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A Tribute to Motorcycle Art at David Mann's Chopperfest

One artist interviews another one, Jack Knight

By Krylon John with Jack Knight art and a shot from Art Hall and Prince Najar

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The 9th Annual David Mann Chopper Fest glistened in the California coastal sunlight December 9, 2012 at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura, California. From the very first Chopper Fest held December 12, 2004, shortly after David passed away on September 11, earlier that year there has always been an exhibit of David Mann’s original, and reproduced artwork included with Chopper Fest celebrations.

The format for 2011’s 8th Annual Chopper Fest David Mann Art Exhibit varied slightly with an invitation sent to one of David’s close friends to exhibit his original abstract art inspired by his relationship with David Mann’s work. This slight deviation from the schedule of years past sparked the beginnings for an exciting new addition to Chopper Fest 2012. The 9th Annual Chopper Fest will embrace an invitational art exhibit featuring America’s best known motorcycle lifestyle artists, and photographers including Tom Fritz, David Uhl, Eric Hermann, Michael Lichter, Kim Peterson, Jeff Decker, Jack Knight, James Bondo with the original Ghostrider bike, and John Gilbert.

Each artist exhibiting at Chopper Fest has a unique style, with an equally different story about how they got started. In the first of a Bikernet series on the artists exhibiting at Chopper Fest we got a chance to interview Jack Knight the artist best known to Bikernet readers for his centerspread paintings in Supercycle.

Bikernet: Jack, thank you for taking the time to share with Bikernet readers the story of your art. I guess the first question would be when did you start painting, and what was the subject matter that you liked to paint the most?

Jack Knight: I do not remember ever not painting or drawing. As a child I drew everything I could. The biker stuff was really popular in grade school and we drew a lot of that. I was very into the Sci fi art in my younger years. Subject matter is not important. It is more about the challenge for me to make it interesting, whatever it is I am painting. It is all about putting paint down on canvas, panels, metal etc., whatever I happen to be working on at the time.

Bikernet: Yeah, I think a lot of us gearhead types with an artistic bent drew flames, or car stuff on our schoolwork as kids. After grade school did you pursue a formal art education, or are you completely self-taught?

Jack Knight: I went from high school into college studying art without any thought of anything else. While in junior college I worked in a factory, so I had the experience of working in a spray booth with a whole range of industrial coatings and equipment. I learned a lot about plastics, mostly resins and such. I was very intrigued by all the different paints, lacquers, urethanes, epoxies, etc. To this day I try and stay up with the variety and numbers paint formulas, which seems to be constantly increasing.

Bikernet: Have you been able to support yourself through the years with your art alone, or have there been other jobs — I’m thinking like how actors work at whatever jobs they can get until acting pays off, and they can focus purely on acting.

Jack Knight: Painting and Illustration is all I have ever done up until almost two years ago. I currently teach painting classes at a number of Michael’s stores in Aliso Viejo, Buena Park, Huntington Beach, Orange and Santa Ana through Grumbacher. I also do a number of painting events, my own and through Grumbacher for places like Art Supply Warehouse and various Aaron Brothers which are a whole hell of a lot of fun. I find it extremely satisfying to share the thing you love most with others.

In January with the aid of a grant through the Picerene Foundation I am starting an Art Program at the Goals Organization in Anaheim catering to the needs of the poorest members of the community, who would otherwise not have the exposure to a more formal art education.

Bikernet: Canvas, panels, metal, it sounds like you have worked with all kinds of media. Have you ever custom painted a tank frame and fenders for a motorcycle?

Jack Knight: Tanks and Fenders yes but never a frame, a few Cars, a bus for the city of Huntington Beach, a motorcycle parts trailer, a couple of boats and even a Helicopter once, and also along with several odd bits here and there over the years. I like to think that if it stands still long enough I can find a way to paint it.

Bikernet: How did you come across the opportunity to paint centerspreads in Supercycle? Do you remember what year you started with Supercycle?

Jack Knight: I did a couple of Illustrations for Big Bike which was being revived (it only lasted a short time). I was also painting covers for a computer magazine called Hard Copy and artwork for a mail order leather shop, plus bumper stickers (which I thought would never sell ) but were all over the damn place.

Steve saw that stuff and contacted me. Since I also had a background in Architectural Illustration , it was an easy matter for me to do the technical illustrations for the parts business. That was about 1981.

Those were fun, if busy times. I always got along well with Steve and we have remained good friends up until this day.

Bikernet: Hustler’s Larry Flynt started Hustler Biker and tanked it, and then went on to buy Supercycle from Steve Nelson, and then Flynt tanked Supercycle? Do you recall those times and if so can you share any memories with us?

Jack Knight: Steve sold out to Flynt and was supposed to continue on as an advisor, but I don’t believe the new editor Elliot was on board with that. I was doing freelance work with Hustler in those days and did a few centerspreads before they cut me lose. I still did a lot of work for the Nostalgia Cycle Riders guide. They got rid of the writers and photographers, and the circulation dropped so the magazine was killed by Flynt. Flynt continued to handle the distribution for the Nostalgia Catalog.

After Flynt tanked Supercycle the magazine’s remnants were scooped up by Paisano Publishing and then rolled into Easyriders’ sister publication Biker, turning Biker into Biker / Supercycle. Did you produce work for Supercycle while Flynt, or Paisano owned it?

Jack Knight: I did work for Biker for a while. I continued to do work for Nostalgia up until Steve thought he would retire and sold that too.

Bikernet: I’m not sure if most people realize it, but there’s a tremendous amount of detail that is lost when art is reproduced for something like printing a magazine centerspread. That said, we’re really looking forward to viewing your art live at the 9th Annual David Mann Chopper Fest art exhibit, and thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us.

Bandit is a big fan of anything 3D.
Bandit is a big fan of anything 3D.

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