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Local artist Taylor Ricks custom bike paint job to air Monday on Discovery

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By KEVIN NEVERS

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 could.

Can you paint a bike? McCaslin wondered.

“Nooooooooo!” Ricks remembers saying.

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted 5/29/2014