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David Uhl

By Mike Staudt

Our Norman Rockwell

The art of Harley-Davidson

In the motorcycle culture, one of today’s most talented artists is David Uhl. David’s ability to paint museum-quality fine art pieces is of interest to motorcycle en­thusiasts because the majority of his work centers on the motorcycle. His bike of choice: Harley-Davidson.

David began im­pressing family and friends at the early age of 3 with artistic drawings. Through his schooling years, he freely admits to drawing and doodling when he was supposed to be concentrating on reading, writing and arithmetic. His talent and passion for art won him the only art scholarship offered in the U.S. by the Colorado Institute of Art. As a high school senior, his career path was taking shape. David excelled in the life drawing and illus­tration classes. This led him to form Uhl Illustration in 1980, and eventually Uhl Studios in 1997 with partner Daniel James. Their collective abilities allowed them to work with several Fortune 500 com­panies including FedEx, IBM, Coca-Cola and Time.

During these busy years, David developed another passion—riding Harleys. He started riding in 1988 and made his first pilgrimage to Sturgis in 1993. It was there that he realized what being a biker was all about. Sturgis has a way of doing that to you.

Uhl Studios soon became in­volved with Harley-Davidson apparel. They were creating T-shirt designs that were being snapped up by bikers across the country. Not only were the T-shirts top sellers, the designs were being applied to different types of merchandise. This was great for business, but David saw a different side to it all. He became disenchanted when he saw his art being chewed up by washing machines. He wanted to create art that would last forever.

Early in 1996, David entered the world of oil painting. While developing his own style, David stayed true to the painters from the past. He painted a piece titled “A Change in the Weather” and hand-delivered it to H-D executives in Mil­waukee in 1998. The work of art has three bikes in front of Art’s Garage. Focusing his attention on bikes from the 1930s and 1940s, this was an instant hit with The Motor Com­pany. He earned the title of Harley-Davidson’s official archival artist.­

David’s work has found its way into several prominent people’s lives. One piece he painted was given to MDA for an auction. It drew bidding from a Harley-Davidson exec and a West Virginia Harley dealer. The dealer won with his bid of $58,000. It was the highest single donation to date, and may still be! The dealer had the work blown up over 20 feet high and it is displayed for all to see in the dealership. David was also commissioned to do the 2008 Indy 500 program cover art and some pieces for the inaugural Moto GP held at the same track this Sep­tember.

Current work includes com­missioned paintings for Harley-Davidson to commemorate 100 years of police bikes. This is a perfect match for The Motor Company and the artist. David is also part of a documentary being filmed with a dueling artists theme. The project will show­case David and Jeff Decker, a sculptor. You may re­member Jeff as the creator of the hill climber statue now residing on the newly opened H-D museum grounds. Jay Leno, a collector of both their works, recently invited them to a private tour of his garages to view his vast collection of bikes and cars.

David’s collection of work is divided into groups titled Women of Harley, Graceland Project, Art of the Motor­cycle, the Pin-Up Series, Day­tona and Sturgis Com­memor­ative Releases, 100th Anni­versary and Classic Works. His Women of Harley series is very popular with the collectors and he paints a new one only every two years.

Pablo Picasso stated, “Color in a picture is like enthusiasm in life.” You feel that sentiment in David’s paintings. His artwork is on display all over the world and is popular with serious art collectors and celebrities alike. Charles Osgood of CBS Sunday Morning referred to David as “The Norman Rockwell of Harley-Davidson artists.” I couldn’t agree more. (www.uhlstudios.com)

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