Tales of a Traveling Airbrush

When I write up one of my more memorable masterpieces, or some of my various memories, I will post them here for you to enjoy. Comments are welcome; I'll try to reply.

Here's my logo so you can put a face with my words. Click it to see one of my web pages.


... or click www.Letterfly.com to see my main page.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ten Years of Service

The white canvas pinstriping tent was barely up as I was getting ready for the York Factory Open House at Laugerman’s Harley-Davidson when I was approached by a biker. He was drawn by the winged horse with the airbrushed flames on the VW van I was unloading. He was curious about getting some decorative paint for his Harley. Busy with the assembly process, I assured him the rest of my display would be ready soon and then I could assist him with developing a personal design that would serve to make his bike stand out from the rest. He paused, put his hand on his chin and thought for a moment and then asked, “Hey, aren’t you the guy at Lazydays?”
I was taken back and amazed for a moment and then I recalled that last year, here in York, Pennsylvania, three of the HOG members in attendance reminded me that I had put a mural on their motor home years ago.
Next month, during November, is the tenth anniversary of the symbiotic relationship of Letterfly as the artist in residence at Lazydays. The artist’s background as an entertainer, combined with technical airbrush skills, pinstriping, lettering, graphic design, and pictorial brush painting abilities and the creator of custom paint schemes on virtually every vehicular substrate in existence brings the perfect combination of creativity and rapport to the delight of the visitors and guests. The 150 acre motor home and RV dealership is a destination for RV’ers to get everything for the coach; and, having an artist on site was just part of their vision. “ArtPark” is the prettiest place on the property, where the artist has his studio. Guests bring their motor homes, motorcycles and tow cars and camp out while the artist creates airbrushed wildlife scenes, patriotic motifs, pinline designs, graphic stripe schemes and custom painted images of all kinds.
Dog portraits are a favorite among the guests at Rally Park. Many times the visitors gather around the familiar yellow VW microbus, parked adjacent to an RV, and watch the artist hand painting a portrait of FiFi or Fido on the entry door.
The seminar “Rolling Art,…Why a Mural?” began as an extra value added service to enlighten and entertain the guests that may be considering custom art to enhance the appearance of their coach and has grown to noteworthy status. The lively and informative discussion has also been given to interested audiences at art guilds and HOG member gatherings nationwide.
The artist started in 1974 as a sign and pictorial artist in Michigan and his career shifted to motor home murals exclusively twenty years ago. The annual tour of Harley-Davidson stores, special projects in other states, rallies and events began as the result of a Lazydays customer who owns a H-D store in Iowa. The tour makes available to many clients, projects other than the motor home murals the artist is famous for. Now, wherever the artist is nationwide, our guests can commission additional painted works such as large murals in their homes in addition to the regular services of Letterfly.
With the summer tour over, the artist will once again be available to serve the variety of requests from the service oriented Lazydays sales staff, paint and repair personnel and the many guests and visitors that enjoy visiting the serene and joy filled atmosphere with Americas foremost airbrush muralist at “ArtPark.” The time is now to celebrate with us, Letterfly at Lazydays 10 years.
For questions, please have the switchboard connect you or call the artist on his cell phone at 813 505 5539 or email Letterfly@aol.com
Thank you and I look forward to the next decade as we join to serve the most wonderful clients on earth, our customers, Ma and Pa USA
Dave “Letterfly” Knoderer

The Love Knot

The party is over. It is finally quiet. I am painting an image of a spider with a meticulous web design on either side of a bike and will make the helmet match before my day is through. The band had played all day. Now they packed up amplifiers and loaded their instruments in a cargo trailer. By dusk they will be headed down the highway. Patriot Harley-Davidson is now closed and a few of the employees gather up the last of the cups, cans, chairs and orange traffic cones to put them away. One by one the remaining motorcycles roar to life and depart leaving Letterfly to finish this pinstripe design in peace.
The ability to get “dialed in” to the zone where the creative decisions take place in the midst of innumerable watching eyes, blaring rock and roll and the spontaneous roar of countless V-twin engines has developed over the years of service to this clan. Sometimes the endless stream of questions that must be tolerated start with a dichotomy; “I don’t mean to interrupt but…”
Each party takes on a life of its own. I had arrived in Fairfax, Virginia the night before, parked the RV nearby and set up my pinstriping booth on the Patriot Harley-Davidson parking lot to get ready to decorate motorcycles. Starting at sunrise with a breakfast from a nearby restaurant I was charged for the day ahead. Back at the venue, the first of the volunteers arrived. We all have our duties. I notice these peripheral activities as I get the first bike wheeled into place, start the cleaning process and find out the customers desire.
Like a great living being that starts with the crew making early morning preparations, this party has a personality that begins to emerge. Jousting takes place over donuts and coffee prior to playfully going about the traffic organization and parking tasks that wait. One of the guys had been looking forward to this event to get flames pinstriped on his Dyna and put his bike in line at my tent.
As the crowd begins to arrive, anticipation builds while they watch the band begin to set up. With the musicians tuning the sound system, this party not only gets a voice but excitement starts to crescendo. Soon the bikers clump up into groups to discern the themed accessories on yet another bike as they devour ribs and popcorn. When the band does begin to play some Lynyrd, I’m on my third bike. Immersed in an attention demanding layer of heart-pounding decibels of my favorite tunes, I force myself to refrain from tapping my foot as I pull the fine lines that make up an old school pinstripe design on a maroon chopper. My smile is in unison with all the leather-clad fans as the pace of the party quickens to the sound and the beat of the music.
The apogee of the party lasts all afternoon. The sunny weather cooperates with a cool breeze that combines to provide a hint of the upcoming autumn color shift - a welcome relief from the long hot summer. Returning to this place twice a year means renewing old acquaintances and making new friends. There is a lot to like here. The employees in the store are up beat, baby! The spirit of customer service is everywhere. Easily my favorite part of all the rallies I attend is the people. I have access to an endless stream of fascinating individuals and I learn about episodes that changed lives, an interesting mixture of events that brought people together or to this area to live, and their backgrounds, interests, personalities and dedication to their vocation, family and sport.
I bump into a gentleman who had me paint a mermaid and anchor icon on his new custom bike last year. He had plenty of tales to tell about the two month trip he took to Seattle via Arizona and the fun he had all along the way. Another story came from a man that brought his bike for me to decorate. As I painted the paratrooper and helicopter wings on the rear fender, I found out that, not only was he a Colonel, but he was inside the Pentagon when it got hit. Another had recently visited the wounded at Bethesda Naval Hospital and remarked on many of the soldier’s admirable attitudes.
During the interludes between musical sets and creating unique ornamentation on bikes, I found out about a guy who is a retired Navy Seal, an underwater demolition specialist. Many veterans have life altering, sometimes near death experiences that change their attitudes and appreciate an empathetic ear. Another admirable hero was a veteran and a preacher who, when he heard of the 9-11 attack, hurried to Ground Zero to minister to the victims. Tow truck drivers, dentists, all branches of the military, one-percenters and police all have their favorite stories and among them all, one stands out the most.
I was busy painting an unusual color blend through the motif on either side of a motorcycle tank to the specifications of my camo-clad customer.
I asked the soldier “what is the story behind this design?”
He was happy to tell me the story.
With his wife, they found an ancient Celtic figure known as the “love knot,” an endless loop that interweaves and loops among itself. I was replicating this meaningful design as he continued his story. The color shift I was blending through the motif introduced their two birth stone colors; amethyst and ruby. Although no longer newly weds, he had been overseas in Iraq fighting and his wife bought the bike, in the interim, as a surprise. Home on leave, he was understandably overjoyed with her gesture and marking the bike with their personal logo and symbol of dedication to each other including their personal colors served to christen and seal the union that now, with the bike, was made up of three.
I am indeed honored to facilitate this gesture of love and commitment. Often since then, I pause to pray for this man and others back in action overseas and all who have fought in the past. Veterans, I salute you. Thank you for the freedom we all enjoy. Welcome home and thanks for letting me serve you for a change.