Article By: Chad Lemme
Originally Published In The March 2012 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
With the previous year of our Lord, 2011 in the books, I find myself surprised to have avoided the stiff arm of the law yet again, despite its long reach and our seemingly constant interaction. This year’s decadence reflected my own, but I oneupped her with my destitution. I put on just over 35,000 miles, slept more nights in a tent than anywhere else, and when I wasn’t in my tent, I was either on Paul Wideman’s spare bed, sneaking into a campground ‘cause I couldn’t afford the fee, or if I was lucky, on a couch. I could carry all of my belongings. I lived on Spaghetti- Os. They only cost 79 cents a can if you buy ‘em by the case, and if I had a chance to warm them up, it was a luxury. And I couldn’t be happier. You might ask why someone would want to live this way, like one of nature’s scavengers; lonely and poor as a Pauper. But those few of us who understand this lifestyle are wealthy beyond our wildest dreams. We never work a day in our lives. Tyler Durden said, “It’s only when we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” Few possessions mean little to worry about, and this affords you plenty of time and space to enjoy life. Now, I’d like to tell you all about three people that I’m honored to call friends, their lifestyles, and their works. But I doubt that many of you have ever heard of them, and on the flip-side of that irony coin, I’d also bet that you’ve seen their work, frequently. These three unsung heroes are: George Frizzell, Darren Mckeag, and Jon Towle. These three guys live on the fringes of society, and they choose to strictly for the love of their work. It doesn’t pay well, being an artist, but it sure makes for a nice escape from reality for these guys, and they are genuinely fine with being monetarily poor if it means that w they get to create art. But to themselves, they are wealthy beyond imagination. And it brings a lot of things in to perspective as far as life is concerned.
George has been one of my idols for years, but for the longest time it was due to his literary work rather than his art and for even a longer time I knew him only as “George the Painter” in ink on pages. He has miles of words and knows how to fit them together perfectly which is rather difficult, I assure you. But he does it, and he shines as a voice of reason in this world gone mad. But his paintings are what seem to be unexplainably overlooked. The graphite and charcoal and a myriad of oil colors and canvas are hard to sell and he’s been riding this wild stallion right into frantic oblivion. His entire life devoted to it. But this guy has a sense of artistic expression that borders on wisdom married to insanity, or something of that sort. He is a master of making sense of things.
And living on the lower rung of society is no burden, because after you master this lifestyle, you gain a sense of appreciation and resourcefulness. Even the thought of going back to any sort of normal societal habits seems almost like you’re cheating. George paints because it makes him happy, as do Darren and Jon, but they each have their own style. They each enjoy a different facet of this anything but lavish industry, and George goes right for the jugular. His art will offend the masses and they’ll censor it until it’s almost nonexistent. But they’ll probably study it in college art classes later on in the future as the paradigm for expression of a grotesque life. His art and his lifestyle are today’s icon for the whitetrash degenerate and the American Mother F#@%er alike. But if you like offensive, stop by his site and give it a look. He sells the stuff for cheap. George stole a collegiate art education. No shit. He just went to the Art Institute of Philadelphia and befriended a security guard who made him a fake security pass and he attended all the necessary art classes. While mixing in with the freaks that paid for their education, he began the normal sixteen year drug and alcohol binge that we all must go through and simultaneously started to refine his own style which morphed into offensive paintings for like-minded dirt bags. And he’s leaving behind an artistic collection of profane and offensive experiences in his wake so that even after he’s six feet under this Terra Firma, he can continue to tell us all to F#@K OFF!
Darren: this guy is my long lost brother and I’d die for this man. His art is something completely different from George’s. Using human flesh as his main medium is nothing new by any means, but his style and his talent in creativity are rivaled by few. And he lives just the same, currently in a garage, although he once had a large home on a private lake with all the accommodations of a wealthy man, and carried the stress of that whole mess right along with it. Then, as most married men are accustomed to it seems today, he had it all taken away from him. His female took everything he had, and split.
But this rollercoaster ride of ups and downs and dangerous blood-alcohol levels has led him to find his ultimate happiness in a simple lifestyle which affords him the luxury of being able to produce art everyday, and he’s never been happier. The freedom to do what you want, when you want, and with nobody to answer to, allows Darren to create mind bending illustrations for custom motorcycle manufacturers like Twisted Choppers and Bare Knuckle Choppers and hopefully soon, this very publication you’re reading now. But keep your eyes peeled for it, ‘cause Darren said to me one time a while back, “I just want people to enjoy my art. I could die happy then.” Look for Slingin’ Ink in Grinnell, Iowa and if the wind is just right and it brings you his way, stop in and check out his amazing collection of drawings, pinstriping, paintings, and his ever-expanding bike collection, all nestled in the same room he eats, sleeps and parks in.
Now Jon has a different story as well. This guy is the epitome of underrated. I assure you that if you enjoy motor bikes and have ever picked up a motorcycle magazine of any type, chances are you’ve seen his work and you never even realized it. George said of Jon, “He doesn’t label his art so not many people know his name. But if it [his art] were gone from these magazines, people would miss it.” And he’s right. If you’re familiar with The Horse Backstreet Choppers, you’re familiar with their mascot, Charlie Horse. Jon is his creator as well as Nick the Dick at BikerNet.com. Both Jon and George currently work at The Horse and are loyal contributors to that magazine with no signs of stopping. And neither of them should; their art is this amazing expression of a whole culture that chooses to ride beneath the mundane nature of the American Dream. But Jon has had a rough go at life, and yet he carries with him this very humble attitude which I admire to say the least. Certain circumstances beyond anyone’s control have forced this man into poverty and even before this, other magazines had run him over and f@#ked him out of due recognition and money alike. Hell, one magazine, who I won’t name, is still using the logo he drew up for them shortly before they sent him down the river with no money and not even a good word in his favor. Yet this man keeps a positive attitude.
Respect is an understatement. But he doesn’t want recognition or fame and fortune of any type. However, the man can’t even afford a motorcycle, let alone a place to live. He still has all of his original art on hand, having never sold one piece of it, but is now willing to sell these things in the name of survival, and getting your hands on a one-of-a-kind Jon Towle original is now possible. Jon says that he aims to continue on down this path of flawlessly animated comedy not only for his own enjoyment, but for yours as well. I’m glad I got to know Jon and I’d love to share these eloquent words he spoke to me over the phone the last time we talked. “I draw because it brings me happiness. It’s not a job, it’s a passion. It doesn’t pay worth a shit, but that’s not why I do this. I don’t need much in life, and being a corporate slave would drive me insane. I’m a loner, so what I do for a so-called living, works out just fine because when I draw, I must be alone. Just like when I ride, I prefer to be alone. While drawing I can get into a zone. Almost like tunnel vision – nothing around me exists. I don’t hear you. I don’t see you. You’re not there. It’s almost like a drug to be in this zone. Depression, stress, anger…. These all get flushed down the toilet when I’m drawing.” But these guys realize and appreciate the notion that life is an adventure, and they intend to wring every last drop of dangerous enjoyment out of it, so they do what makes them truly happy. And I do the same, for that matter. But these guys want to share their art with the world and I wanted to put it right in front of your hairy and greasy faces to enjoy it just as much as I do. Now the smoke has cleared and the sun is working its way across the morning horizon, so I’m off to try my luck at some much needed sleep. I bid you all a farewell with the hopes that we can support these wildly talented humans and likewise hope that they continue to create for us.