Long, long ago, I'd guess about 2004 or 2005-ish, I was spinning wrenches on the J&P back lot in Sturgis. Late one morning, two tired looking souls came pushing some equally tired looking motorbikes up Main Street in my direction. The two fellas were in need of some assistance. Seems the night before they had been involved in a mother of all burnouts scenarios and roasted the tires clean off their bikes. And that's no exaggeration, there was nary a strand of tire left. Matter of fact, the rims were roached as well. Turns out one of the two dudes was Darren McKeag, the other his good friend Hank (Rest In Peace Hank). Well, seeing as how they were fellow Iowan’s and I’m a huge fan of burnouts myself, I was more than  happy to lend a hand turning wrenches to get the bikes road-worthy so the Iowa boys could ride back to the Hawkeye state. Little did I know at the time how brilliant an artist this destroyer of tires was.

You could say motorcycle culture is in Darren’s blood. His father would ride him around on the tank of his ’65 Panhead when he was just a tyke. By the time he was a teen he was already hitting up ‘70s bike shows and immersing himself in chopper culture, music and motorcycles and inked skin, intrigued by the living-on-the-fringe types and their alternative lifestyles. It was a unique period in American motorcycle history, raw and rough around the edges, the biker lifestyle more underground than mainstream. Famed painter David Mann, his work immortalized in the pages of Easyriders magazine, was one of the best at capturing the essence of that time on his canvasses. Darren said he was inspired by Mann, and you can see that inspiration reflected in his own work.

Thanks Darren for helping us celebrate our 40th anniversary by laying down this wicked paint job on a Biltwell Lane Splitter. 

Through the years Darren and I would cross paths over and over, and a friendship formed along the way. I may be a bit biased, but he's my favorite artist of all time. Darren tattoos, pinstripes, paints, draws with pens, pencils, hell the dude makes art with anything that will make a mark. He painted his first tank when he was 13, laying down some flames on a peanut tank for his mini-bike. That’s all it took. He was hooked. Darren’s been full throttle since, channeling his creativity on motorcycle tanks, helmets, surfboards, skateboards, t-shirts, and posters. He’s the only artist we’ve seen who uses the inside cover of matchboxes as a canvas. You owe it to yourself to follow him on Instagram (@mckeagart) if nothing else just to watch his morning jam sessions.

Darren is the epitome of an artist, continually honing his craft and expanding his talents, but I always see my friend as a tried-and-true motorcyclist. Over the years he's criss-crossed the country atop the back of his faithful hardtail on many an adventure. And unlike a lot of folks these days, he did it because he loved it, not for a sweet Insta-selfie. Just a dude who loves riding motorbikes. Call it his muse or his inspiration, but you can see the life and experiences of a biker reflected in his work. His unmistakable style has been showcased all across the globe and he's cemented himself as an indelible fixture in our culture. He's damn near reached that level of fame where you just need to say the one name "McKeag" and people know who you're talking about, like Cher, or Sting :) No matter how many names he has, I'm just proud to call him my friend.

Gotta love some clean pinstripes!

So when it came time for J&P to kick off our artist series of t-shirts, the first guy we thought of was Darren. Enlisting the services of this incredibly talented artist who's a fellow Iowan was a no-brainer. We were stoked he agreed on the collaboration and the artist series was born. We made a limited run of t-shirts , hoodies, and long sleeve shirts with one-off art from the man himself. Don't sleep on these because they won't last long!

You can also score one this weekend at Born-Free 11. We'll be giving away a helmet Darren custom-painted each day of the show, too, so be sure to stop by the J&P Cycles booth for a chance to win one.

Darren even doodled a little flash on the J&P sign in our main offices in Coppell, Texas.