Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Early Season Ride

It's mid May and I'm getting a little anxious for the weather to settle down so I can ride the Ducati in ernest. It finally turned from mostly snow showers to mostly rain showers with the intermittent overwhelming hail storm. So when I get a little window of opportunity to take the 748s out for a spin I jump on it.

The Mountain Course

Still a lot of gravel on the roads and the occasional creek crossing. My route today took me by the Penrose Heritage Museum which houses the Pikes Peak Hill Climb Experience. It is the official Pikes Peak Hill Climb Museum and it is spectacular. Jason Campbell is the head curator there and a great guy to talk to about the race and museum. He really knows his stuff and loves to educate and amuse the museum guests. The museum is free and is open till 5pm most days. Also worth noting is that you can park in the underground parking garage and have your ticket validated by the museum for free parking. Nice.

Carlin Dunne's record setting Ducati Multistrada

Behind Carlin's Ducati is the display case with the Pikes Peak Hill Climb trophy. On top of the case is the PPIHC 9 minute club trophy. It has the names of the racers that have broken the 10 minute barrier. It's a small but impressive list of names, such as, Sebastien Loeb, Rhys Millen, Nobuhiro Tajima, Roman Dumas, Paul Dallenbach, Greg Trachy (who by the way should have his name on there twice since he's the only person to have broken 10 minutes in a car and on a bike), Clint Vasholtz, Jeremy Toye, and of course Carlin.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Back in 1982, my brother and I attended the AMA National Outdoor Motocross at Castle Rock Colorado. Always the eurobike enthusiast I shot pictures of the Husqvarna's and Maico's. In the shot below, the third Maico rider, #490, is a young Micky Dymond in his first professional motocross race.

AMA Nationals CDR Micky Dymond #490

Micky had a rather meteoric rise to the top of the Motocross ranks, impressing Honda enough to give him a factory 125 ride in 1986 and 1987 which resulted in two 125 National Championships. In the 90's Micky helped pioneer the freestyle motocross landscape which now has him orchestrating the Nuclear Cowboys Freestyle Shows.

In 2003 Micky began racing AMA SuperMoto in the Unlimited class which resulted in his third AMA National Championship in 2005. That same year Micky raced Pikes Peak in the 750 class which resulted in a class win and record. 2013 brought a new direction in Micky's career when he began training for the 2014 Ride Across America bicycle race. California to Maryland nonstop, Micky's four man team won their division in a grueling fight lasting 3020 miles for 5 days and 11 hours.

Thirty One years after taking that picture of him at Castle Rock, I'm standing on top of Pikes Peak talking to Micky about his racing the Ducati Multistrada in the Hill Climb. His answers are carefully chosen and introspective. He is not an ego driven personality fighting for the spotlight, but rather a intense individual focused on the goals he sets for himself. During the week of practice Micky pays little attention to his times. His goal is in memorizing the course at speed which he can play back in his mind in preparation for the race. Most racers strive to memorize the Pikes Peaks 127 corners. Micky can not only tell you about the corners, but about the bumps in the corners. In a world of T type personalities, Micky is something of an enigma.

Micky Dymond, Bottomless Pit, Pikes Peak 2013


I had shot pictures of the 2013 practices and race so I had an image of Micky that I really liked. It captured his intensity and drive. As I looked at it and thought about Micky I began to develop an image of someone piecing together a puzzle. The huge pile of rocks the racers pass as they enter the W's looked to me like the puzzle pieces I was searching for in the painting. A Koan is generally know in the Zen discipline as an unanswerable question. A puzzle which redirects the student from thinking only in terms of the answer to contemplating the question itself. Merriam Webster describes it like this: "A paradox to be meditated upon that is used to train Zen Buddhist monks to abandon ultimate dependence on reason and to force them into gaining sudden intuitive enlightenment."

Undoubtedly, Micky loves to win races. But Pikes Peak doesn't always give you that answer. Pikes Peak is a Koan. Some racers get the answer they are asking and some do not. Yet even though the trophy may go on to the mantle, racers will show up again the next year ready to ask the question again. There is something greater than winning the race. It is participating in the race; not just entering the race up Pikes Peak, but participating in it, investing oneself in it, living it. I see this in the eyes and voices of the racers who have been coming to Pikes Peak for years. And not just the racers, the organizers and spectators ask the Koan as well. It is not just a race, but a life event. The true answer is in not in the winning of the race but the asking or participating in the race. Micky is good at asking the question.

"Koan" by artist Chris Woolley

Friday, December 6, 2013

Born To Ride

What artistic tribute to Ducati would be complete without a rendering of Nicky Hayden on the Desmosedici GP13. I started this painting just after Laguna Seca when it was announced that Nicky would be leaving the team. I, like so many others, will truly miss seeing Nicky on the red bikes. He has been a tremendous asset to the team and ambassador to the brand. All while coaxing a ferocious bike that was not wanting to cooperate on the race track. For the Ducatisti, Nicky will always be a hero.

Born to Ride, my painting named in reference to his Full Metal Jacket inspired helmet, measures 21" x 29" and was painted in Winsor Newton transparent watercolor on Arches 300lb watercolor paper. It was a tough painting to complete but I'm very happy with it.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Why Ducati?

People have been asking me why I paint Ducatis. I love Ducati Motorcycles and I love to paint, so it seemed like a natural thing to do. But these questions have started me to thinking, "Why do I love Ducatis?" I've always loved Italian things and Ducatis seemed to always be at the top of my list. When I look at Ducati motorcycles in comparison to other bikes they look more purposeful. As though Ducati designs the race bike and then wraps the red italian bodywork around it. Where as other companies start with a great design and then add the high performance parts to fit. The soul of the Ducati starts with the engine, then the frame, then the suspension, then the bodywork.

The Ducati motor has so much character. The L twin motor seems very italian to me. It has the classic tactile twin cylinder beat, but a very refined beat. I always describe by 748s as sounding like seven hundred and forty eight tiny italian hammers all pounding in perfect unison. The rest of the bike just seems to fall into balance with the motor.

But I think there is something that attracts me to Ducatis even more than the purposeful design and red bodywork. The Italians seem to have the aesthetic written into their DNA. While many companies love racing and high performance motorcycles, Ducati seems to love the art of racing and high performance motorcycles. It seems like in everything they do the art takes precedence. Perhaps this has cost them occasionally when it would be easier to build an inline four to compete with the horsepower race. Ducati always tries, or perhaps must, stay true to the art of what they are doing. I don't think it's just marketing. I think it's who they are. It's their identity. As an artist I can relate to that. While they struggle through their current racing situation I will wait patiently because when the victories return it will be glorious.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Moto Icarus

In 2012 Carlin Dunne won a seat on the Ducati factory Pikes Peak team next to Greg Tracy. Throughout the week these two guy's pushed each other into an unreal realm of speed and concentration. The Magician and the Cowboy. Carlin would come screaming by and you'd think,"Wow, how did he just pull that off?" and then Greg would blast by with all the guns blazing and beat the time. It was an amazing thing to watch.

The day, however, fell to Carlin with a new overall record of 9:52.819. He edged Greg out by 6 seconds. They were the only two motorcycle riders to break the 10 minute barrier. For a while with the accidents, DNF's, and rainy weather at the top of the mountain, they almost pulled off the fast time of the day for bikes and cars.

My painting, "Moto Icarus" commemorates Carlin's and the Ducati Multistrada's record run to the top of Pikes Peak. It measures 23" x 31" and is painted in transparent watercolor. I love this view from the 16 mile area. It is the one area on Pikes Peak where the spectator can see a large portion of the course. You really get a feel for the mountain. Plus, it's above timberline so everyone is a little loopy. You get out of your car and walk to the edge and the wind and height and the intense sun and the lack of oxygen make your heart pound and lungs burn and you think to yourself I should get a motorcycle and ride it at 140 mph up here. There is no race course like Pikes Peak. To win it is truly something special.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Road Burner

Last year I met a guy named Sonny. I got to talking to him an he mentioned that he had a Ducati. So I talked him into letting me take a look at it. A black and gold 1982 Ducati Darmah SD900, one of my absolute favorites.  This is my idea of a true road burner.

Sonny not only has the Darmah but also a bunch of Triumph's. He is what I would consider a true motorcyclist. Someone who loves all kinds of bikes, knows a lot about them, collects them, and takes care of them. Motorcyclists are great people.

On a more frivolous note, I like the Tiger on the side covers. It never seemed cheesy to me like the Firebird's screaming chicken. It's cool. Also I like the name Darmah. It makes me think of Jack Kerouac's book, "The Dharma Bums" even though the bike is named after a tiger in an Italian children's book.

This painting is about 19" x 27", painted in transparent watercolor on Arches 300lb paper with Winsor Newton paint. I've created a series of prints of it. I have a signed and numbered Giclee for $275 which is limited to 75 prints. For the more budget minded I have a medium and a small art print, 15 x 20 and 9.75 x 13 inches respectively. The medium sells for $45 and the small $25. The difference between the Giclee and an art print is that the Giclee is the original size, printed on watercolor paper and is a limited edition, where as the art print is printed on a very nice Enhanced Matte and is an open ended edition.

Friday, June 21, 2013

From a Flashlight...

Back in 2011, I had arose early to go attend the third day of practice for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Having driven past the midway starting point for the Unlimited cars and I was waiting at a good corner for pictures. Each day of practice the entrants for the race are divided up into groups of three and assigned to either the top, middle, or bottom section of the course to practice on. It all happens very early in the morning.

Early in the Morning

I was standing in the dim light waiting for the course to be cleared for racing. However, instead of roaring engines the sound of a diesel tow truck came up the road. It was pulling a full sized pickup truck and race trailer. Someone was getting to include a broken truck to their race week. The tow truck stopped just past the little gravel parking area I was standing in and began to back up. My immediate thought was that he was going to block my Toyota in with this disabled rig, to which I was not too keen about. However, the tow truck driver knew his stuff and filed the hapless victims of bad luck right in next to me.

Immediately, the racer and his mechanic jumped out and began pulling their Ducati Multistrada out of the trailer. The motorcycles were practicing on the top portion of the course and this guy was in danger of missing his day of practice on the top section. I wasn't seeing any flashlights coming on so I volunteered my flashlight services. (I'm quite valuble in this respect). With leathers on and gas in the bike the racer roared off up the road. Turns out the guy did pretty well during practice that day as well as the rest of the practice days. In fact he wound up doing so well that he went on to win overall in the motorcycle class. It was of course Carlin Dunne and his mechanic Sam Swain. When I later shared this story with Carlin, he told me that he just kept wondering what he'd gotten himself into.

I have been watching the Hill Climb since the mid eighties and I can tell you, showing up as a rookie and winning overall is no small thing. Carlin and Sam had taken a demo Multistrada from the showroom floor, prepped it (which included high performance satin black paint), built a pipe for it and then won with it. The picture below shows Sam in the white shirt.

 Mark Cernicky's and Carlin's Multistradas

I need to point out that the Ducati factory's rider, Greg Tracy, had the unfortunate luck of hitting some oil on race day which sent him down the road and into the rocks. Greg emerged from the crash with little more than bruises and a bent bike and a lot of frustration. It remains unknown if Greg would have been able to beat Carlin's time that day, which is a viable question because Greg had won 6 times in previous years including 2010 on the factory Ducati Multistrada. Greg is just an amazing racer and an exceptionally nice guy.

Later in the week Sam told me that Carlin was frustrated that their bike wasn't that much faster than the factory bikes. They had been banking on their modifications to give them a significant edge over the factory Multistrada's of Greg Tracy and Alexander Smith. Ducatis are pretty highly tuned right from the factory and modifications tend to give rather small improvments usually at the expense of reliability and flexability. Hence, any real performance advantage Carlin had was minimal. His abilitiy to ride as quickly as he was undoubtedly highlights his amazing talent.

Carlin heading for the win

It was from this experiance that I decided to start painting Ducatis. The following year I contacted the Faulkner Livingston / Spider Grips Ducati race team and said I had a painting I'd like to show them. Well guess who calls me up because he and Rod want to come over and see the painting. Cool.

This is my painting entitled Red Mountain.
Carlin on the left, me on the right.