painting shiny chrome was one of the first techniques he mastered, but he enjoys capturing the uniqueness of an antique.

And even more than motorcycles, he enjoys painting people, he said. The riders in his paintings include everything from mailmen to pin-up models.

Uhl’s attention to older generations of riders also is a reflection of how the culture and perception of motorcycles have changed over the years. He has watched how the attitudes of bikers have changed across eras, from the rebellious riders of the ’60s to the lifestyle seekers of the ’90s.

“You’d be hard pressed to find a lot of chrome in my paintings. You’re going to notice the people much quicker,” Uhl said. “A lot of the focus of my paintings are people who have died. I’ve brought them back to life and tried to emulate what made them interesting in the first place.”

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About Craig Ballantyne 14313 Articles
I love anything to do with Harley Davidson and have two beautiful children and a beautiful partner. In my spare time i like building websites and love anything to do with the internet.

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