Artist Scott Jacobs has, so far, led a bold and exciting life. From skydiving and body building to starring in a prime-time television show, he’s racked up a laundry list of remarkable adventures. However, through it all, Jacobs’ family and his painting have become his life. With his many inspirations, Jacobs has created an incredible amount of photo-realistic paintings and continues to do the things that he loves every day.
Jacobs began his career working in an art gallery while he was still in high school. He did illustrations for his high school newspaper and did not receive any artistic training beyond the average public school student. After high school he started an art gallery which he ran from the back of a van. He built, carved, and stained the frames for the works he sold in his “traveling art gallery.” When he was 19, he purchased an art gallery in New Jersey at below-market price and successfully worked as an art dealer for the next 25 years.
In 1983, Jacobs met his wife Sharon, and in 1985, they were married outside the ruins of a church in Belgium. The experience changed Jacobs’ life forever. Jacobs did not get back into painting until his wife bought him a set of paints for Christmas in 1989 with canvas and an easel. Because he owned his own gallery, he frequently hung some of his pieces under the pseudonym “Escoteté” to get honest feedback from his clients and visitors to improve his painting techniques. While Jacobs had dabbled in abstract and cubist art, he received the best audience feedback from his photorealistic paintings, which really pushed him to develop his art in this style.
He often painted celebrities like Joan Lunden, Kathy Ireland, and Malcolm S. Forbes Senior, but in 1993, at the suggestion of his friend, Ron Copple, he incorporated his love for Harley Davidson motorcycles. Jacobs’ first Harley paintings were “Fat Boy” and “Live to Ride” which were recognized within 60 days by the Chief of the Board of Harley Davidson. Soon after, Jacobs became the first officially licensed Harley-Davidson artist. Jacobs has loved cars, too, for his entire life. Besides Harley-Davidson, he is also the only licensed Chevy artist (Corvette division).
Jacobs begins his paintings with a photo of his subject, focusing on angles and detail, and often, he’ll work on multiples canvases at a time. He creates a basic line drawing on canvas then breaks out the paint, planning to improvise as he sees fit. As he paints, he works in layers, taping and masking sections to maintain fine edges and outlines of his subject. He begins with an outline of his subject in the foreground, like a motorcycle, and then masks it off to maintain the edge while painting the background. Jacobs uses a small size (000) paint brush (with a tip the size of a pencil point) to execute his works. Jacobs finishes the painting by varnishing it, sealing in the color. Depending on the canvas, each painting takes Jacobs 200 to 400 hours to complete.
When painting motorcycles, the age of the bike will adjust the time put into the painting, as well. Older vintage bikes with more interesting details and general wear-and-tear usually require more attention and extra work. Ninety-five percent of the work is done with his tiny paint brush, but occasionally the detail requires some airbrushing. Since his collectors love the subtlety of his paintings – from the details in the engines to reflections in the chrome – he uses different techniques to achieve the effect. In fact, some of Jacobs’ paintings are so detailed that they take more time than the bikes themselves to create – and can sell for much more. In the ‘80s, he would strive to finish a painting in two or three days. Now, it’s two to three months. His longest, most detailed work was commissioned by Harley-Davidson for their 100th anniversary, titled “100 Great Years.” In attempting to paint each of the bikes’ engines, logos, badges, and tanks, the work took more than four months to complete.
Motorcycles are clearly a big part of Jacobs’ life. He and his family attend Sturgis and Daytona every year, setting up his work in booths and hotels to share with the riders. People often stop by, convinced that he couldn’t possibly have painted the works himself. His wife has been known to hang signs stating that the works are real – no photographs in sight. Jacobs’ entire family rides bikes – even his daughters – often taking a ride out for brunch on a Sunday morning.
Harley-Davidson created a “Scott Jacobs Art to Wear” line through their licensed clothing retailer, American Licensed Products. He has had wall, computer, and desk calendars featuring his work from American Greetings and Franklin Mint released collector’s plates of which Pumping Iron was one of their highest selling plates in their history. He is also a licensed artist for Mattel and Hot Wheels race team where he works with Kyle Petty. In 2009, Jacobs worked with The Andie Rooney Company to create a series of tin signs based off of his Harley-Davidson paintings. And to top that, Jacobs has been the official artist for Sturgis for more than 15 years – the only artist to be picked consecutively in their 70 year history. Scott’s motorcycle work has been featured in VQ Magazine, American Iron, Art Business News, ArtNews, Easy Rider, Airbrush Action, US Art, Iron Works – among others, and on the San Diego CBS channel News 8, titled “Harley Artist Paints the Classics.”
Motorcycles alone are not the entirety of Jacobs’ work. His wife, Sharon, wanted to hang art in their dining room but Jacobs wanted to paint it himself, matching the rest of the house. Since he had become interested in some still lifes with wine at a recent show, he gave it a try. The results were his first works, “Taking a Breather” and “Delicious.” Exposing them to the public proved they would be a great success. Now, painting wine and spirits are a regular part of his repertoire. Painting the vintage and intricate labels on their bottles is an integral way for him to showcase his talent in photorealism detail. Marilyn Monroe Estates licensed Jacobs to paint their Marilyn Merlot label, as did the estates of Elvis Presley for their label.
Jacobs’ family is as integral to his life as his painting and they’re involved in every facet. His daughters, Olivia and Alexa, assist with the framing and occasionally model with the bikes. His wife, Sharon, works in the business side of Jacobs’ art. Together, they all work as a team.
His paintings are collected by many celebrities including Peter Fonda, Dan Aykroyd, Michael Jackson, Jon Bon Jovi, Lorenzo Lamas, John Elway of the Denver Broncos, Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz, and rock bands such as ZZ Top, Survivor, and Loverboy – among others. President Clinton viewed Jacobs’ work at a private dinner party in Iowa.
In 1998, Jacobs received a Vargas Award – an extreme honor. Recent museum exhibitions include: “Speed Demons, Race Inspired Motorcycle Art at the Journey Museum” in Rapid City, South Dakota in August 2005 and “Wind Blown: American Motorcycle Fine Art” at the Marietta/Cobb Museum in Marietta Georgia that ran from May until August 2005. The Petersen Automotive Museum in Beverly Hills, California houses one of Scott’s works in their permanent collection, as do the L.A. County Museum, St. Louis Museum, Cobb-Murrieta Museum, and The Milwaukee Museum.
2001 saw the publication of his first book, “The Motorcycle Art of Scott Jacobs.” In 2009, his second book was published, entitled “The Art of Scott Jacobs: the Complete Works.” His work is exhibited in approximately 83 countries and also appears in coffee table books, “Harley-Davidson, the Legend” and Doug Mitchell’s, “Harley-Davidson Chronicle.”
In 2012, Jacobs starred in the premier of ABC’S “Secret Millionaire.” The one-hour series follows some of America’s most successful business people as they spend a week in the country’s poorest areas and ultimately gift deserving members of those communities with hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money. In the season premiere episode, Jacobs and his 18-year-old daughter, Alexa, left behind their family in San Diego to spend six days in Newark, New Jersey to search for those most in need of financial help.
While there, father and daughter survived on less than $75 during their week-long visit, while volunteering their time to charitable organizations and searching their hearts to determine how much of their own fortune to gift the community heroes they meet. Their mission was to discover deserving individuals who continually sacrifice everything to help those in need. Throughout this life-changing experience, the “Secret Millionaires” remained undiscovered – on the final day, they revealed their true identities.
To learn more about the Scott Jacobs Collection at Park West Gallery, please visit www.parkwest-jacobs.com.