(original, uncropped painting can be found here.)
Four years ago I was hanging out on the VA Beach boardwalk with some friends from my church. We were people watching and one man caught my eye. Actually, he snatched my eyeball out of my skull with his shiny electric blue biker gear. And his mohawk helmet.
He must have seen me watching, or maybe he noticed my camera, because he waved me over and asked me to take his picture.
"You want me to take your photo?" a little surprised.
"Yea, man. You don't think I'm interesting enough? I'm a 6 foot tall black man in a mohawk helmet. You should take my picture, show your friends. Then you'll always have me around."
I took some shots, then we chatted for a while. He told me his life story, less than half of which sounded believable. But that's how stories are. I was enjoying the conversation, then he asked me what I was doing that night and if I knew where any parties were happening. I briefly considered inviting him to our "ladies group, movie night" but figured he didn't look like a "Strictly Ballroom" kind of guy.
I brought it up anyway.
He politely declined.
I told him I'd let him know if I heard of anything better going on.
After I got home I browsed through the photos from our trip. When I came across Blue Biker Guy's pics they were mostly out of focus. And he was talking. I got a kick out seeing them, but quickly forgot about them.
Four years later it was late at night, everyone was asleep and I wanted to draw. I began looking through old photos to find something. You know how images trigger memories you thought you'd buried? I really did laugh out loud when he popped up on the screen. How many people verbally demand to be remembered? It was like he was daring me to draw him.
Challenge accepted, Random Biker Dude.
I sketched his portrait that night using all of the photos, trying to get his features right with the awkward poses and blurred lines of his face. The results weren't fabulous, but it was fun. In the weeks that followed, I found myself drawing other men with his helmet on. The sketches evolved, the mohawk disappeared, he grew a beard.
Then I decided to make a painting. The Virginia Beach Bicyclist may look nothing like the man I met four years ago, yet there's no mistaking him when I look at the painting.
Thanks for the memories, Mohawk Man.