Tales of a Traveling Airbrush

The saga of the life of a traveling troubadour with a pinstriping brush is ongoingly recorded and shared in essay form to an increasing audience via email. “Tales of a Traveling Airbrush” is a collection of stories and photographs about the interesting life that the artist Letterfly enjoys while creating a large body of work on a variety of surfaces, vehicles and situations in the three decades plus career so far.  Eventually in book form, the stories chronicle the life of the artist starting as a child in the Midwest, through his years drumming with the circus, performing with dancing horses, his youth as an apprentice to the sign lettering trade, the incidents that lead to his becoming the foremost motor home mural artist in the country and the creative accomplishments that continue today with the motorcycle crowd, the seminars and painting workshops he gives that inspire others. An ongoing e-newsletter provides glimpses of the content of the book on a regular basis. To be added to the email list, type your email address into the "Sign Up Today" form on the left, then hit "Join us now".
Click on the button to view an episode of "Tales".

“Hey Dave,” came the query,

“what’s the story behind the benches?”

Shiloh and I were standing in the parking lot at Peterson’s Harley-Davidson in Miami , during one of the few quiet moments of the weekend festivities. He was gazing at the purple seating I bring to every party I attend and he intuitively suspected there was an informative yarn waiting.

Shiloh and his partner Mark have the portable motorcycle lighting and high end accessory service known as “Boogie Lights.” Over the years of seeing and working with each other at bike events all over the country we have become fast friends. They appreciate the sense of genuine customer service and the happy demeanor in which Letterfly business is conducted. The attractive nature of the pinstriping booth with the variety of traditional brush painted, low brow and old school designs on display creates an atmosphere for the bikers to pause and contemplate many possibilities of unique artwork to set their bike apart from the rest.

As I reviewed all that has taken place in my colorful career to date, including the construction of this portable art gallery, the development of this lifestyle of travel across the country to be in service to this interesting culture and, among other things, bring this comfortable seating to the proximity of my guests, just as Shiloh calculated, a story began to gel in my mind.

Even though the pinstriping service is set up every weekend at a customer friendly motorcycle dealership somewhere, the advent of the bike show season begins with the granddaddy of all bike events at Daytona. This year at Bike Week Letterfly will set up with the “Boogie Lights” guys at the Diamondback Steak House in Holly Hill. Those of you who escape the great white north to enjoy some Florida sunshine need only keep a sharp lookout for the purple benches to find Letterfly conveniently located between Daytona and Ormond Beach in beautiful Holly Hill.

Boogie Lights and Letterfly combine to establish a “Creativity Central” headquarters for the bikers in search of high quality customization and camaraderie. Make sure to stop by and see the latest in gadgets and lighting for your bike, the painted images as they come to life, have the artist dream up an idea for your scoot or just hang out and have some fun amidst the excitement of the leather clad throngs at Bike Week in Daytona and, until we see you there, enjoy the story behind the purple benches.   

The Purple Benches

The love affair with my customers officially started twenty two years ago when, as the result of a happy accident, I found myself at a Dude Ranch turned Luxury RV Resort. At River Ranch, folksy entertainment was all around me. Hay rides, line dancing, folk singing, the old time rodeo and a country band at the saloon every Saturday night. Aircraft rallies at the landing strip, cruise night, bike night, motor home rallies and fishing tournaments filled the winter weekends. As the resident artist, I was on display as a curiosity for the throngs to see as I created wildlife murals, pastoral scenes and patriotic sentiments on motor homes and various other modes of transportation, applied my lettering skills to personalize the rigs, pinstriped delicate decorations on bikes, old school designs on hot rods, added graphic stripes to vehicles of all kinds, and painted portraits of “fi fi” and “fido” on camper entry doors.


Although my career, producing high quality painted works started in the early seventies, the shy, freshly brokenhearted and introverted sign painter from Michigan stepped into the expanded position of entertainer with a brush a decade later. It was this role that assisted accumulating an incredible reputation in the RV industry. As I grew comfortable in the limelight, my demeanor developed onto the boyish funster of today. My presence at River Ranch lasted eight winter seasons when another situation presented itself. Little did I know that at that time, the founder of Lazydays had a vision of creating the “Disney World” of RV dealerships and having every conceivable amenity on the property would create an unrivaled one-stop RV shopping experience and a unique destination for RVers. As the result, I received a call and was invited to bring my special gift to phase one of their new facility and settle in as their artist.

            In what seemed to be just a moment, I was transported into a park like setting and given the prettiest place on the property, for my studio. The beautifully landscaped site was adjacent to concrete pathways that lead to various parking lots filled with new motor homes and the area around me was filled with park benches. I especially enjoyed the benches. They quietly conveyed the message of the foundation that this company was built upon: a sincere regard for the customer. The comfortable seating became a favorite place for the guests after having lunch at the cafeteria, while waiting for service to be performed on their coach, or for just plain killing time while they walked the dog, got some rest after kicking tires, or sought a peaceful retreat in the shade of the trees, or were just plain curious about what Letterfly was doing now.

            The lovely studio setting under the quaint Spanish moss draped boughs of the ancient oak hammock at the largest RV dealership in the country was a wonderful “think tank” for artistic creativity, a source of gratitude and a haven for curious couples to relax, enjoy the camaraderie, validate the decisions my patrons had made to get a mural, ask questions about commissioning artwork of their very own and watch the process underway as mural after mural was airbrushed for what seemed to be an endless stream of couples that resembled Ma & Pa USA and their countless motor homes. I was living a dream.

            I was complimented to be on board at this place especially because the founder knew that his success came from a momentum of happy customers. He dedicated this company to outstanding service to the patrons and to promote the right principles, he personally taught a class once a week to empower every employee with the strategies, ethics and common sense that would encourage the right decisions that would produce outstanding service to the guests which in turn would create dedication all around. This philosophy combined with my happy way of going as an entertainer and catapulted me into the functional realm of service to my patrons that I enjoy today.

Everything changed at the mighty dealership when, at the peak of the motor home buying frenzy, the owner sold the company to an investment group on Wall Street. The ideals that built the success of the company began to erode. One by one, the park benches rotted and were never replaced. The economy took a dump and RV sales stalled, forcing massive layoffs and industry related manufacturing companies to close. Thank goodness that the building boom of brand new Harley-Davidson stores had provided an opportunity for my mural making service to fill another niche. As interior murals began to fill the halls and walls of this unique retail environment all over the country, I found an audience that wanted pinstriping on motorcycles and I began to attend the popular events that the bikers frequented. The friendly demeanor that had developed over the years and the philosophy of dedication to customer service accompanied me into this new echelon.

At a show business product convention I saw them for the first time - plastic end pieces that had receptors for two by fours that, when added, would make them into sturdy park benches. I bought two sets, both purple. Soon I had painted up some two by fours and assembled my park benches. The purple seating was included at every bike event and at customer dedicated Harley stores where my guests enjoyed the creative brush painting  service that now filled the void left from the dried-up RV genre. Interestingly, many of my biker customers were the same ones that I had airbrushed a mural for when they had a motor home.


Everywhere that Letterfly went the purple benches were a big hit. After all, bikers need a place to put their stuff while they are getting some artwork, and a place to relax after the long trip, and the benches encourage a great place to congregate to watch the pinstripe design process or a traditional hand painted image come to life. The real reason  for the benches is to convey the message of regard and dedication to my guests that I learned years ago. Alas the original park benches proved to be too bulky for transport in the back of the toy hauler so I began to seek an alternative. After much deliberation, research and some inspiration, now twice as many folding versions of the “bench-o-matic” are complete and painted purple with reflective lettering that says “Letterfly” so when you get to Daytona, look for the purple benches.

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