The world is full
of workaday folks--waitresses, millwrights, accountants, maybe a beat
reporter or two--who want to not starve only a little more than they want to
make a living out of art.
Thomas Gray wrote a
poem about them, once. To hear him tell it, the churchyards are full of
poets and painters and performers who never were but might have been, had
Random House or MOMA or The Joffrey only thrown them that one lucky break.
A case in point:
Taylor Ricks. A lot of people know her as a manager at Wagner's Ribs on
Wagner Road in Porter. Not a few know her as a marvelously accomplished
artist: a portraitist, an illustrator, a cartoonist. Some have even been
astute and tasteful enough to commission a work from her.
But there she is,
working as a manager at Wagner's. Not a bad job at all--”They're very
supportive of me at Wagner's,” Ricks says--but then it's not as though she's
spending the best hours of every day in the studio, earning her bread off
the sweat of her heart.
And yet maybe that
Wagner's gig will be the best thing that ever happened to Ricks. Because
that's where she was the day Andy McCaslin--proprietor of Porky's Chopper
Company of Dayton, Ohio--walked in, saw her drawing the specials on the menu
board, and asked her if she was the one “who did all those pretty letters.”
Ricks said she was.
McCaslin asked her
if she could paint.
Ricks said she
Can you paint a
bike? McCaslin wondered.
Turns out, she can.
And at 8 p.m. Monday, June 2, on the Discovery Channel's #BikerLive,
Ricks' custom paint job will be front and center on McCaslin's custom bike
“Miss Understood,” as Porky's competes against two other shops for title of
Sickest Chopper Builder in the Rust Belt.
Like what you see?
Then vote on Twitter, at #BikerLive.
Ricks, CHS Class of
2007, earned a bachelor's in art education and has taught children's art
classes at The Art Barn. But teaching isn’t what she wants to do, finally.
“I loved it when I did it,” she says. “It didn't pay the bills, though. I
know I'd have been a great teacher. And I'll feel guilty for not sticking
with it and being selfish. But I want to do my own art.”
Certainly Ricks has
been giving it a shot. She's painted the seasonal murals on the windows of
the Porter town hall. Has done quite a few commissioned pencil portraits.
Has recently started painting family pets--painting them into famous
masterworks by Rembrandt and Van Gogh (one of them was auctioned at a
charity event in Chicago). But the paint job on McCaslin's bike could be the
game changer, the paradigm shift.
McCaslin “said he
needed something different and fresh,” Ricks says. And in the world of bike
art, Ricks is different: she doesn't airbrush, she hand-paints.
“Having a traditional artist paint his bike meant he would stand out from
the competition and he liked the idea of a more ‘painterly’ paint job.”
Ricks and McCaslin
planned the piece over the phone. McCaslin was looking for something in the
style of the classic pinup girl, as seen once upon a time painted on the
side of World War II bombers. And it had to feature a palette chosen by his
five daughters, one color per girl: pink, red, yellow, blue, and orange.
Ricks gave him Miss Understood. “The pinup girl's on one side of the gas
tank,” she says. “A shark's mouth is on the other side.”
“After a few weeks,
I found myself down in Ohio, arguing with a mob of bikers, being the only
girl, and painting my first motorcycle tank, surrounded by cameramen,” Ricks
recalls. “It was an awesome experience. I met some really cool guys,
networked with producers, and created original artwork that will be aired on
the Discovery Channel.”
For the record,
Ricks didn't make a dime on the job. None of the crew did. The Discovery
Channel gave Porky's 15 grand for the build and McCaslin spent every cent of
it on the bike.
“It was a volunteer
thing,” she says.
“Since the show,
I've had a few people approach me to maybe paint their work trucks or their
own motorcycles,” Ricks adds. “I've been encouraging those people to wait
and see the TV show before they hire a newbie like me. But I know our bike
will win the contest. So that might solidify things.”
Where does Ricks
see herself, say, 10 years down the road?
She'd love to
illustrate fantasy stories. Do story boards. Try her hand at art-directing
at an ad agency. “It's always been my dream to work for Pixar Animation. But
I'm being realistic and trying to find my creative calling in the world.”