How it Got Started
Every year, Scott releases a painting for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. To be ahead of the game, we started brainstorming ideas early in the winter.
That's when the idea to do a photo contest came up. Scott had done one once before in 1998 and received over 700 submissions, which is impressive given the fact that they were physical photographs that were mailed to him.
Sharon and I liked this recommendation for Sturgis 2019 because it was a way to include our collectors in the creative process. It also gave us the opportunity to utilize different perspectives and styles of shooting from creatives across the country.
We didn't have to come up with something new on our own either. After decades of creating, it can be difficult thinking of a new way to excite the public.
Choosing the Winning Photo
Once the photo contest was set in stone, I met with our web team to build out a landing page where people could submit images easily.
We left the contest open for several months and received over 800 entries!
After it was closed, Scott and I sat down and began the time-consuming process of going through them.
We narrowed it down to three images and then had the Jacobs Gallery team vote on their favorite.
Once the image was chosen, we called Mike, the photographer to let him know he won $5,000 and a print of his photograph in painting form!
Starting the Sturgis Painting
From there, we received a hi-res file from Mike so that Scott had a crystal clear reference to work from. He began by drawing the image out in pencil then blocked-in with acrylic paint.
Scott likes to keep his paints a milky consistency so they spread smoothly. The one downfall about thinning out his paints is that he has to apply several coats per color.
“Transparent colors could take as many as eight coats” says Scott.
He started with the background and worked his way forward towards the motorcycle in front. Scott tends to do this with every painting because it’s easier to clean up the edges of the layer below.
Even though I'm his daughter and have watched him paint my whole life, I still don't understand how he can decipher certain parts of the image and translate it to canvas.
The few times I've painted on my own, I find myself frozen because I don't know where to start! I can always hear him tell me, "paint what you see".
But I don't know what I see! I see weird shapes and a mess of colors, Scott! Help!
I guess that's why he gets paid to paint for a living and I don't...
Focusing on the Details
My favorite time to watch Scott paint is when he begins the minute detail. With over 40 years of practice, he's able to skillfully mask off areas using pinstriping tape and quickly achieve a photorealistic effect.
Since Scott's eyes are getting old (don't tell him I said that), he's transitioned from photo references on paper to an iPad Pro where he can zoom in and out more easily. (This helps us be more Earth-conscious as a company by saving ink and paper too. Yay, us!)
As the painting began to look more like motorcycles and less like a snowstorm, I started to get excited about the photo we had chosen. It reminded us of his 1990s works like "Fork It Over" and "Thunder Row" because of the scene they depict of motorcycles lining the streets. The vibrant colors and atmosphere they portray describes almost every large motorcycle rally around.
"Fork It Over"
Crunchtime! The Final Week
As we neared the release date, Scott worked seven days a week to complete it in time.
We filmed the entire process of this painting so everyone could experience Scott in his element. The footage got more exciting once the canvas was fully covered in acrylic paint and he began blending to make it look three-dimensional.
The most difficult part for Scott was not the detailed section which most would expect, but the right side where everything was out of focus. He painted the blurry area in oil painting since they’re easier to blend together and they don’t dry as quickly.
A Tip for Artists: Working with Chrome
Visitors in the Gallery frequently ask us where Scott buys chrome paint. This question is a perfect example to demonstrate what Scott means by, "painting what you see".
If someone were to ask me that question about this Sturgis painting, I'd make a small peephole with my index finger and thumb and hover it over the "chrome" fork of the front motorcycle. They’d realize that they weren’t looking at chrome paint at all, but rather blues, purples and whatever colors were in the environment surrounding the motorcycle.
The trick is to view chrome like you would a mirror. The only difference is there’s distortion in the reflections depending on the shape of the chrome part being rendered.
I chose this photograph because it reminded me of the spirit of Sturgis Rally with bikes lined up along the road, the excitement in the air, and everyone's shared love for motorcycles.