There are two things I really like: illustrating kid’s books and restoring bicycles. I’ve designed graphics for many custom bike frames. Here are a couple of examples of my original designs.
Why not illustrate a children’s book on a bike?
First, you need a blank canvas. Years ago, I came upon an old, beat-up bicycle frame at a local secondhand bicycle shop. It was close to my size and cheap. Although rusty and badly scratched, it had some nice shapes and features that I liked. I later learned the frame is indeed of fine quality. It is a hand-built frame by Holdsworth, a famous English maker.
But back to the main point. I had an idea for a new way to tell a story. This was my process:
I sanded off the rust and primed the steel frame with gesso as I would a canvas.
Next step was to sand the gesso so it would accept a pencil line.
Once the gesso dried, I began to sketch very simple cartoon insects interacting with one another in a variety of vignettes: climbing, flying, crawling and basically scurrying over the bike surface, through grasses and vegetation and up into the sky and clouds within an environment I created. Stories naturally unfolded as I drew.
The plot thickens!
Once I finished the art, I paid a professional bicycle frame painter to spray a protective clear coat over the surface. I was assured the clear coat would provide some necessary UV protection, because exposure to sunlight will cause watercolor to fade. The surface of the bike feels and looks much like porcelain, with an incredibly smooth, glassy surface and clear, vivid colors.
The interactions of these bugs lays out a story. The loose organization of the characters enables the viewer to invent their own story line.
There are the love-crossed snails, busy ants, the co-dependent bees and the evil spider hanging below the headtube!
Most bikes bear a makers’ badge on the headtube underneath the handlebars. Since I discovered the bike was indeed a Holdsworth, I created a Holdsworth badge in keeping with the rest of the design. It is held in position by a pair of hovering bees, hence combining the tangible, steel framed bicycle with my cartoon characters. Everything is mixed up, and yet integrated.
I sent photos of the project to my good friend and respected bicycle restorer, Bob Jameson. He apparently felt bike was somehow lacking. Not long after, an oblong box arrived in the mail containing a hand-fabricated fumigator pump to secure to the top tube. This unexpected gift adds another layer of whimsy and fun to the project.
Here are some of details of the story of love and intrigue, fear and suspense and whatever else you care to read into the narrative.
Finally, what to call it? The Insecticycle!
Here’s an example of functional, rideable art. The Insecticycle is a book on a bike. It is a book AND a bike. Just as mobile as a Kindle or an iPad, but perhaps a tad more functional! Can you ride your iPad around town? Bet not.
There’s nothing new under the sun. I recently came across this website about kamishibai, a form of Japanese street theatre that dates to the 9th century. The literal translation of kamishibai is “paper-theater”. In the 1920s, Japanese storytellers affixed story panels to bicycles and traveled from town to town. The stories were serials and the storyteller would ride his bicycle back to town each week bearing the latest installment.