Stories From Sturgis: Part I
As thousands make the legendary pilgrimage to Sturgis, South Dakota each year for the world’s largest motorcycle rally, there are those who will stay the night then clean up the nearly two-week long party and do it all over again next year. One of these people in particular, is Jonathan Brock, the owner of Pinstriping By Brock.
The 63-year-old Denver Colorado native attended the 2022 Sturgis Rally, with this year’s event marking over 40 years in the pinstriping business. He got his start at the age of 12, when helping out in his father’s shop.
“My dad was in the sign business growing up, and I was always artistic even as a kid,” Brock said. “As early as 12-years-old, I was doing sign painting in my dad’s shop.”
Nowadays, you can get a sign printed in a matter of hours, thanks to all the new tech and printers we have now. However, when Brock first started out in this profession, everything was done custom and by hand.
Before the arrival of computerized vinyl printing in the 1980s, there was one main form of making signs and lettering—and that was by hand painting. This skill, is what Brock said is becoming a “forgotten craft,” by which, he would be correct.
Pinstriping is one of the pioneering practices to what we now know as 'Kustom Kulture'—a term used to describe the customization of hot-rods, bikes and more that was popularized in the 1950s. For as long as people have owned cars, motorcycles and any other vehicle, there has always been a need to customize them.
The craft is a form of decorative painting where thin, horizontal lines are painted on a vehicle. The lines are usually of a single color, but can be multiple colors, and is often used to accentuate the lines of a vehicle, or to add a personal touch.
With thousands of bikes, trikes and choppers riding through the small town, there is no better place to find business than the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
“This is the greatest party on Earth,” Brock said. “It [Sturgis Motorcycle Rally] is a phenomenon; It’s one of those weird wonders of the world, where everybody just shows up and leaves all at once.”
The event’s 82nd anniversary saw nearly 500,000 motorcycle enthusiasts in attendance.
“The motorcycle gig has really taken off since I started doing the rally’s,” he said. “I thought I’d do the Sturgis and actually brought the property there.”
With an arguably steadier hand than a surgeon, pinstriping and sign-writing artists are a dying breed. Brock is one of the few many that can still wield a brush and bated breath. He sees hundreds of cars, motorcycles and other vehicles each year, with each person coming to his doors to get hand-drawn customized pinstriping.
Because pinstriping is such a tedious task, that requires years of practice, professionalism and an eye for detail, for many companies, it is just easier to print. However, if you want the real deal, people like Jonathan Brock will give it to you.
His custom work ranges from an entire wraparound pinstriping, to just a small section on a gas tank, to pinstriping airplanes. You can get work done from him with rates ranging from just $150 to $750 and beyond. Part of what you’re paying for, is his years of experience.
“Back in the day there were sign painters in sign shops, and I was able to learn from some of the best sign painters in the business,” he said.
“I’ve been blessed to do pinstriping, it’s been a good gig for me. “If I didn’t do pinstriping, I would be a bush pilot in Alaska.”
Despite his other hobbies, such as flying, there is no other job Brock would rather be doing. His craft is sacred and practiced by few. He’s one of the last greats left, and his hand has painted thousands of cars, motorcycles, boats and more in his lifetime.
One of the greatest things Brock enjoys about his work, besides getting to work on beautiful bikes and experience new parts of the country, is creating connections with all the people he meets.
“A lot of it is the people I meet. I meet some of the nicest people. There’s no mean people who want pinstriping, you know?” he said.
For Brock, it was natural for him to grow into his job as a pinstriper. He grew up surrounded by the biker lifestyle in his father’s shop and other jobs he picked up as a young man, and feels blessed to be able to get to do what he does. For him, pinstriping isn’t just a business, but a way of life.
“I’ve always liked the riding, the biking and the whole image,” said the 63-year-old. “I grew up with it, it’s kind of a lifestyle. Once you get it in your blood, you just keep doing it. For me it’s [pinstriping] is for sure an artform.”
His method comes from the traditional ways he learned from when he was a boy. One brush, one cup, and an unwavering hand. The colors come next, and in just a short amount of time, a unique customized design is on a bike.
Recently, Brock made the move to Sturgis, and goes back and forth between Denver and Sturgis, pinstriping at various motorcycle rally’s in between.
“I love it up there, South Dakota is absolutely beautiful and I really love it,” he said. “It’s a small town where everyone knows each other.”
The legendary pinstriper’s favorite part of the job is the people he meets and the places he gets to go. In just a week from now he will be attending Colorado’s largest motorcycle rally: Thunder In The Rockies, which is set to see 50,000 attendees.
Brock’s work is characterized by its clean lines and perfect symmetry, and he is known for his ability to perfectly match the paint colors on his stripes to the car’s bodywork. He has also been known to add his own personal touches to his work, such as adding special designs or characters to the stripe. To simply put it, he is a master of his craft, and his work is truly legendary.
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