The Secret Life Of David Uhl

Riding and customizing are not the only 2 ways to express your love affair with motorcycles. For example, you can express it through illustrations and paintings. And very few in the world do it with such artistic ability and sincerity than. If at the age of 3 you stunned your family and friends with your drawings, does it mean that you are going to become an artist? Not necessarily. And if you win the only art scholarship in The US for an Institute Of Art? Probably. But what makes you become a master at your art? Nobody knows for sure and David will tell you humbly that after over one hundred paintings and many more illustrations, all sought after by collectors all around the world, he is still working hard every day at improving his fine art and feels that he is still in the infancy of his career.

When David witnessed for the 1st time motorcycle culture in 1983 in Sturgis, he was already a celebrated commercial illustrator with his company servicing many prominent clients such as FedEx, IBM, Coca-Cola and Time magazine. In South Dakota, David observed first hand the motorcycle enthusiasts and their culture…

He entered the world of Harley-Davidson® by creating  many tee-shirt designs for the company. His apparel line designs became so popular with bikers that Harley decided to apply his creativity to a much wider range of merchandise. Yet, after a time, David felt there was something artistically missing to narrate our culture. For this reason, in 1996 and after 20 years of producing drawings for commercial clients, David entered the world of oil painting.

His artistic career radically changed when he focused his attention on vintage motorcycles, developing his own style to paint historic motorcycling scenes, the romance of riding, the courage of racing, etc.

David researches old black & white motorcycle imagery and when he feels emotion, he transposes it on canvas to share it with others. In 1998 David started creating a brand new, yet timeless avenue for Harley-Davidson art, multiplying museum quality oil paintings covering almost one century of its history. The first of the painting series named “Change in the Weather” was presented to huge acclaim by David himself to Harley top executives in Milwaukee.

Today, his vintage motorcycle paintings depicting the spirit and romance of the early pioneers of transportation are displayed throughout the world and sought by prominent art collectors and celebrities alike, including Jay Leno, Steven Tyler, and U2. Nicknamed “The Norman Rockwell Of Motorcycling”, David’s work is grouped in different series like “Commemorative Daytona and Sturgis”, “Anniversary Collection”, “Vintage Aviation Works”, “Pin-Up Series”, etc. David was recently involved in the first-ever cross licensing venture between Elvis Presley Enterprises and Harley-Davidson. Since David limits his edition sizes (the number of prints available), the majority of his clients constantly enjoy an increase in the value of their art.

A couple of years ago, being myself a great admirer of his art, David gave me the opportunity to write a few lines about him for his art catalog. I think it’s appropriate that I reproduce them for his introduction to my interview. I wrote: “Because of his highly individual artistic manners, of a deeply felt understanding of his subjects where he is melding the earthly and spiritual, of his theatrical employment of light and shadow both for portraiture and landscape, David Uhl’s greatest creative triumph is well beyond the exceptional richness of his narrative paintings. Because of his utmost artistic sincerity he is simply for me the best historic interpreter and masterful painter of his generation to express our culture.”

Located in Golden, Colorado is a fine art gallery holding events, an exclusive apparel store and a museum quality framing shop I strongly recommend you visit it to get a chance to see David at work celebrating with brushes our motorcycle history. (All photography of David Uhl copyright Kim Cook, except picture of David Uhl painting copyright JeremySumpter)

Cyril. In High School, what your teachers said about you? David. Since I went to a Jesuit High School, with no art or females …..they would say  stop sketching those seductive girls and pay attention.”

Cyril. Who were your childhood heroes? David. I remember liking Spock a lot, then moving towards Bruce Lee and various Kung Fu masters.

Cyril. What was your 1st vehicle? David. I actually lived in a hotel and rode a 10 speed until I was 27. I borrowed a KZ 1000 for a summer, then bought a 88 magna for my first wheels.

Cyril. If you were not a painter, what would you do? David. I would study Great White sharks and live on a boat.

Cyril. Best/worst qualities? David. Best qualities are probably having a dangerously vivid imagination and a super sharp focus. Worst is I tend to live in a different world sometimes, until this one burns down or slaps me upside the head.

Cyril. What is your favorite way to relax? David. Calligraphic maneuvers, I probably have the best handwriting in the world. It has turned into a meditation exercise. Then Drawing or painting something from life.

Cyril. You can invite for dinner any 3 persons of your choice. Which ones? David. I would invite Cannonball Baker, Glen Curtis and Valentino Rossi. To me this would be an interesting  conversation.

Cyril. What is the last music you downloaded in your iPod? David. David. Lately I have been  listening to a ton of movie soundtracks because of the transportive effects, like Lisa Gerrard or Vangelis.  I spend so much time at the easel that music sometimes gets replaced by spoken books. The last one of those was The  Wisdom of Joseph Campbell.

Cyril. Preferred city in America and in the world? David. In America, I would have to say San Francisco because of it’s sheer visual appeal. I have not been to that many abroad, but I very much liked Barcelona. I spent three weeks there last year.

Cyril. What are you afraid of? David. Losing my sight, or my hands shaking uncontrollably.

Cyril. What is the person you would love to meet? David. There are so many…. If it could be anyone, then I would go to the top and meet Jesus, or Siddhartha (Bhudda), then Einstein or Nicoli Tesla.

Cyril. Which film made you cry? David. I think I shed a tear for King Kong.

Cyril. Do you have any tattoos or piercings? David. Not yet… I would have a difficult time with the fact that I can’t just replace it with a new one. I am so used to being able to take art off the wall when I get fatigued of it’s original appeal.

Cyril. Name five things you hate. David. All things I Hate tend to be things I see reflected in myself. 1- Probably hatred is something I hate the worst because of it’s effect on my view of everything else. Then the list gets common. 2- Not standing up for what you know is true (cowerdice) 3- The spiral of clinging to old faithful paradigms (laziness) 4- falling prey to fear stricken psychosis. 5- Getting too caught up in me to see clearly.

Cyril. Artist you admire the most? David. I am a big fan of John Singer Seargent, the confidence and efficiency of his strokes will always amaze me.

Cyril. Do you practice/watch any sport? David. I love beach volleyball.

Cyril. What is your best life achievement? David. Without a doubt, my kids, Isabella (13) and Sterling (8), but I had help.

Cyril. What do you miss most at home when you are on the road? David. Same answer, the kiddies.

Cyril. What was the last book you read? David. Last book was “Mars Needs Moms”, Sterling’s bedtime read last night. My last book is Lanza’s “Biocentrism”

Cyril. Bad taste is? David. In the Art world there is an unending list. But in this  industry, I have witnessed many crimes corrupting the fundamental beauty found in elegant functionality. Over the last 20 years It has become a  tragic bloodbath. Entertaining though…

Cyril. Current ride? David. 05 Springer, 1940 Knuckelhead bobber.

Cyril. Where is your favorite vacation place? David. Mexico and Hawaii.

Cyril. Do you have any guilty pleasures? David. I love to paint women

Cyril. Do you collect anything? David. I try not to. Being friend with Decker has been somewhat contagious. I find myself buying more old things now. He says it’s a disease, but I am not terminal by any means. I would love to have a old master art collection but one painting equals my house.

Cyril. What was your worst buy? David. My worst buys are all things at Walmart. I don’t fancy buying future landfill. I am hoping society gets back to handmade things of quality. I am not holding my breath though.

Cyril. How do you take your coffee? David. Dry Cappuccino..

Cyril. What was the most embarrassing thing you have ever made? David. Probably a tuxedo of baby blue double knit with black velvet lapels. My mother was an incredible seamstress, so I wasn’t satisfied with the tank top project mandate. In seventh grade I looked like one of the BeeGees.

Cyril. What is the best thing you can cook? David. Cooking is much like art, so it comes easily. I think my best are probably in the seafood category. My father was a charter boat captain, so we had an abundance of fish. So I like Paella, and spicy mexican dishes.

Cyril. When was the time you were really angry?David. I guess I am angered at the way government has handled most of the financial/bail out situations. I remember the savings and loan scam and how they were incarcerated. This time they are just making more money. I try not to think about it too much.

 Cyril. What is your perfect weekend when you are at home? David. I live on a wooded mountainous property, so I very much like spending time outdoors with my children when I am home.

Cyril. What is your preferred rally? David. Sturgis without a doubt. Nothing quite like it.

Cyril. What is the worst question a journalist asked you? David. Do you ride?

24 Responses to “The Secret Life Of David Uhl”

  1. 1 Brody May 25th, 2011 at 7:30 am

    BEAUTIFUL interview, Cyril. Great art.

  2. 2 Shifter May 25th, 2011 at 7:34 am

    Wow. The paintings and the Knuckle. Want them all.

  3. 3 May 25th, 2011 at 8:13 am

    i man is truly a great artist … love his work..

  4. 4 May 25th, 2011 at 8:22 am

    I would love to have a “new master art collection” a few of them are displayed here!

    A fantastic artist and interview Cyril -;0)


  5. 5 Larry Shiffer May 25th, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Very, very impressive. The spirit & romance of riding has never been expressed so accurately. Way better that most photography.

  6. 6 colemanfu May 25th, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Sharp guy – well played C!
    I dig his Daytona collection.

  7. 7 Drake May 25th, 2011 at 11:50 am

    I think better than N. Rockwell.

  8. 8 J. Hemsley May 25th, 2011 at 11:51 am

    It’s awesome. If it was not so much money, all bikers would want a piece of David Uhl in their living room. But less value…

  9. 9 Brett Rogers May 25th, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Uhl would make anti-bikers love motorcycles. Great “spokesperson” for motorcycling.

  10. 10 Shifter May 25th, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Next 2012 Lichter exhibit in Sturgis should be about David’s paintings. Saw the original paintings pricing on his website. Who is buying at these prices? Good for them.

  11. 11 May 25th, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    David Uhl and Dave Mann will live forever in their art.

    Great interview Cyril.

  12. 12 B. Moritz May 25th, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    The man knows how to make his brushes talk beautiful motorcyclle stories.

  13. 13 jeff decker May 25th, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    Cyril, now poor David will be next to Fonda for as long as this blog exists.

  14. 14 Mr. Potts May 25th, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Great questions! Interview was way above average!

  15. 15 Brian Klock May 26th, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    Great interview and insight to an intriguing mind and absolute gentleman of our industry. Great read, thanks to artist like David for their contributions and attitudes.

  16. 16 May 26th, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    As far as I am concerned, the most important aspect of art appreciation is how the art affects me. David’s work moves me, emotionally and spiritually. It moves my soul. I have “Change in the Weather”. I can see myself there. Thanks David. Thanks Cyril.

  17. 17 May 27th, 2011 at 6:21 am

    Great Interview Cyril. I guess, also because the interviewee is great.

  18. 18 May 27th, 2011 at 6:22 am

    Very well written, very well answered. Evident that both have a lot of respect for each other.

  19. 19 Halifax Rob May 28th, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Great interview, seems like a guy who you would like to sit down and have a beer with.

  20. 20 May 29th, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Great interview Cyril! David is a great guy and personal friend of the MeanStreet Riders and was good enough to volunteer his time to create their logo. Awesome detail of the motorcycle tank into the skull that reflects freedom and the open road of the west.

  21. 21 Loy May 30th, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    David is a great!
    Question. Would studying David’s life be a Uhl-ogy?

  22. 22 May 31st, 2011 at 7:26 am

    Bikes, Babes, ‘n Airplanes! Can’t go wrong there! Wiz

  23. 23 Jun 2nd, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Amazing paint work, also great answers, all the best.

  24. 24 MARK FREER Nov 28th, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    I just got Ruby and she looked great but lonely. I had to order another to keep her company. The hard part is choosing where to hang them. They look great in every room.

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