Motorcycle Art, by Ken "Sparky" MacKenzie

Bio of The Artist (as he would like it to be written...);

Sparky was born in the Scottish Highlands near the birthplace of that great Protector of Scotland, William Wallace (Braveheart). Although the exact location and actual date of his birth appears to be somewhat in question, church records and ship manifests appear to place the approximate timing in the early part of the 20th century.

His love of art and travel was formed very early when as a youth he ran away from the orphanage and made his way to the left bank in Paris where he lived the life of the bohemian artist. It was here living in the bars such as the Moulin Rouge at the foot of Montmartre were he was eventually taken under the wing of some of the women from the chorus line that Sparky began sketching some of the patrons of these public houses and bars. Included in those whom he often saw and became friendly with were Toulouse Lautrec and later Marc Chagall. The generosity of his newfound friends helped him to buy paints and brushes and even save some money on the side.

At this point in time Sparky had two burning desires; he wanted to travel and he wanted to get to North America. The desire to get to "the new world" was in part fuelled by the new music he had heard lately in the bars and bistros, something called "the blues". The way to travel or what mode of conveyance to employ was answered one day when he saw the participants in the newly organized "Paris to Peking" race were being readied to leave on their epic adventure. One of these adventurers was on something very seldom seen; a motorcycle. It was in fact a Brough Superior. The operator rumored to be none other than Lawrence of Arabia! In any event shortly thereafter Sparky was off on his own new motorcycle to see for himself those exotic faraway places! Sparky continues to travel to this day by motorcycle and his paintings reflect the many places he and his wife have traveled to and often contain a reference to his first love; that of motorcycle touring.

The Art;

The medium is pastels. The style I call realistic-impressionism. The lines encasing the colour are a "cloissone" style. The prints are numbered and signed by the artist. Final size is 18" X 24" (image area slightly smaller). Outputting is done on a 53 lb presentation bond via a 6 colour HP 5000 Inkjet Printer. This emerging method of fine art reproduction is accepted by art galleries universally and is called "giclee"; from the French words "nozzle" and "to spray". Price is CDN$40 each (approximately US$30.30 as of Oct 10 2003) plus shipping and handling. To purchase any of these prints, contact the artist via e-mail:

The Titles;

Two Miles West;

Click for a large version.

It gets hot out on the open road here in western Montana; there’s a place, lets pull in up ahead. A schoolhouse operational for 95 yrs is now a café. Cowboys and riders always eat a big meal since they don’t know when the next one will be in front of them. With the motor off you realize how quiet it is out here. The only sound is the whispering wind. The various forms of transportation seem to stare back at you from under an endless blue sky. Their shapes and materials testimonials to the function demanded by the technology of a bygone era. It’s after lunch now. Maybe I’ll confirm directions with a stranger until Joanne has finished up inside.

La Playa Baja;

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It's been a 5,000 kilometre ride over 8 days to get here and man its hot! The Sea of Cortez is warm as bath water and that fabulous shade you associate with travel brochures and billboards you see in mid February. The air is so warm it feels like the sky is on fire…..the sun a blowtorch. Interesting how shadows are almost black under this summer sky. People are camping on the beach and relaxing by their tents until its time to take a walk on the boardwalk and stop for a copa de vino or fire up the dune buggy for another run out in the dunes. I love Mexico; just la playa and laguna. Joanne continues to find items of interest under the shade of the beach sellers tents; amazing!

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Somewhere on the PCH;

Somewhere on the Pacific Coast Highway - click for a larger image!

High on the "to do" list, at least on mine was to ride the Pacific Coast Highway. I’ve dreamed of riding this endless twisting piece of blacktop for years. I think we’re near Carmel CA now... not that it matters, this is a great place to pull over for a few minutes. The tires moving from a hard to soft sand surface create a different sensation for rider and passenger. Once dismounted we face the Pacific and take the salt air full on. Even under this grey sky with clouds scudding by overhead; the waves crashing into the rocks below have enough light to reveal a depth and variety of colour I had not taken the time to notice before. Or maybe its just that we have to be in a certain physical setting and state of mind to observe that which has always been there. The rocks and sand were creating the same effect as their subtle shades of mauve and ochre were revealed to me. The Torrey pine trees act as silent sentinels pointing the direction the wind must follow.

Calle San Miguel;

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Set in Torremolinos on Spain’s Costs Del Sol this pedestrian only street is rich in both architecture and artistic detail. From the ornate street lamps to the highly detailed ceramic number plates marking each house the artisans involvement is visible everywhere. Our curiosity takes us around the corner of the church only to be greeted with a beautifully tiled street! The white tiles appearing like a canvas broken by the red patterned bricks set down like permanent tire tracks. "Bending" the perspective for me at least increases the interest in the scene. And the scooters, usually darting about like frenzied birds, are here at rest. Finally.


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The 25th running of the Paris Dakar Rally. We are finally here seeing it live! The excitement has been building all day. The television crews are set up in the street ready to interview the top riders including last year’s winner Meoni from Italy. At last they are all here; the bikes, cars and trucks. There’s Shawn Price # 041 the ex-pat Canadian on stage being interviewed. The riders in their lightweight armour appearing like gladiators on steel steeds, forsaking heraldic crests for brightly colored corporate logos. Motors are revving as an incentive to the reporters to end the interview and let the adventure continue. Tonight they will bivouac here and cross the Mediterranean to Tunisia tomorrow. Sadly we turn to leave; in my private thoughts I am wishing I were able to join them.

La Rabita;

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We all know how easy it is to stay on the main road to "make time" but that’s not where the areas of interest are. Sometimes we have to turn off away from Le Carreterra for no reason. If we did not travel then we would miss those everyday scenes of people going about their business and dogs barking. If you took away the SUV’s present everywhere you would be hard pressed to pick the decade you were in.

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Only a few short hours by ferry from Spain but it might as well be light years away; Morocco is everything you could imagine; A timeless street scene of a snake charmer is about to get underway. We were told the snakes lose their venom after being in captivity; it’s a story the truth of which I’m not about to test. The fortress walls remind me of the many invaders the cities residents would have seen over the centuries. The modern SUV’s in bright colours make a stark backdrop behind the men, most of whom are wearing the traditional jallaba.

Then and Now;

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I have left the hotel in Torremolinos for an early morning walk. Turning right at the Burger King I find a privately owned café and sit down to enjoy what has become a daily pleasure; coffee con leche. Half steamed milk and half coffee. It's delicious. Some time later I am retracing my steps, and as I round the corner these two magnificent buildings are directly in front of me. Side by side yet. The contrast is remarkable! The stainless steel and poured concrete of the apartment block appear as a poor stepchild beside the marble and stained glass of it's neighbour. The contrasting details are everywhere; lines and shapes, materials and colors. I attempt to discover from a passerby in my inadequate Spanish the origins of the older building, but it is not to be. Perfect. It will be up to the viewer to create a history.

Las Palomas;

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We have just arrived at "The Doves" hotel here in Spain on the Costa del Sol. I am taking in the view from the balcony. Trying to absorb and retain everything. The sun, the sky that appears to have colors unique to this part of the world only. Christmas decorations are up in the form of shooting stars contained in a wire design and filled with red and green lights. The sidewalk is made up of white tiles with a number of black tiles overlaid in a variety of intricate designs. Having recently left a cold climate the scents and colours and warmth are especially welcome. The omnipresent scooters are everywhere. I pass the time studying the letters on the plates of all the vehicles trying to match the letter to a nearby city. Tomorrow begins the adventure!

Love the artwork? Want one?

Price is only CDN$40 each (approximately US$30.30 as of Oct 10 2003) plus shipping and handling. To purchase any of these prints, contact the artist via e-mail:


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