When Tara initially asked me to be a guest writer for Storystorm, I was flattered. When she then suggested I write about how motorcycles influence my artwork (and vice versa), I was intrigued. I suppose I had never really thought about the connection in great detail before, other than the fact that I rather enjoy riding and restoring vintage British motorcycles and working them into my artwork when I can. In fact, a tiny tiger riding a lil’ Triumph motorcycle can be spotted in the jungle jamboree spread in Tara’s NORMAL NORMAN.
I first began doodling shortly after I was able to grasp my first red Crayola. Not long after that, I remember my father plopping me on the gas tank of his gold Honda CB and taking me on long rides throughout the countryside of Louisiana. It wasn’t until my early adolescence that I first set foot on a motorcycle of my very own, an early 70s baby blue and white Honda Super Cub. I clocked a lot of miles on that little scooter ’til the day a crash rendered it far too expensive to fix and it was sent to the great motorcycle scrapheap in the sky.
After that, I turned my attention to restoring vintage cars, specifically late 60s and early 70s Volkswagens, many of which began appearing as backdrops in my illustrations. However my lifelong passion for old VWs was cut short with a move to Minnesota in late 2012. After witnessing firsthand what ice and salt does to vintage tin, I wasn’t about to see my beloved 1969 VW Fastback (named Jaunty) dissolve before my eyes, so I sold it to a retired teacher in upstate New York. A short time passed and I once again began to feel that familiar itch for something to wrench on, so I headed down to the local dealership and picked up a brand new red and white Triumph Bonneville motorcycle. Thus rekindling my childhood love affair with two-wheeled transportation and I haven’t looked back since (unless a cop is issuing me a speeding ticket!).
At this point, you may be asking yourself “what does any of this vehicular nonsense have to do with children’s books?!?” Well, I’ll tell you.
Before I start any illustration project, I either like to go for a long ride or drive to clear my head and allow new thoughts and ideas to percolate and germinate; to ping-pong inside my empty brain like a giant popcorn popper on wheels. Right after I get home and scrape the bugs out of my teeth, I jot down as many ideas (good and bad) as I can before they disappear back into the ether. There’s just something about careening through bucolic backroads and twisty tarmac at 70 mph that really gets the creative juices flowing! The same can be said for simply taking a break from painting to put down a brush and pick up a socket wrench. To me there’s nothing more satisfying than restoring a rusted-out, dinged-up, long-neglected piece of machinery back to its former showroom glory. Each one of these old metallic souls has a unique personality and a story to tell. It just takes the right person to come along and to coax it out of them. And there’s as much art to that as any children’s book in your library.
I’m currently illustrating my next book for Clarion Books and restoring a 1964 Triumph Cub Trials motorcycle. And to me, both are of equal artistic merit and personal gratification.
View S.Britt’s art and find out more about his work at sbritt.com.
Tara and S.Britt are giving away a copy of their book NORMAL NORMAN.
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