It’s no secret that South Dakota loves motorcycles, and no one quite captures that love like artist Scott Jacobs, who was the first-ever licensed Harley-Davidson artist in 1993. Located in the Goldberg Building on Main Street in Deadwood, Jacobs owns Jacobs Gallery Shop, which sells his original works on canvas, prints, and on a wide variety of items, like barware, beach towels, coffee table books, clocks, and much more. The beautiful vision he and his family had for this gallery also includes eight valuable vintage Harleys on display dating back to 1915, and art collaborations with daughter Alexa, nephew Todd, and long-time Harley-Davidson artist Daniel James. Don’t be fooled: this shop isn’t a tourist trap. Jacobs and his family made sure to hand-pick, and uniquely brand all products so you can’t get them anywhere else.
What drew you to motorcycles?
Scott Jacobs: I was 14 years old, and I went to a bicycle shop to have one of my bikes fixed. That was the first time I saw a moped. My mom was with me, and I asked if I could get “one of those.” She said sure, if you can pay me back. I got a motorized bicycle back in 1972 or 1973, and I rode it to school. That was my first introduction into something motorized. So, motorcycles have been part of my lifestyle since I was a kid.
How did you get a license through Harley-Davidson? What made them decide to allow you the rights to use their name in your artwork?
SJ: I was doing a lot of celebrity portraits back in the ’80s, beginning of the ’90s, and I was getting bored with that. A friend of mine, Ron Copple, said, “You know, motorcycles are super hot, and you love Harleys. You ever think about painting a Harley?” I said, “Motorcycles would be more difficult, but I’ll give it a shot.”
I did two motorcycle pieces – one called Fat Boy and one called Live to Ride. I brought them to an art expo. I had a sign underneath these two prints that read “New releases” – meaning I was going to do limited edition prints of these and bring them out. There was this licensing company that worked out of Harley-Davidson called the Beanstalk Group, based out of New York City, and they were at the show just looking around. They came over to me and said, “What are you doing? You need a license to reproduce our name.”
So, I went to another art expo in Los Angeles, and the freakin’ Beanstalk Group was there again! They came up to me, and Jeff Bluestein, who was the president of Harley-Davidson at that time, happened to be there, too. They came over to the booth, and Bluestein said, “So this is the guy you were talking about?” He goes, “I love his work, let’s see what we can do.”
Ninety days later, I became the first artist in the world ever licensed by Harley-Davidson.
How would you go about describing your art to others?
SJ: My style is called photorealism. I’m trying to chronicle Harley-Davison’s history as far as what they’ve done for everyone around the world. I’ve painted women on bikes, guys on bikes, kids and parents around their bikes… all things that people can relate to that love motorcycling. That’s what my work’s about. These are all things that I’ve experienced, being a biker, being in that lifestyle my entire life. I’m just recreating that.
For more information, visit jacobsgalleryshop.com.