The Sharpie Blog: Where we share the amazing stuff people do with Sharpie

Share This

The President’s Harley

Whether it’s the freedom of the open road or the precision and distinctive beauty of the bikes themselves, motorcycle enthusiasts are passionate about the ride.

Sharpie President Ben Gadbois
Ben Gadbois is passionate about a few things: His family, his health, his work…and motorcycles. As president of Sharpie, Ben recently found a way to combine his passion for Sharpie with his love of motorcycles.
Ben worked with renowned NASCAR artist Nick Pastura to customize his own Harley-Davidson motorcyle with Sharpie art. Before getting started, Ben talked at length with Nick about his vision — juxtaposing the hard edge and rugged persona of the Harley machine with images symbolizing beauty, peace and strength — images often associated with Japanese art. In the end, Nick presented Ben with a design that included traditional Japanese symbols — dragons, Koi fish and cherry blossoms.
“I gave Nick full creative license,” Ben said. “I told him to come up with something really bold, and he definitely delivered.”
Scroll through the pictures, then read an interview with artist Nick Pastura on the project:

The bike took NASCAR artist Nick Pastura more than 120 hours and 275 Sharpie markers to complete.

In Asian culture, dragons are considered symbols of good fortune and protection. In both Chinese and Japanese mythology, the dragon is closely associated with water and is often surrounded by water or clouds.

The Koi fish symbolizes energy and motion and is sometimes interpreted to mean non-conformity. Koi also means strength in time of adversity, persistence, and the ability to overcome resistance.

According to the Buddhist tradition, the breathtaking but brief beauty of the cherry blossom symbolizes the transient nature of life.




While Nick rarely shares the secrets of his trade, he agreed to give us this interview about his use of Sharpie markers on this classic motorcycle:

After you landed on the overall design concept, what were the next steps for contributing that vision to paper?

I started out doing a lot of research on traditional Japanese imagery and colors. I wanted to stick with the classic Sharpie colors as my main stay…after that, it was just a matter of what tip shapes and sizes would work well together on each motorcycle part.

How did you transfer the design onto the bike? Transfer paper.

What type of Sharpie marker did you use to:

Were there any special techniques you used to ensure the marker ink lay down properly or covered the area properly? I used small, tight, circular motions.

Did you blend any of the marker colors to create custom colors, and if so, how? Again using three similar colors to add to the main base color to complement it and blend.

Were there any other techniques or tips in the early stages to note? Yes. When blending colors, make sure the ink is still wet in order to blend easily.  You have to work quickly.

Once you completed the finished design, what did you do to seal it?  What type of sealant did you use? First, I applied three light mist coats of Dupont 622 Intercoat Adhesion Promotor.  Then I let it sit for four hours to dry thoroughly.  The final clear coat was Dupont g2 4500S Fast Activator.

Did you encounter any special challenges with the ink application and if so, how do you suggest managing them?  Make sure the colors are dry before moving on to the next color or they will bleed.

Do you recommend lay artists give this a try on their own bikes?  Any tips for a practice run? Yes, but try to practice on an old gas tank or fender if possible.

What do you like best about Sharpie markers for creating your designs?  What makes them unique? What do they bring to the design that other art tools, i.e. spray finishing, don’t? Sharpie markers give you the ability to blend three similar colors together.  In automotive painting, it is just not the norm to blend colors like that. Using Sharpie markers was both exciting and intimidating at first but I got the hang of it quickly after a few test runs. It was great to have the markers right at your reach…the color reference is so visual that way.

Ben's sons, Helmut, 13, and Julius, 10, at the Fox River Harley-Davidson dealership in St. Charles, Illinois, just after the new Sharpie-drawn tins were installed.

This weekend, the bike will make its debut at the Irwin Tools Night Race in Bristol, Tenn., where Ben will take it for a lap around the track during pre-race ceremonies tonight.  Sharpie is a partial sponsor of the NASCAR race.  Irwin Tools and Sharpie are sister brands, both part of the Newell Rubbermaid family.  Here’s a sneak peak of Ben’s trial run Thursday night:


Start With Sharpie

The Sharpie Harley couldn’t have come at a better time as Sharpie launches its new Start with Sharpie campaign.

The campaign focuses on the legions of Sharpie fans (almost 2 million on Facebook alone) using Sharpie products in inspiring and creative ways, challenging them to start something with Sharpie.  To find out how you can submit your Sharpie creation to the Sharpie gallery and be part of Sharpie’s You Tube Takeover, visit

If the president of Sharpie can start something this cool, what are you gonna start?






9 thoughts on “The President’s Harley

  1. Pingback: Powerful Promoters: SHARPIE Wins the Prize! « ImaginePublicity

  2. Absolutely inspiring! Great work, ideas & stories come from combining passions and you’ve done an excellent job at maintaining brand image through your executions. Overall, great job on this project!

  3. What base did you use on the bike? Is it a matte finish like primer? The finished product is beautiful

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube