Since the age of 15, Scott Jacobs has been riding motorcycles. At just 19 years old, he began his art career by opening his own gallery, making a living in fine art ever since.
But everything changed after a traumatic motorcycle accident in 2016 when the photorealist artist found himself lying in a Maryland hospital, forced to confront the fact that he might never ride or paint again.
“It was horrible—I was very, very emotional in the hospital,” Jacobs said. “This is all I’ve done my entire life.”
Jacobs had been racing in the Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run in September 2016, a cross-country race featuring vintage motorcycles. Events like these are common for Jacobs—thanks to his popular photorealistic paintings of motorcycles, he became the first officially licensed artist of Harley-Davidson in 1993.
On the second day of the race, Jacobs was riding his 1915 Harley-Davidson F Head through Cumberland, Maryland when he ran into unexpected gravel on the roadway.
The bike’s front tire locked up, sending Jacobs into a 100-foot skid toward a busy intersection. To prevent a potential accident, Jacobs purposefully tipped his motorcycle onto its side, sliding across 75 feet on a gravel-filled road.
Things escalated when the motorcycle’s left foot peg caught the road, causing Jacobs to catapult through the air. He smashed into the ground, landing on his head and right shoulder.
Looking back, Jacobs credits his surviving the accident to wearing the proper gear, such as his helmet and Kevlar-lined racing pants. He is also thankful that moments before the crash, his wife’s motorcycle broke down, taking her out of the race and saving her from a similar fate.
“I feel the stars were aligned that day,” Jacobs says. “It was almost like a higher power looking over me that day for her bike to break down prior to that, for me to have the right clothes, and for no cars to be where I wiped out.”
Emergency responders transported Jacobs to the hospital where his injuries were assessed. The result was a four-part humerus fracture, a 75 percent bicep tear, and the need to replace his right shoulder.
“My right shoulder was basically blown apart,” Jacobs says. “I basically had a dead arm.”
For four days, Jacobs was on morphine while the doctors determined how best to repair his arm. They took him into surgery on September 14, inserting a titanium rod with an artificial pivoting joint into his shoulder.
The surgery was a success, but Jacobs had a long road ahead. The artist flew home to South Dakota and underwent extensive physical therapy, exercising his arm three times a week for five months. The doctors warned him if he didn’t stick to this regiment, his muscles would atrophy and he’d lose the use of his shoulder.
“I couldn’t paint, I couldn’t sign my freakin’ name,” Jacobs recalls.
Recovery and Riding
It took seven months before Jacobs could start painting again. By sketching and painting for short periods of time, Jacobs began recovering his muscle memory. He could only work for 15 minutes before the pain became unbearable.
One year later, Jacobs has now worked his way up to painting five hours at a time. While it doesn’t compare to the eight- to 10-hour painting sessions of his early career, he isn’t complaining.
“I’m just lucky to be painting,” Jacobs continues. “If I wasn’t painting again, I honestly wouldn’t know what to do for the rest of my life.”
With each passing day Jacobs is improving. He thanks his wife, Sharon, for being there through it all, and finds himself motivated by meeting Park West Gallery collectors at events.
“To see all those people that love your work that much…it’s a very powerful statement,” Jacobs says. “That adrenaline rush that I get from meeting clients and doing these events has really helped with my recovery because I have so many people rooting for me.”
Park West Gallery Director Morris Shapiro has worked with Jacobs for nearly 15 years. He says Jacobs has overcome a great life challenge and continues to create great works of art, albeit with subtle changes.
“His paintings have taken on a more poetic and even poignant tone,” Shapiro says. “His work still includes his technical virtuosity, but it has taken a back seat to a quieter and purer contemplation, primarily through his choice of subjects.”
Despite the accident, Jacobs hasn’t lost his love for motorcycles. Like his painting, Jacobs is slowly improving his ride times.
“I’m going to keep doing what I do and keep riding,” Jacobs says.
The art of Scott Jacobs is available to collect through Park West Gallery. Contact our gallery consultants at (800) 521-9654 ext. 4 during business hours or firstname.lastname@example.org.