2008 H-D Road Glide
Loud paint saves lives. Yeah, we know, people tend to say that about pipes, but think about it. Black paint, while cool, tends to blend into the shadows. Lime green on the other hand, not so much. Bartels Harley-Davidson went for high decibels when it colorized this '08 Road Glide.
On second thought, maybe wild is a better description than loud. Ken Morris of Hot Rods and Hogs is the artist behind this green goblin. He mixed all three secondary colors (which is a no-no in some art circles) but he did it in a way that works. Any kid with a crayon can scrawl a bunch of colors together but it takes a seasoned pro to do it in chromatic harmony. Rather than do your standard bike build feature, we decided to talk with him about the painter's craft.
HBB: How long have you been painting?
KM: Twenty years. I've had my shop in Stanton, California, for 16 years. I started out in Ohio with it as a hobby. I came out to California in '79 thinking I'd just step into it but I was wrong. Eventually, though, I rented out Boyd Coddington's old place as my own shop.
HBB: How'd the idea for this paint scheme come about?
KM: Forrest Nolan at Bartels came to me and said he wanted something that wasn't conservative; wanted to do something over-the-top to showcase the shop and paint. I sat down and thought about it but didn't make any sketches. We used an anti-freeze green we developed at the shop. I winged it. No rhyme or reason. I've been doing this so long it came out of my fingers with a roll of tape. We do a lot of wild stuff and we've been painting for Bartels for 16 years. It's cool we finally got to do something wild for them.
HBB: Why the green and purple? Isn't mixing them in a project a design no-no?
KM: No, not really. It used to be. Green was thought to be bad luck in the old racing days but times change. I like green. It works with a lot of colors and the two (green and purple) are so opposite they actually work. I can see in my mind which colors work.
HBB: Tell us about painting this bike. How'd you go about it?
KM: The graphics are just what works with the flow of the bike. I laid the pieces out and stared at them to see how they interact. I do all the major graphics and my girlfriend does the airbrush. She adds the shadowy dimension. Dennis Ricleffs has been working with me for 16 years and he's been around for 45 years. He's very well known. It's a great collaboration. I don't have to worry about the stripes or brushing. It's really cool and we enjoy doing it. Working like this frees me up to do a lot of sheetmetal and plan stuff. I love fabricating sheetmetal and making stuff no one's ever seen before. Once it was all put together, it flowed pretty nice.
HBB: How long did it take?
KM: I can't tell you how many tape-outs there were but there are probably a total of 60 combined man hours in it.
HBB: What's the hardest part of painting a bagger?
KM: Being able to lay out the graphic because the pieces lay out a certain way. It's hard to make it flow unless you have the whole bike or a way to mock it up. The lines really have to line up between the fairing, panels, bags, and so forth. It's also a matter of knowing what colors work. At the end of the day it's the same as with a chopper. But with a chopper the parts are further apart so the individual pieces have to work but the overall flow isn't as important as with a bagger.
HBB: Okay, let's go the other route. What's easiest about doing a bagger?
KM: It's funny what's easy or difficult. I guess the base color. It's easy if the customer gives you a direction and backs off of you to make it happen. Artistic freedom makes it a lot easier rather than a strict guideline. I've only had a handful of people who ran the reins tight. What they had in their heads wasn't what ended up on the bike. Still, we've not had one comeback in 16 years of painting. The customers walk out pretty happy.
HBB: What do you like most about painting?
KM: The painting is one aspect. We do the whole thing. If I had to narrow it down to just paint, I like being able to do what we want and not knowing exactly what it's going to look like until it's done. When you hit it with the clearcoat in the booth and you see how the pinstripes and brushing all came together, it's all really rewarding. I just love the whole process of building a bike.
HBB: What's the biggest mistake painters make?
KM: Trying to do too much. Combining too many graphic styles and colors in one job. Not thinking about how the sidecast of a color is going to look in the light. Not really putting a critical eye to it. Some just throw it down and charge money. There are some great painters out there but there are a lot of guys who just throw down in their garage and call themselves pro custom painters. You're going to see a lot of painters go away because California is going to water-based paint. It's a whole different animal and a lot of people are going to be relearning the whole thing. That bagger was 29 steps. Every graphic gets taped up, painted up with at least two colors. Then you do another and another. You've got five clearcoats before a pinstripe and five after. There are a lot of steps. The busier the graphic, the more steps there are. All of these layers have to adhere to one another. If you peel the tape up and paint comes with, you've got to go back and do the whole thing. A lot of painters try to be their own chemist. Paint makers spend tons on R&D; to see how this stuff works in terms of mixing it so the painters should follow the instructions that come with the product.
HBB: What makes a good paintjob to you?
KM: It all starts with the prep. Paint's only as good as the prep. That sounds clich but that's how it is. The second part is learning the craft. The paint and technique. It's a matter of keeping up quality and consistency from job to job. Spray a good base and it'll work from there. And good products; use good brand-name products to guarantee a good paintjob.
HBB: What advice would you give to a new painter starting out?
KM: Read a lot. Go on the internet, read magazines, learn what other people are doing and what products they're using. You can teach technique and what works but you can't teach artistic talent. A lot of guys who're painters want to be custom painters. Learn the rules and don't waiver from them at first. You can't break the rules effectively until you know what they are. And don't be afraid to ask questions.
HBB: Don't painters guard their secrets?
KM: There are no secrets. People call me and ask questions all the time. I don't look at them as competition, I look at them as peers. Go to shows, talk, study.
|YEAR/MAKE/MODEL||`08/Harley-Davidson/ Road Glide|
|WHEELS, TIRES, AND BRAKES|
|COLOR(S)||Lime Green, yellow, purple, black, and tangerine|
|PAINTER||Hot Rods and Hogs|
|GRAPHICS||Hot Rods and Hogs|