What do a duck, nuclear power plant safety inspector and a walking-talking robot have in common? Other than being famous icons in pop culture, each of these figures hold a prominent place in a very unique design.
Jody Whitsell not only rides motorcycles, she customizes them, creating unique works of art – and with Sharpie markers no less! Incorporating various shapes and patterns into her designs, Whitsell cleverly integrates iconic characters including Daffy Duck, Homer Simpson & C-3PO into her designs. Well known for her colorful dog portraits, Jody went for a classic black and white theme when customizing her bike and motorcycle helmets.
Whitsell has always felt an incredible passion to create and it doesn’t look like she’s slowing down anytime soon. Take a seat Sharpie fans, you’re in for a wild ride with today’s featured Sharpie artist!
Sharpie Edition Ducati
Tell me about yourself:
My name is Jody Whitsell and I live in Warwick, N.Y. I’ve never been called “average” or “normal” and I like it that way!!
How did you get started as an artist? What kind of experience do you have?
I use to always color and draw as a kid – especially animals. Here’s a quick story. In third grade I had an assignment to write a report on an animal of my choice and draw the animal on the cover of the report. I had so much fun doing the report that I did 7 animal reports! Fast forward to Ramsey High School (N.J.) where I get the Senior Art Award and then go to William Paterson College (N.J.) where I majored in you guessed it. Art! Getting a job at a picture framing shop introduced me to lots of artwork, but I wasn’t ready to do anything but my framing job, as I had 2 sons to raise. Once they got out of high school, I got the itch to get out the paints. I guess being an artist or a creative person, you can’t stop yourself from doing creative things. Sometimes I feel it’s a CURSE as I am always looking for “projects” especially around the house to appease these creative impulses. I have large murals and faux finishes in EVERY room of my house. “PUT DOWN THE PAINT BRUSH!” I sometimes have to say to myself!
Describe your personal style:
I’d have to say it’s a really fun style, and I like to make myself and others SMILE! They say that artists paint what they know, and I know animals and especially love dogs, so I decided to paint my dog in crazy colors, and everyone just loved it because it was so different. That’s how I got my start in the “paying” art world.
But I do have a very realistic, tight style of painting too, which I like to do between the doing the dog portraits. Like I said… I am COMPELLED to paint or create!
What does black & white achieve that a broader array of color would not on these particular canvases?
With the black and white, it’s more graphic and I really loved taking my graphic design courses in college, but that was a LONG time ago! I like the crispness of the design, and using only the black and white, I had to really look at the balance of dark and light, patterns, text, and drawings and how they related to each other, which was challenging. My husband laughed at me and said “you spend more time LOOKING at the helmet than you spend DRAWING on it!” and that’s because I was always analyzing the design!
What is your process like? How long did it take you to customize the Ducati? Helmets?
Well, I start with a list of things I want to put on the helmet/bike. I then choose the best place on the helmet for the most important item that’s going on. I then work around that item to fill in the space as aesthetically balanced as I can, with the design items that I choose. I like to use dots, arrows, stripes, and stars, in my “patterns” that I repeat as “fill in” between the text and images that me or my client wants.
My helmet took me 20 hours, and my bike took me 75 hours (because I got better and faster at it!!)
You sell custom Sharpie helmets on www.bigdawgzsquared.com. What’s the strangest/funniest request you’ve had from a customer?
It’s interesting for me to see the things that mean a lot to my clients and hear their story. You never know what’s behind someone’s smile – both good and heartbreaking. I think the “Iron Butt Association” logo was something funny someone wanted on their helmet!
Your typical Chicken vs. the Egg question: Which came first the bike or the helmet?
The helmet. I got such a great price on my white Arai helmet that I couldn’t NOT buy it, but once I put it on, I felt like a Star Wars “Storm Trooper”!! I knew I had to do something about THAT, so my son suggested I “Sharpie it”. Needless to say, I couldn’t sleep all night thinking about what I wanted to put on my helmet. In my mind, it was like a white canvas just crying out to become something interesting and different!!
How do you use Sharpie markers in your art?
I first have to scuff the surface of the helmet to more readily accept the marker, and make it easier for me to pre-sketch the important and complex images (the pencil shows up well). I love the feel of the marker sliding across the surface and how nice and black, and crisp it is against the white of the helmet, so I guess it’s kinda tactile too for me as well as visual!
Favorite Sharpie? Why?
Fine Point – definitely!! I love the pointy-ness (is that a word?!) of it. It kinda looks like it might make a thicker line than it actually does. It gives me great control both drawing, and filling in. When the point got a little “mashed down” to where it wasn’t pointy enough, I would take a blue sharpie and mark THAT marker with a blue dot so I knew that I was only to use that marker as “fill in”. When that marker got even more flattened, I would mark it with a pink marker, and use it as a larger area “fill in”, so I had quite the “marker system” going on! So even though I was working in black and white, it was also blue and pink I was looking for!
You incorporate some very famous characters, Daffy Duck & Homer Simpson, Stewie from Family Guy, C3PO… Is there a specific reason for these characters?
Their “smile” factor!!! For me… I AM Daffy Duck, and I put Daffy on ALL my stuff – he’s completely out of his mind!
The rest of them just make me smile and laugh, and what’s better than THAT? With all that’s going on to look at and read on my Ducati, I got really playful and thought it would be fun for people to look for a specific character, and who better to hide amongst all the madness, but Waldo? People get a kick out of trying to find him!
What are some of your favorite drawings or written sayings on the Ducati?
Stewie from Family Guy holding Sharpies in each hand saying… “Do you realize what the deuce you’re looking at? A MARKER I tell you!” has got to be my favorite drawing with text. So many are my favorites as they were chosen by me very carefully! They are personal, and tell the story of who I am. On the back of my front fender it says… “Being shot out of a cannon will always be better than being squeezed out of a tube” and I agree totally!
Proudest accomplishment to date:
I could say having my bike shown in Cycle World magazine, or being published with my paintings, but I really am proud and thankful of my gift of making people happy (while having fun myself ) doing what I truly love to do.
Motto to live by:
WHATEVER you do… make YOUR mark.
Are you currently working on anything that you can tell us about?!
I have orders for helmets and paintings, but I have a few ideas rolling around my head as how to out-do my bike, but it AIN’T GONNA BE EASY! (and YES, it DOES include just a few Sharpie markers!!)