Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

Jody Wyse - Artist of Sturgis

Written by  August 31, 2004

I became acquainted with Jody Wyse at the Kansas City stop on the Easyriders Bike Show Tour in early April of this year. From a booth next to Cycle Connections, he was selling Broken Spoke Saloon merchandise as well as his artworks. I decided then that I would touch bases with Jody during my annual Sturgis pilgrimage. I caught up with him at the Side Hack Saloon on Tuesday and walked with him to his house a block away where we were able to chat in relative quiet.

CC: Jody, would you please describe the kind of artwork you do.
Jody: It’s mostly pencil sketches, and I try to draw Americana representing this part of the country, the people who live here and what they do. I draw everything from western art with horses all the way to motorcycles and the Sturgis rally.

CC: I noticed that some of your drawings include various places in and around Sturgis.
Jody: Yes, including Pappy Hoel’s Indian shop where the rally originated.

CC: One of the sketches you showed me features a young lady and a horse. Tell me about that one.
Jody: That’s Vicki, my girl friend’s daughter, with her horse. I tried to show the connection between a girl and her horse, the love for each other showing in the eyes of both.

CC: Have you had any formal training as an artist?
Jody: Absolutely none. I have been drawing all of my life since I was about three years old. I never showed the drawings to anybody until about three years ago. When I retired from the Broken Spoke I was looking for something to do. During my time at the Spoke, I became familiar with the old bikes and often sketched them. Starting in November I put together a portfolio that made its debut during the Sturgis rally the following summer.

CC: What do you have for sale?
Jody: I have 14 by 18 prints, 22 by 24, pretty much all sizes, with or without frames, whatever people are looking for.

CC: Where do you sell?
Jody: At the Side Hack Saloon, the Broken Spoke, and Gunners Bar in downtown Sturgis. There are a few galleries around the country where it’s available. The Sturgis locations are my mainstays. I make the rounds. Sales are better when I’m present. Buyers want to meet the artist.

CC: You took your work on the road yourself this year on the Easyriders Bike Show Tour. Tell me a little bit about that experience.
Jody: The tour was pretty exciting. It was an opportunity to meet all types of people from all walks of life in every part of the country. It was quite interesting. There were people who loved the work and couldn’t afford it and others who loved it and bought it. I couldn’t tell from one city to the next how it would be received. The best part was meeting the people; that made it all worthwhile. It was a great opportunity to get my name out there. I’m still getting calls as a result of the tour. It worked out really well.

CC: Other than the tour, how do you market your work?
Jody: I use E-Bay, and I hope to get a web site set up soon. I travel on my own some and hit a few galleries. I also rely on word of mouth. That’s basically how it gets out there.

CC: Are you available to do commissioned work if someone wants to have you do a drawing based on a photograph, for example?
Jody: A lot of people want me to draw their bikes. It’s hard to do that in a marketable way. It’s difficult to keep the price down on drawings done one at a time as opposed to those that can be reprinted and sold to multiple buyers. I am willing to do it, however.

CC: What is your price range?
Jody: It varies quite a bit. For a single bike print I start at about $85 unframed or $185 with frame. I think that’s pretty reasonable. My new Rushmore drawing is the most expensive at $225 for a print unframed and $325 framed. Everything else is within that range.

CC: Other than working on your art, what else do you do in Sturgis?
Jody: During the rally, I help out my friend Rick at the Side Hack Saloon. Last year he got shipped out to Iraq just before the rally, and I retired from the Broken Spoke to help keep his business going while he was gone. He liked what I did, and I sort of got dragged back in there. It also gives me an avenue to market my work. I’ve done several t-shirt designs for Rick.

CC: When you were in Kansas City, you showed us the drawing that now appears on the Sturgis Beer cans. Tell me about that.
Jody: Rick owns the Sturgis Beer label. It played second fiddle to the Harley beer for several years, but that’s gone now. We have an agreement for me to do the artwork for the cans for at least the next ten years. It will really be cool stuff. This year it’s the Flying A gas station with a couple of antique bikes. It’s been very popular and will probably be sold out by the end of the rally. Next year I think I’m going to draw Pappy Hoel in front of his Indian shop. I have a 1937 photograph of him in front of his shop on Junction Avenue to work from. I’m sure Pearl will be okay with it. She’s a cool lady.

CC: Have you lived in Sturgis for a long time?
Jody: Not really. I’ve been here a lot over the years and bought my house here 12 years ago. My parents brought me here on vacation when I was nine years old. It was the first time I saw the Hills. I loved them then and still do. I was originally over in Montana, so it’s not far from home. My parents moved to Arizona, and I couldn’t handle the heat and traffic so I came back.

CC: How long ago was that?
Jody: That was about three years ago. When I retired from the Spoke, I decided to live here. It’s a good place to be. You can’t beat the riding here.

CC: What’s it like here when the rally is not going on?
Jody: It’s nice and quiet. It’s a great place for an artist to work. There’s a lot of inspiration and a lot of quiet places to go without much traffic. I can just ride up into the hills and find a place to kick back, draw, sip on a beer, and have a good time. There is something magical about the hills. I get much more done here than I could anywhere else.

CC: What’s your current ride?
Jody: I have several. My favorite is a 1950 Panhead. It reflects in my drawings that I like the old classic stuff. My newest bike is a 1966. I have over twenty motorcycles, but I stick pretty much to the one. It’s impossible to keep so many licensed and insured.

CC: During the off-season, do a lot of the businesses close down?
Jody: Some of the rally bars and beer gardens and such close down. The ones I work with stay open, but it’s tough to make a living here. You have to make your money during the rally.

CC: What percentage of the bar income is rally-related?
Jody: Probably 98%. That’s why they can’t screw up. They have to do it right the first time. These days a lot of people come during the two or three weeks before the rally. That’s really a fun time too. Everybody’s relaxed, and it’s not so crowded. A lot of nice people come in from all over the country. It’s fun to chat with them and go on rides if time permits. It’s a nicer pace. Once the rally starts, I put my bike away. It’s locked up in a shed right now and will be until the rally is over. I’m too busy to ride, and I just get around town on foot or on a bicycle.

CC: How much sleep do you get during the rally?
Jody: I manage about two or three hours a night. A bunch of my buddies from Arizona arrived yesterday. They are staying at my place, and they party nonstop.

CC: Jody, thanks for taking time from your busy rally schedule to visit.

To find out more about Jody and see more of his work, check out his web site at www.sturgisartworks.net

Jody can also be contacted at:
Sturgis Artworks
PO Box 714
Sturgis, S.D. 57785
Phone (605) 347-0220
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Story and photos by Stripe