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Thundering Artwork
Ask Letterfly column #4

The environment of a bike rally combines the thunder of a V-twin that causes the adrenaline level to peak with the visual delights of shiny chrome features that reflect the images of the beautiful women that make attending a function such as this, all worthwhile.

A crowd gathered in a circle around a bike prompts further curiosity. Moving in closer you strain to see a figure crouched over a motorcycle with a curious little paintbrush creating a design right in the middle of the chaos. The biker community is graced with much talent in this area. Artists with interesting monikers all have their own equally fascinating specialties and they frequent local and national bike events to further and elevate the motorcycle experience.

Perhaps you are thinking about decorative paintwork to make your bike stand out with it’s own personality. This column is designed for you as a place to learn more and to ask questions about the fascinating genre of custom paint for motorcycles. 

How long will my artwork last? Will we constantly have to have it redone because of fading?

In this day and age, custom airbrushed artwork is created with high quality automotive paints and then protected with several coats of urethane clear coat. Due to the high quality of the materials available today and the clear protective finish, you can expect to enjoy your mural for many, many years.

Pinstriping, wet-blended pictorials, lettering and handpainted flourishes are created by hand with a brush using lettering enamel. Since lettering paint is not thinned, as is necessary in order to spray, and has the heavier body needed to be manipulated with a brush and since the brush lays down a thicker coat than the airbrush, hand painted brush work does not have to be clear coated. The shiny enamel finish is thick and lasts for years. A light coat of wax can add to the longevity. 

Hey, we can’t have a mural because of the graphic swoops that go across the entire paintable area on this bike, or can we?

Yes. In fact, although the graphic elements are prominent on the bike now, once a mural is created to either cover or interact with the existing paint scheme, the artwork becomes the most prominent element of the exterior of the scoot.

Did you say interact with the graphics on the bike?

Yes, many folks with the designs in the exterior paint want a mural in addition to set their motorcycle apart from the rest so the concept of “Art within Art” has been born. Examples include animals going over and under the stripes, shapes between the stripes can sport patriotic elements and full-fledged murals permit the graphic stripe to remain intact and allow an interesting deviation for the Rolling Art connoisseur.

What is the most important element in comedy?

Sorry…just wanted to see if you were paying attention. (By the way, ask Letterfly…he knows.)

If we decide to have a custom mural created, where will it be done and how long will it take?

Many handpainted jobs, such as you see at the state rallies and other bike events can be completed in part of a day. Custom painted graphics and airbrushed jobs require much longer to complete. Sprayed mural work requires the dismantling of the bike and the paintwork must take place in the sterile environment of a spray booth. Drying time between coats adds to the turnaround and when complete, the pieces are ready to receive the final clear coat and buffed to a perfect finish. All of this takes time and depending on the complexity of the artwork and the studios workload, some of these jobs can take from three weeks to three months.

What if a portion of our mural becomes damaged in an accident, do we have to have the entire mural redone?

In most cases repairs can be made to the original mural without becoming involved in every step of the original procedure. This is usually done at a greatly reduced cost. This also depends on the area that received the damage. Changes can also be done to an existing mural in the same manner. If you decide to adorn your mural with a personalized title, names or any sentimental depiction, it is a simple matter to change the artwork to a more generic form when you are ready to trade or sell your motorcycle.

Alright, you haven’t mentioned anything about prices. Give us the bad news, how much does motorcycle artwork cost?

Sorry to disappoint you but hand-painted custom paintwork isn’t expensive at all. In fact, many custom pinstripe designs cost a little more than several tanks of fuel and much, much less than a set of tires but will bring you continued pleasure for years longer. Custom paint for a set of fenders and a tank is priced pretty much the same across the board whether you order something from the paint shop at the Harley factory or you elect to commission a unique one of a kind painted spectacular from one of many competent motorcycle artists. So do not fear that what you decide on will be priced out of the ordinary. Pricing is influenced by the detail of the design, the physical size and the amount of pieces, what materials will be involved and the amount of preparation needed to get the bike ready to receive the paintwork.


We hope that this information has been helpful in introducing you to the world of Mural Art. Should you have any questions or would like ideas about creating your own custom mural art, please do not hesitate to send your questions in to AskLetterfly. (By the way, don’t forget to ask him what the most important element in comedy is.)

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Dave "Letterfly" Knoderer is a nationally-known artist who specializes in the many facets of motorcycle custom paint and decor including airbrush murals, pinstripe design, and more. During much of the year, he can be found at his home base near Tampa, Florida, in his art studio where he is available to work on your projects. During the rest of the year, he travels to customer locations and HOG events around the country. For more information about the artist known as Letterfly, please visit his web page, If you have a question that you would like to see answered in a future "Ask Letterfly" column, please e-mail it to Dave.

These Ask Letterfly columns were created for Harley-Davidson dealers and HOG chapter members who need material to include in their HOG newsletters. Editors who would like to enlighten and educate their readership are encouraged to utilize this ongoing service, which is archived at The articles are written and provided by the artist Letterfly, known for high quality custom paint, airbrushed murals and motorcycle pinstriping in the Tampa area and throughout the country. This column is a forum to provide answers to the many paint related questions that Dave hears while attending and painting at Bike rallies across the country and which he receives by e-mail.

Motorcycle aficionados, custom painters or anyone with a paint related question can Ask Letterfly by sending an e-mail to: E-mail: Ask (at) Letterfly . com

Let me hear from you.
Send your paint related questions to:
Dave "Letterfly" Knoderer
Tampa, Florida, USA

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