So, I reached out to Hetz about this bike and I said, “Listen here Jim! I’m with the newspaper and I demand answers!” I’m kidding, mostly. I was actually a little apprehensive about it because, well first of all, I don’t know the guy. Secondly, I was concerned that he might be upset that someone had painted over one of his projects. But I was curious and even though it might have been in bad taste, as with most things, I did it anyway.
I waited on his response from the pictures I sent him. I waited for the bomb to drop. He doesn’t remember the tank. This isn’t his artwork. “Who painted on my tank!?”
To my surprise, Hetz responded right away! He was super cool, way laid back, and happy to chat. Best of all, he remembered the bike!
Plot twist! The crappy wolf painting was done by none other than Jim Hetzler himself! Jim and Bill, I’m not sure who Bill is, I forgot to ask because I was too excited, used to do these bikes as side projects. Hetz said, “Way too long ago . . . Bill did all my base and clear work while I did all the artwork. We did a bunch of these every winter for extra cash.”
He remembered doing the bike and said, “the bike was pretty much brand new when we did it.”
And man, don’t I look like a jerk!? Sorry Hetz. Man, I really thought that some kid had painted over one of your tanks. So now that I’ve made a fool of myself and talked down to someone’s artwork that is most likely reading this right now, I’d like to explain why I would do that.
As someone who tore their bike apart this past winter and repainted it, doing custom artwork on a vehicle for the first time, I can definitely begin to understand the amount of time, dedication, and hard work it must take to get to the level that some of these guys have. I made a ton of mistakes, but it still turned out great to me.
I am currently going through an airbrush apprenticeship with my Uncle Dave Whitlow who has been painting bikes as far back as I can remember and before. He, too, is an amazing artist with a totally unique style. To take lessons and tips from these guys is a huge honor. These guys laid the path for those of us to carry on with the only motivation that painting cool stuff is fun and making something your own is what it is all about, custom culture from the people who grounded and pounded and painted their bikes in their garages.
The local history of this bike is really cool. That’s what it’s all about. Making cool things that last. Like Hetz says, “practice is king.” And like my Uncle Dave says, “The worst you can do is totally screw it up and have to start over.”