David Mann is the Norman Rockwell
of the biker world.
The son of artist Paul Mann, a member of the Society of Scribes and Illuminators of London, David Mann was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1940. David first began pencil-sketching cars while in high school, working under the rhythmic influences of rock 'n' roll, the Beach Boys, and images of the Pacific: white sandy beaches, bikini-clad ladies, palm trees, and flashy custom cars and hot rods. His sketches garnered him his first job, pinstriping cars for Doug Thompson and Ray Hetrick's custom car shop in Kansas City. The lure of the west coast proved too strong, though, and after graduation, David and best friend Al Burnett left Kansas City in a candy apple red and pearl white customized chevy coupe and drove to Santa Monica, California, to the tunes of Jerry Lee Lewis.
While enjoying this rock 'n' roll wonderland, he came across Bay Area Muffler, an area custom car house, and he discovered chopped motorcycles. Choppers, as they were termed then, had a distinctive appeal. The projected freedom with every chromed curve, mobility and power by their thundering sound, romance along each metalflaked frame rail, and a certain air of violence in their striking ability to separate themselves from the clinches of society with impunitive bursts of speed.
David was immediately hooked on the powerful steel steeds of glistening chrome. These crazy men hand-build these motorcycles under no restrictions and they risked their lives daily, riding them through an antagonistic city at steel-twisting speeds.
Shortly after his stay in Los Angeles, David returned to Kansas City and purchased his first motorcycle - a 1948 Harley-Davidson - for $350.00. Then, with opaque watercolors, he created his first painting, "Hollywood Run." Riding on his first customized Harley and with his first painting under his arm, he entered the 1963 Kansas City Custom Car show.
What that first painting may have lacked in detail, it made up for in spirit. It was rampant with wild freedom and outrageous machines, like a herd of unleashed hallucinogenic horses screaming out of the Hollywood hills. It captured the very essence of chopper riders of the time: soldiers without a war, gladiators without an opponent, men with blood in their eyes, looking for a place to taste it. That painting and that car show changed Mann's life, launching an artistic career which continues to expand today.
David's was the only custom bike entry in the show. For his innovation, the judges created a class and a trophy. Naturally, his scooter was the only object to be noticed by Tiny, an enormous outlaw from Sioux City, Iowa. The president of a small band of outlaw motorcyclists, Tiny became Mann's motorcycle mentor.
Tiny took David under his wing, and David became the eighth member of the band. Tiny also took an instamatic snapshot of Dave's painting and sent it to the eccentric Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, California creator of custom cars and motorcycles and first publisher of a motorcycle cult magazine, Chopper. Ed Roth bought David Mann's first painting.
With no training, no formal education, and little experience, Mann had created a work of art in tempera which was published and printed for poster sales. "The Tecate Run" was the second painting David completed. Again, it was published by Roth and printed for poster sales.
At Ed Roth's insistence, Dave made his second trip to California and visited an outlaw ranch in San Bernardino, where he met legends of the biker community. Engulfed in the dark, mysterious biker lifestyle throughout the '60's, Dave painted 14 works for Roth, capturing his own experiences, the camaraderie of bikers, their warring ways, their parties...and the dark, jagged freedom. Ten were published and lithographed for posters.
In 1965, Dave went to work in the mail room at Scheffer Studios in Kansas City, where he met an architectural renderer, Dave Poole, who told him about the crazy, green, metalflaked motorcycle he'd hear of. It was David's. The next day, he rode the wild Harley to work, and another friendship was born.
Recognizing David's inherent talent, Dave Poole taught him architectural rendering and the use of an airbrush, which David has incorporated into his art for the last 17 years. By 1967, David was developing into a full-fledged architectural renderer, learning the intricacies of detail, reflection, exacting dimension, and mechanical perspective. He studied at Kansas City Art Institute. In the late '60's, Scheffer Studios moved to Clearwater, Florida, and David began allowing his abilities to reach into diverse subjects.
He studied Dali's surrealism, trompe l'oeil, and fantasy, and he mastered the use of gouache and acrylics. His efforts didn't go unrewarded. He began collecting best-of-show awards in Seminole Springs and Dunedin. His name was mentioned in the company of famous masters such as Rockwell and Leroy Neiman.
David was rapidly refining his ability to deal with detail and realism when he discovered a new motorcycle magazine with a new twist - Easyriders. The magazine concentrated on the lifestyle of the riders and their women, not the technical aspects of building choppers. In the back of the first issue was a small, insignificant classified ad for a motorcycle artist. Dave inquired in late 1971, and the publishers responded. It was the beginning of a creative relationship which has spanned over a decade and a half of tumultuous times, changing styles, and a lifestyle growing up.
Through the medium of Easyriders, Dave had endeavored to portray the fun of being a biker, the battles, the hardships, and the ironies. As you will see, he has succeeded admirably.
The above information is used with permission from Paisano Publications, LLC. It is available in a book titled "50 Magnificent Works of Motorcycle Art from Easyriders - A collection of David Mann centerspreads representing biker folklore for over twenty years." Published by Paisano Publications, Inc, 1987.
7509 E. County Line Road
Longmont, CO 80504