Meet the Artist Behind the 5th Annual MFF Poster: Darren McKeag

August 4, 2017

Q: Please tell us what your inspiration was behind this year’s Motorcycle Film Festival Poster.
A: My brain is always thinking about art, motorbike art and what I can create. When asked to do the poster, I instantly had ideas, but needed to know which direction the MFF wanted to go. My inspiration comes from the years of filing ideas in my head, motorbike parts and what makes them work. Then combining the mechanics of motorbikes, the MFF and anything culturally related to both…

Q: What are your earliest memories of motorcycles? How does your passion for Motorcycles influence your artwork?
A: My earliest memories are when I was maybe 5 years of age (1972), maybe earlier. My Dad would set me on the tank of his 1965 Panhead and we would go for a ride. Eventually he added a sidecar to the bike and I found myself growing up in this. As a kid, I spent time on the neighbor’s minibikes, dirt bikes and three-wheelers. At a very early age, the art of David Mann affected me profoundly and my life has been influenced by art and motorbikes ever since.

Q: Walk us through a typical day.
A: My day usually starts between 5 and 6 a.m. I do my morning chores of opening up the house, making coffee, tending to our bulldog Royce’s needs, watering the garden, etc. I move to our dining room table, which is and has always been my drawing table. It is completely covered with pens, pencils, paper, tracing paper, light table, etc… I usually create one or two morning sketches, dedicated to the world of motorbikes and or hot rods. By the time the hour of 8 a.m., I spend some time with my wife, visiting, discussing the day and having more coffee. From here, I will move to my paint studio downstairs and work on current projects until about 10 a.m. I then head into my tattoo studio, where I tattoo from usually 11 am until 5 pm. I then return home, where I spend more time with my wife, before returning to my basement studio to paint. I typically surface from the basement around 10 pm, where I try to knock out another pencil sketch for the day. Depending on the day, I try to close my eyes around the midnight our. Sometimes earlier, sometimes later.

Q: What would you say your “style” of art is?
A: If I had to label my style of art, I would say it is a warped perspective of traditional art, based on perspective, culture and history.

Q: What is your personal favorite motorcycle film? Why?
A: Oh that’s so not a fair question…ha-ha…I like several movies for several reasons. “The Wild Angels” for wanting their freedom to ride their machine. “The Rebel Rousers” for the culture and style, “Every which way but Loose” and “Any which way you Can” for the vintage bikes of The Black Widows and for how goofy they were, to “Beyond the Law”, “The Babysitter” and many more for little detailed reasons.

Q: Tell us about your bikes, and which one is your favorite?
A: I. Have several motorbikes. All of them are Harley based. Choppers, bobbers, flat track racers and stock. I’ve been collecting original parts for my 1950 panhead for about 3 years. I share a stock 1967 Harley with my Dad. It’s most likely my favorite, as that is the year I was born and I bought that for him as a Father’s Day gift a few years back, the year he turned 67.

Q: What’s your favorite annual motorcycle event?
A: I enjoy Sturgis, simply for the fact that my wife and I get to see friends from all over the globe that we haven’t seen in a year’s time. That being said, the smaller motorcycle events are probably my favorite, as they are tucked away in beautiful little spot all over the globe, that know one knows about. After many years, that event gets bigger, too many people show up and we focus on another small event that is just coming up.

Q: What inspires you and keeps you creating?
A: My brain is always thinking, even when I sleep, I am memorizing ideas that I want to create. My wife inspires me and is the reason I keep pushing myself everyday to become a better artist and person.

Q: Do you have a favorite quote about motorcycles or riding?
A: “We just want to be free, free to ride our machines and not be hassled by the man.”

Q: Words you live by?
A: “Stay True”

Q: What’s to come for Darren McKeag?
A: Hopefully, accepting bigger art projects for more people, while navigating the globe with my wife Missy.


Meet the Artist Behind the 2016 Poster: Rachel Wolfson Smith

May 30, 2016

original-mff_poster_ny

Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind this year’s Motorcycle Film Festival poster. Where did you begin and where did this piece take you?

Paul d’Orleans and I met at the Handbuilt Motorcycle Show in Austin. He saw my drawing in the Oil & Ink traveling print show there, and he and Corinna Mantlo contacted me because they wanted something a little different for this year’s poster.

One of the trademarks in my artwork is how I blend different imagery and themes together. For the poster I wanted to counterbalance the serious imagery of the crashing vintage bikes with a fabulously swirly font. I do a lot of gold-leafing in my smaller drawings and incorporating it into the poster was a fun way to keep things from getting too serious. The gold is inspired by Renaissance icon paintings, but I love that it has a bit of a 70’s vibe going on.

Any hidden meanings or tip of the hat mentions that we might have missed in the poster?

Of course! I’m working on reinterpreting and modernizing old myths in my drawings and was thinking about the story of Icarus getting too close to the sun when I drew the bikes falling from the sky.

The texts at the bottom were inspired by some set typed lettering I saw during a studio tour here in Austin. I wanted to use a font that was classic with an edge; something that felt masculine and feminine at the same time. I landed on the beautiful Jefferson Gothic font which is bold but has these odd little details, and I drew it out by hand so it would blend with the drawn bikes in the poster.

What are your earliest memories of motorcycles? How does your love of this pastime inform your drawings and paintings?

I actually didn’t have a motorcycle until I was in my 20’s, but I grew up on a horse farm and practiced stunts and did a lot of trail riding on my horse as a kid. From the time I got my license, driving was my passion but since I couldn’t afford my dream car I worked overtime and bought a bike instead. Riding the bike felt really natural because when I’m balancing and standing on the pegs on the trails it feels like riding a horse.

In college I studied landscape painting and unsurprisingly gravitated to scenes with cars in them. As time went on I realized the landscape wasn’t as interesting to me as the vehicles were so I sharpened my focus. Cars are blocky though, and using them made it difficult to compose the paintings the way I wanted.

Since I’d always been really impressed by big Renaissance battle paintings I wondered if I could recreate their grand, epic qualities in my artwork. I started playing around, making weird drawings of dirt bikes flying through the air to mimic the angel babies that activated the top portion of those paintings. Before long I was subbing in motorcycles for horses too. I absolutely fell in love with it, especially since the flying bikes are logical but they also crack me up.

Painting, for now, has fallen to the wayside. Using pencil lets me mash together a bunch of different colorful content and make it look subdued and somewhat regal. Plus, I can make drawings that are absolutely huge and move things in the drawings around without waiting for anything to dry.

What’s a day in the studio or off the track like? Please share your process with us.

I’m a slow riser. In the morning I make coffee, reply to emails, plan my drawings, work out, and make lunch. Then when I get to the studio I dive in. I’m working on a lot of different projects right now, which is great because I like to bounce around. I’ll work on a gigantic drawing for a while, and when I get stuck or bored with it I’ll switch gears and work on a tiny intricate gold-leaf drawing or a commission. It’s my balance through extremes. I usually work right up until bedtime.

In addition to the Renaissance, what periods of art history inform your work?

I looked at a lot of artists when I was an undergrad like Antonio Lopez Garcia, Balthus, Paolo Uccello, Edwin Dickenson, and Mark Bradford, but now I’m more inspired by nonart stuff. Cinema and mythology, especially Native American, are big players for me. A lot of my drawings are meant to feel like film stills; freeze-framing action, or giving the viewer the eerie feeling that something just happened or is about to. I also read a lot of mythologist Joseph Campbell’s books, most recently The Hero with 1000 Faces. It basically lays out the formula for hero myths, which is finding its way into my drawings.

Favorite motorcycle film?

There are certainly a lot of great lesser known films, but the original Mad Max has been my favorite for a long time because of the way George Miller combined fear, adrenalin, pageantry and an insane amount of creativity into such a tiny budget. Miller is from Australia where “the dreaming” is an important cultural mythology, and it’s rampant in his films. While I was researching hero myths I watched Mad Max several times to see how he adapted the structure, and it’s amazing how much it conforms to the hero myth framework.

Most memorable bike you’ve ever seen?

Call it love at first sight, but the first bike that first caused me to rubber neck was a BMW F600 Dakar edition with the blue, white, and red flag painted on the gas tank. I don’t have one (yet) but when I bought my bike I was inspired by the Dakar and got a dualsport. Two years ago I had a layover in Dakar and felt like in a small way I’d scratched something off of the bucket list.

Favorite annual moto event?

The Handbuilt Motorcycle Show in Austin is my favorite, but I’m so excited to head up to NY for the Motorcycle Film Festival this September! I’m thinking it might be a tie.

What inspires you? What keeps you creating?

When I started drawing motorcycles I never dreamt that it would lead me into a network of so many great people, and that there would so much to learn about different motorcycle subcultures. Always learning new things, staying just outside of my comfort zone, and being able to use art to connect with others keeps me creating and makes being an artist the best job ever.

Favorite quote about motorcycles or riding?

When I was getting my M license one of the first things the instructor said was “When you think you have nothing more to learn, get off of your bike and walk away”. I’m drawn to things that can’t be completely mastered. With riding there’s always a touch of fear and respect involved because of all of the unknown variables. I like that there’s an intense focus about riding that I often gets lost in other parts of our lives.

Words you live by?

“Practice and all is coming”
-Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

It’s a yogi quote that implies that the end result isn’t the goal. If you’re able to be present in the moment you’re already there.

What’s to come from Rachel Wolfson Smith?

I have a big solo show coming up in Austin that opens July 22 where I’ll unveil my largest pencil drawing to date at 10’ x 21’, and several new 8’ drawings. It’ll be a crazy show, and it’s hosted at a great gallery here called Gray Duck. I also have a bunch of interesting side projects and commissions keeping me busy that I’ll be sharing on Instagram over the next few weeks.

The best way to keep up with me is through Instagram via: @wolfsonsmith

Any MFF exclusive you’d like to share with us? Something that people don’t know about you, your work, or your process?

It may sound silly, but I love listening to rap music when I draw and my dream is for one of my giant drawings to hang in Ludacris’ house.


TAKE THE ROAD IN MILAN WITH THE MFF AND METZELER!

November 6, 2015

 

We are thrilled to announce that the Motorcycle Film Festival will be heading to Milan in just a few short days with our partners from Rodaggio Film and Metzeler to host a 48 Motorcycle Travel Film Marathon entitled TAKE THE ROAD at the Deus Ex Machina Motorcycles Deus Leica Theater for Eicma! 

We kick off on the evening of Nov. 16th and don’t stop screening until the evening of the 18th! All screenings are free and first come first serve!

To get you even more stoked for the next round, we’re thrilled to share our 3rd Annual New York Festival recap created by Drury Design & Drury Creative Labs with you as well!

To get you even more stoked for the next round, we’re thrilled to share our 3rd Annual New York Festival recap with you!


Visiting with Greg Villalobos

September 21, 2015
Greg Villalobos' short documentary

Greg Villalobos’ short documentary “The Coast to Coast Relay” screens on Thursday, Sept 24 at 1:30pm.

Last year “The Green Lane Relay” showed in the MFF, and this year you have “The Coast to Coast Relay”. Both of these document some pretty grueling off road rides. Can you tell us what attracts you to this type of motorcycling?
Motorbikes mean different things to different people. For some it’s about the speed, for others the individuality of customisation. For me I like the physical challenge and adventure. Riding Green Roads (which technically speaking in the UK are not actually ‘off road’ they are unsurfaced roads), gets you out to some of the most inspiring and remote locations in the country across terrain that you wouldn’t really believe a vehicle has the ability to cross. You get hot, sweaty, fall off, stuck in mud, drowned in rivers – huge adventures that you would imagine you need to go to the most remote parts of the world to enjoy, but it’s right here on your doorstep! I get to have a ‘micro adventure’ every time I take the bike out. And of course there is the sense of community and camaraderie that comes with it. There’s not many other pursuits where your mates will happily jump off their bikes and wade waist high into a river to help you out!

Can you tell us about your filming technique? You’re really right in middle of the action, how do you capture all this with all the unknowns?
Well, there’s two aspects really. There’s the technical stuff and then the storytelling aspect. A good film really needs a story, so that’s where I mostly start – what’s the story? In this case it’s a simple cross country ride on inappropriate vehicles. A great starting point.
I’ll have a rough outline of what I want to capture before I leave, sort of a mental storyboard, some key shots that will link everything together. For example, shots that show the bikes travelling from left to right across the screen so you get the idea of moving from point A to point B, a recurring theme that also shows the landscape changing.
For this trip I used a GoPro and a DLSR. I was going to take more fuel with me but that got ditched in favour of the big DSLR, we were travelling light! I’m a big fan of making stuff rather than buying it so I built custom GoPro mounts, the most effective of which was a simple one that allowed me to hold the camera in my mouth. A really quick and easy way of getting that POV shot that meant I could literally just grab it and shove it in at short notice. I also just used elastic bands to attach the camera to the chest strap on my rucksack.
As far as the unknowns go, well sure stuff happens that you don’t get to film. But I would rather be tight on the filming and have a manageable amount of material to edit than simply hit record and film everything – 3 days for footage, what a nightmare! And of course, with this kind of trip, there was a lot of action so you are guaranteed to get some of it on camera. 

What do you find to be the more difficult aspects of filmmaking?
The biggest challenge is actually just enjoying the ride. When you are making a film as you go, you’re mind is always on, like you are stitching your mental storyboard together as you go. ‘What would that shot look like?’ ‘Have I got something to link this bit with that bit?’ ‘Was I wearing my rucksack in that shot?’
So there’s a certain irony that for this kind of film, the most enjoyable ride would be the one that you leave the camera at home for! But that doesn’t make good TV does it…

What about relay riding? In your film last year you mentioned that the UK is losing its green lanes. Has there been any development in the difficulty of finding places to ride?
The trail riding community in the UK is constantly in ‘battle’ with authorities who are trying to reduce vehicular rights to the countryside. I am part of the Trail Riders Fellowship (TRF) the national organisation that exists to conserve Green Roads and make sure that we can ride now and into the future. This year I was part of a campaign to raise funds to take a local council to court and force them to re-open a green lane that we believe was unfairly closed. We managed to raise over £13,000 in a month. As you might expect, I also made a little film to help convince people to donate – Green Running: https://vimeo.com/135569089
Land access is a complicated and emotional issue, and both sides of the argument have valid points. But at the end of the day the countryside is for everyone and if all users show respect for each other then there must be a way forwards. If you are interested take a look at the TRF website/online magazine – which incidentally I am editor of : )

What have you been riding and where? What have you been up to in the interim year?
Well, not long after The Coast To Coast Trial I became a dad so my riding has been somewhat clipped short of late. I still get out on the KTM 450 once a month but I also bought a project bike to work on at home. Cover your ears, it’s a road bike! A Honda Bros 400 which I’m slowly chopping up and customising. I have no idea what I am doing but it’s fun.
I have also picked up a mountain bike so expect next years film to include some human powered propulsion. 

A custom roadbike! That’s a shift from what we’ve seen from you. That’ll be exciting. What’s in the pipeline?
Raising a tiny human being is the big project at the moment. Juno is only 4 months old but I’m hoping that surrounding her with mud, oil, carburettors and knobbly tyres will give her the best start in life.
There’s a few of us who have become Dad’s recently so I’m thinking there’s ingredients for a motofilm adventure there somewhere. I guess you will have to wait till next years festival to find out. 

Are you coming to NYC this year? If not, we’ll have to try to work something out for us to come to you!
As you may have guessed, the party will have to go on without me this time. I had a blast in 2014 so I’m sure that you guys will be bigger and better this year. Well done to all the film makers who made it, it’s great to be part of the MFF family with you all. 

Thanks Greg and we certainly look forward to your submission next year. Until then congrats with fatherhood!

Individual screening ticket available here HERE
Included with VIP Passes available HERE



A Parley with Paolo Asuncion

September 18, 2015
Paolo Asuncion at the Dirtbag Challenge

Paolo Asuncion at the Dirtbag Challenge

Last year “Dirtbag” screened in the MFF, and this year we have “Dirtbag 2: Return of the Rattler.” These films document builds for the Dirtbag Challenge, to build a bike in a month for under $1,000. After filming other teams, your sequel documents your own team’s build. What were some of the challenges you encountered both in the build and in filming yourself?
Because we decided to join the contest a week after the “go” date had already been announced, we got a late start. We only had three weeks to build a chopper, and since all of us had full time jobs and families, that meant three weekends and the odd weeknight here and there. All in all, we built a chopper in eight days. With no experience. As such, as we were building, it was a heads down type of thing, where we were completely focused on the build itself. In the beginning of the shoot, I was both building and directing my camera operator. On the nights that I was building alone, I took the time to set up the camera and shoot from different angles. That changed around day three as I realized how complicated the build process was and how unprepared we were. There was so much I did not consider when we decided to join the contest. Wiring. Gussets. Bungs. Where to mount the fender. Spacers. Every 10-minute task stretched out to an hour, and then we would discover something else we had not thought about after that. Camera direction and placement became secondary – you can see this in the movie: there are entire sequences where the camera doesn’t move. For the most part, I picked my battles, focused on the bike and hoped that Phil (my cameraman) gave me enough coverage.

Can you tell us about your filming technique? You’re right in middle of the build and filming, how do you manage to be on both sides of the lens?
I’m not. For most of the build, I was in front of the lens, checking in with my cameraman from time to time. When we were done with the build, I went and filmed the other builders and all the interviews of my own team, as well as the finale. That was when I could flex my muscles so to speak. At that point the contest was done and my only deadline was the MFF submission date. I mean the short answer is there is no technique. When it comes to shooting, I just try to gather as much footage as I can. It’s in editing that I feel most at home and have the most fun.

What do you find to be the more difficult aspects of filmmaking?
Knowing when you’re finished and keeping in mind who you are making this for. I ended up with over 90 hours of footage that had to be distilled and whittled down to an hour. That’s hard to do when you are in love with most of the images. Same goes for the music. I wrote the score, and while recording it I found myself adding more layers and rerecording drum parts or perfecting that one certain guitar riff. I had to keep reminding myself of the finished product. I usually start these projects with a clear vision of the final in mind and I plow ahead ’till I get there, adjusting along the way when there are elements I cannot control. But for the most part, it’s a complete movie in my head before I begin. If I start thinking about how to market it, or who the audience is, or what someone will think of the bass line…then it gets muddy. At the end, I make these movies for me and my friends. If it makes us laugh, it’s in. If I’m being honest with what I’m saying, it’s in.

Maybe I’m not doing it right because, apart from matching everyone’s schedules, I don’t find any of this difficult at all. This is fun! I mean in “Dirtbag 2,” I got to hang out with my best buds; I got to build and ride a bike; I got to edit and film; I got to write and play music; I got to USE music from my band and from my friend’s band (he’s in the movie also); my 4-year-old daughter even makes a cameo in it…basically everything I love in life is in that movie. It would be ungrateful of me to consider any of this ‘difficult’.

Meeting the Dirtbag Challenge with 'The Rattler' in

Meeting the Dirtbag Challenge with ‘The Rattler’ in “Dirtbag 2: Return of the Rattler”

One year you filmed, then you built and filmed. What’s next?!
There are a couple things in the works.

Filming “Dirtbag 2” and building a bike made my friends I want to get our own shared garage space. We did and every time we hang out it’s always a good time. So we’ve decided to just film what happens as it’s happening and make a web series out of it.

Another project that is the third installment in the “Dirtbag” trilogy – the founder and some of the builders have been wanting to take their home built choppers on a cross country trip via the Trans America Trail (maybe even down to South America) to prove that one does not need an expensive adventure bike to have an adventure. It’s an homage to “Cycles South” in a couple ways: this is how it used to be done as far as both riding and filming. The challenge is finding the time to do this.

I’ve also been wanting to get away from the documentary format and try a more narrative approach to the same subject matter, so I’m currently in the storyboard stages of developing a music video about what it is that connects us to these machines and how we give them their souls.

What have you been riding and where?
I’ve a couple bikes, but my favorite one is the DL1000. I use it to commute to work because after splitting lanes for 50 miles, you get to work wide fucking awake. The last long ride I took was a 900-mile weekend jaunt to Highway 36 in Northern California – THE best roads around here.

What have you been up to in the interim year?
Workin’ my 9 to 5 as a graphic designer for a video game company, wrenching when I can, and getting away with my family whenever I can. Speaking of family, there is one reason I like to present these films in public. At the beginning of our films, you see a quick montage of a certain person that fades and becomes a logo that says “Vargas Films.” My dad was an actor in the Philippines, and his screen name was “Vic Vargas.” I grew up on movie sets but I never really caught the film bug until after he passed away 10 years ago. Getting our films screened in theaters is my way of putting his image and his name up on a big screen again. It’s an homage and a thank you, and a way of making him live forever.

Vic Vargas, the patronym of Asuncion's Vargas Films

Vic Vargas, the patronym of Asuncion’s Vargas Films

Last year you and a number of people in “Dirtbag,” including Turk and Poll Brown (who appears in “Dirtbag 2”), attended the screenings. Will we be seeing you this year?
Almost everyone you see in “Dirtbag 2” will be at the MFF – except Luis who has a 6-month-old baby boy. A few other people from all over are also coming out to support us and the MFF.

“Dirtbag 2: Return of the Rattler” screens on Thursday, Sept. 24 at 7pm
Buy Tickets HERE
Included for VIP Pass holders. Buy yours HERE