By Joe Tash
World-renowned artist Scott Jacobs made his name by painting pictures of exotic sports cars and Harley Davidson motorcycles. For fun, he takes those same vehicles on the road.
Housed in the garage of his Rancho Santa Fe home are a 1962 Shelby Cobra, which was originally designed as a race car, and a Maserati, which he loves to take for a spin. And in September, he drove his vintage 1926 Harley Davidson J motorcycle across country in the Cannonball Endurance Run, a race for bikes built before 1930.
The race began Sept. 7 in Newburgh, New York, and concluded 17 days later in San Francisco. The riders averaged 300 miles per day, and took only one day off during the run. Because the motorcycles were meticulously restored classics, the average speed was between 45 and 50 mph, said Jacobs.
“It was a rolling museum going down the highway,” he said.
“The highlight was the camaraderie between everybody. It was an amazing experience.”
Jacobs finished 29th of 71 riders, but has no regrets and said he would definitely do it again, in spite of the cuts, burns, scrapes and bruises suffered along the way, and the extreme weather conditions, which included intense heat, bone-chilling cold, wind and rain.
The race followed small rural roads, avoiding the large interstates, and Jacobs said he was inspired by the large crowds that turned out along the way to cheer the riders on. His wife, Sharon, rode with him on her own motorcycle, and even his two daughters — Olivia and Alexa — rode their own Harleys for about half the route.
Each day, the riders were given a route map, which they rolled up and displayed in a glass-covered case mounted on their handlebars. They scrolled the map down, which listed the twists and turns of the route by mileage markers. Riders had to keep close track of the mileage to stay on course, which Jacobs said was even more difficult because the odometer on his classic bike wasn’t perfectly accurate.
One of the things that slowed Jacobs down was mechanical problems; his bike broke down 15 times along the route, including such problems as a flat tire and electrical failures.
Jacobs’ love of Harleys encompasses both the bikes he enjoys riding and those he paints — in 1993, he was named as the official artist for Harley Davidson, and his images are found on everything from original paintings to a variety of products, such as plates, coins, cards and clothing.
Jacobs, 53, is a native of New Jersey. He and his family moved to Rancho Santa Fe 16 years ago, and he works in a home studio. Jacobs and his daughter, Alexa, were featured earlier this year on the ABC television series “Secret Millionaire.”
According to a biography on his website, Jacobs’ art career began at age 19 when he bought a failing art gallery with money he had saved from odd jobs. He also made pen-and-ink drawings for his high school newspaper.
Later, he began painting portraits of celebrities, but he said his career really took off when he started painting cars and motorcycles.
“I really started getting noticed,” he said, and his admirers included officials at Harley Davidson, who later signed him as their official artist.
Today, Jacobs paints everything from cars and motorcycles to still life images of wine, chocolates and flowers. His original paintings are sold through invitation-only auctions, and fetch prices ranging from $28,000 for smaller works, up to $130,000 for larger ones, more than he paid for his first house.
“It’s overwhelming to me. I never thought it would get to that level, especially as a living artist,” Jacobs said.
Along with original paintings, prints of his work sell in stores around the world. Mostly, he paints in acrylics, but he also works in pen and ink, oil and watercolors.
When he’s not painting in his studio, he’s traveling to auctions and private events to promote and sell his work. He is planning a VIP event to be held at his home where the night’s entertainment will be a performance by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. A recent event, also held at his home, featured the Doobie Brothers.
The special events are held as a thank-you to clients, who are flown in and provided accommodation at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, Jacobs said.