Book Review by Glenn W. for webBikeWorld.com
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Owner Comments (Below)
Like traveling the 9 circles of Dante's hell, motorcyclists can (and do)
go deeper into the nefarious and ever more obscure areas of the sport.
The farkling and customizing and mechanical
modifications never end, but very few get down to the 8th and 9th
circles: painting and building. Or maybe it's building and
I've been messing around with paint jars, cans and spray
guns since my age could be written in single digits, but I'm nothing
more than a hack.
Every once and a while, I get the urge to try
once more, fantasizing that I could indeed be successful at painting a
motorcycle and doing a better job than the factory.
Well, I did say it was a fantasy, right?
So along comes the latest motivation for my dream, the
"Idea Book", simply named "Custom Painting". The Idea Book is a
series published by Motorbooks International, and from what I've seen,
the books are designed to do exactly what they did to me -- motivate and
Custom Painting (subtitled just as simply "Cars - Trucks
- Motorcycles") is a 50/50 book for me. That is, I'm not sure
whether I like it or not. It's absolutely packed full of
photographs of every type of paint style and wild idea you can think of
-- to a fault.
The problem is that the book probably could have or
should have been 500 pages long. Many of the photos are very tiny;
probably about 200 pixels wide, in web page terms, or as small as about
60 mm wide on the pages. The format of the book is mostly a narrow
50 mm or so column of text on the left, then photos on the right side of
the page, stacked either two across or one 130 mm or so with a mix of
single and double photos.
There are very few (i.e., none) photos that are larger
than approximately 130 mm, although I didn't go through and measure each
one. To me, this is a limitation -- the photos give a general idea
of the paint, color and design, and there is a selection of close-ups,
but in the end, all the reader can do is get a very general idea of what
The photos are all very nicely composed and exposed, and
although they at least give the viewer an idea of the particular paint
job or style, they are really too small to give anything but the
fleetest of glimpses into what it took to get the results. I think
the book would have been much more successful to have fewer photos but
some half- or full-page examples of the best or the most iconic designs.
The author, JoAnn Bortles, is a highly acclaimed custom
painter, and I've seen some of her work at shows. The many
(hundreds, I estimate) photographs are not all credited, so it's
difficult to know whether they represent her work or others; I assume
it's a mix.
After a brief introduction with a few basic tips on
custom painting, the book is divided into 18 unnumbered chapters plus an
index. They cover topics ranging from solid color to flames,
graphics to murals. It's interesting that there is no single
chapter devoted to pinstripes, although there are many examples
throughout the book.
The mural form of painting is less interesting to me in
particular (although there are some remarkable examples illustrated in
the book, including an incredible painted mural of Stevie Ray Vaughan
that was done on somebody's chopper fuel tank); I'm more into
pinstripes, flames and especially the "old" new paint style -- that is,
painting something to look paradoxically old and ratty with new paint.
So my bottom line with the book Custom Painting is that
it's an interesting portfolio or catalog of hundreds of different ideas
and designs, but I didn't really get much more out of it. Yes,
it's an "Idea Book", but only in the very strictest sense of the term. I see
some painting designs I'd like to try, but there are very few or no
details on how it was actually done or tips on how to do it, and to me,
that is a disappointment.
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