Tag Archives: paul

Paul Yaffe’s Through The Years Motorcycle Retrospective Big Hit at Arizona Bike Week

Paul Yaffe’s Through The Years Motorcycle Retrospective Big Hit at Arizona Bike Week

Phoenix, AZ (April 13, 2017) – A retrospective exhibit celebrating legendary custom motorcycle builder Paul Yaffe’s storied career was on display at the Legends Pavilion for the duration of Arizona Bike Week 2017. Sponsored by Chuck Franklin LawYaffe Through the Years showcased 19 of the most spectacular bikes that Paul has created during his 26 years in the bike building and custom parts business. Tens of thousands of people cycled through throughout the week, taking in photos and testimonies and witnessing firsthand and up close the beauty and power of Paul Yaffe’s metal masterpieces.

“It all started with a love of motorcycles and a curiosity and desire to see what could be made of them,” says Paul. “I never would have guessed, when I first started experimenting in the mid eighties, that it would have led to where we are today.”

An amazing collection of some of Paul’s most memorable custom creations was on display, featuring bikes from all around the country, including one of his take on an aluminum FXR from 1995. Nineteen motorcycles provided a visual representation of the evolution of Paul’s career, from choppers to baggers to pro-streets, including both Discovery bikes (Phantom and Suzy-Q), Whitey (the bike he gave his bride her first ride on) and the world-famous Prodigy.

A longtime Hamster, Paul also helped organize and participated in the Seventh Annual Hamster’s Charity “Dry Heat Run,” which drew over a thousand riders and raised over twenty thousand dollars for children’s charity. Beginning at Paul Yaffe’s Bagger Nation, the ride stretched for 60 miles, winding through some of the most beautiful desert terrain Arizona has to offer, and culminating at Arizona Bike Week for a concert with Creedence Clearwater Revisited.

But people were really taken with the Paul Yaffe Through The Years exhibit.

“We did a smaller event as part of my birthday celebration late last year,” says Paul. “But we expanded the concept, added about twice as many bikes, more photos, artwork and memorabilia. Plus, it was really special to hold the event here in Phoenix, where I opened my first shop so many years ago.”

That first shop was American Legend Motorcycle Co., which opened in 1991. Since then, Paul has enjoyed one of the most illustrious and influential careers in motorcycle designing and building. Today, Paul Yaffe’s Bagger Nation, together with Paul Yaffe Originals, is recognized as one of—if not the—preeminent custom bike building outfits.

 About Paul Yaffe

Paul Yaffe has been designing and building custom motorcycles and motorcycle parts and accessories for over 30 years. In that time, he has won many awards, contests and honors, including three “World’s Most Beautiful Motorcycle” awards at the famous Oakland Roadster Show and two “Builder of the Year” and three “Trendsetter of the Year” honors from Easyriders Magazine. Paul opened his custom shop Paul Yaffe’s Bagger Nation (together with Paul Yaffe Originals) twenty-five years ago, and today his designs are recognized as being among the best and most sought after in the world. For Paul’s latest news, designs and appearances, follow him on FacebookTwitter (@BaggerNation) and Instagram (@pybaggernation).

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Designs from the heart and soul of a rider

Paul Smith, Artist

Story and photos by Marilyn Stemp

 

approvedhelmetMost of us can recall the circumstance of our first motorcycle ride, but few of us have the ability to turn that memory into a provocative work of art. Meet Paul Smith, a man whose work you’ll recognize even if you don’t know his name. In fact, if you have a tattoo of the Eagle on the Bar & Shield, you may well be wearing his artwork on your body!

Take a trip with me (if you’ll excuse the expression,) to the 1970s. “Sex, drugs, and rock & roll” wasn’t just a groovy saying or a song title, it was a way of life, a pervasive counter culture mantra that dared participation by the younger generation and frightened the “establishment.” Harley-Davidson was owned by AMF then; it would be several more years before the eagle soared alone.

The eagle: that iconic emblem of singular American pride and freedom. Patriotic themes were sweeping the country then, as the 200th anniversary of its founding approached and pop artists turned to eclectic Americana imagery. Well before 1976, stars and stripes adorned Wyatt’s Captain America bike, Evel Knievel’s leathers, and Harley’s Number 1 racing logo alike. Harley-Davidson’s ads in the early ‘70s proclaimed the “Great American Freedom Machines.” All of these were appropriate themes for American bikers on their American motorcycles; they flew with the wind, like the eagle.

Paul Smith became a student of Industrial Design at Milwaukee’s Layton School of Art in 1959. Recently discharged from the Army, he was thinking of Milwaukee as a waypoint; he planned to attend the Chicago Art Institute on the G.I. Bill. But then: “I discovered the Layton School of Art and I thought, ‘This is it!’” he said. “I always loved illustration and design and I knew I could make a living at it, too.

That might seem like a bold pronouncement, especially from this slight, soft-spoken man with the easy smile. But those characteristics mask an ardent art spirit backed by quiet confidence and passion. In fact, there was never any doubt that Paul would pursue a life in the art world; it was a completely natural progression. “In kindergarten Sister Josephine asked the class what we wanted to be and I told her I was going to be an artist,” he said. “I thought everyone knew what they wanted to do. I later realized how lucky I am, to do what I love. Even if nobody paid me to do it, I’d still draw.”

IMG_4077By 1974 Paul was an established freelance illustrator and graphic designer known for riding around Milwaukee on a WLA that he’d rebuilt as a custom bobber. When he was asked by Willie G. (people called him Bill Davidson then) in H-D’s styling department to design decal graphics for their 1976 Liberty Edition models, particular motifs immediately took precedence. As a Harley rider himself, Paul’s thoughts turned to Americana, folk art, U.S. currency imagery, heraldic symbols and, eventually, the bar & shield. After all he had a bar & shield patch on his riding jacket and thought it was a striking symbol, though the company considered it “old” then. And, as the progression of his designs show, (as viewed at his gallery in Milwaukee this summer) he worked through a process typical of graphic artists who sketch, alter, move and re-work various pieces until a symmetry develops that ultimately feels correct. Remember, this was long before Adobe and Photoshop; the high tech tools of the graphic artist then were tissue overlays, Polaroid photography and original sketches!

The dominant concept that resulted from this alchemy of image and thought was an eagle on that “old” bar & shield. The industrial designer (and rider) in Paul allowed for the curves of the tank and fairing as he crafted the designs. As a result of this evolutionary process, “I designed a new bar & shield logo which soon became a graphic standard for the Motor Company,” said Paul. It simply made sense that such a well-known symbol should have definitive specs and proportions.

While these ideas were forming, Paul had borrowed a book about the history of Harley-Davidson from a friend. Reading the company’s story inspired him to start work on a new project, one that told the story of H-D’s founders. “They were the only American motorcycle company left and I thought that was significant,” he said. “They had a hell of a history.” The result was an impressive 4×6 foot oil painting that now hangs in the H-D Museum.

 

As it turned out, Paul’s designs went way further than their use on a specific model’s sheetmetal. But AMF was steering a shaky ship in the late ‘70s, and few people thought the company would survive to see the end of the decade. Paul takes the philosophical high road when it comes to ownership. “I made it for the riders,” he said.

Meeting the artist who created these legendary motorcycling graphics and listening as he traced the development of his concepts was intriguing. As Harley riders, these designs are part of our shared heritage and learning their history can only enhance our appreciation.

Paul has since retired from commercial work but that doesn’t mean he’s stopped drawing. “I’m the art director of my own projects—finally!” he said, and lately he’s been concentrating on fine art projects. IMG_4085“I’ve always loved doing abstract work and that’s my next thing: I call it Divine Collisions.”

That said, Paul claims he’s slowing down but some would dispute that, judging by the volume and variety of his creative output. Continuing the thread of that thought, he added with a grin, “As Dirty Harry said, ‘A man’s gotta know his limitations’… I think I’m starting to catch on.”

Resource:

Paul Smith Studio

PSmithArtStudio.com

414-343-6152

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I met Paul at his gallery in Milwaukee during H-D’s 110th. His drawings and artwork surrounded us to tell a visual story of his work.
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This is Grace, the woman who talked her boyfriend into giving Paul his first motorcycle ride. “I fell in love with her on the spot!”

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