In a world filled with harsh memes, it’s refreshing to stumble open works of art like those created by artist Kayla Koeune. Her trusty paint brushes and watercolor palette transport you to the back roads of America. Kayla has published a book with her friend Jessi Combs, completed a watercolor series called 100 Colorado Landscapes, and is currently working on The Tiny Window Project. Kayla is an avid motorcyclist and travels as often as she can with her husband, Charlie. Kayla is not one to be limited by a strict definition of canvas, and she finds an addictive passion for exploring new elements and discovering new attitudes in her work. Defend, Ride and Paint. Koeune’s art speaks for itself. I recently had the chance to catch up with Kayla, and this is the results of our conversation. Enjoy!
Tell our readers about yourself – My name is Kayla A Koeune, and I’m from Longmont, Colorado. I’m happily married to my best friend Charlie Weisel known to most as Charlie Traveling Chopper. I grew up in small-town Wisconsin where I found a love for art at a very young age. And like most of Wisconsin youth, I spent much of mine in taverns; only I was busy drawing the barflies from a fort I’d construct out of stools. With my passion for creating never ceasing, I decided to expand my knowledge and attended the Milwaukee Peck School of the Arts where I earned my BA in Fine Arts. I gravitated toward the challenge of the nude human form and capturing the raw emotion of everyday life. Following college, I did what a lot of kids with degrees in Art did…joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard! Almost immediately after training, I deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, where I developed new connections and friendships that soon would alter my path completely. I was introduced to the loud, dirty, and entertaining world of motorcycles and their riders. Proud of being a part of history, of defending the flag, and of my military career, I found solace as well as therapy after my return home behind the handlebars of my motorbike. My artwork grew, defined itself, became more individualized and then, more motorcycle driven, weaving together my grittiness and pride.
I founded Inferno Art Studio L.L.C. in 2012, where I work predominantly as a commission artist to exemplify my use of diverse subject matters and mediums. From oil and watercolors to graphic art and design, textiles, enamels, and mural work. My artwork has made a footprint into the motorcycle industry, with engagements all over the United States; I have been showing work as well as performing live paintings at different motorcycle events.
How long have you been riding motorcycles? - I have been riding Motorcycles for about 6 or 7 years.
What is your current ride? I rode a Dyna for the past six years (Sold off her parts this winter to fund my new build). My chopper is currently being built by Josh Allison of Cry Baby Cycles in Greeley and should be finished by the mid/end of summer. It's going to be a little stock hardtail a V111 S&S and a Baker 6 in a frame from Faith Forgotten Choppers. Can't wait. But until that, I have my very reliable backup bike, which is a Honda Africa Twin Adventure bike.
I’ve noticed that you and your husband put in a lot of seat time throughout the year; If you could create a bucketlist of the top five places that you would like to visit again, where you would take us? I would take them to the following places:
The Alps in Austria (Smooth sweeping curves that you can see and hammer through with a grand, lush green view around every bend)
Swiss Alps (When we went a lot of the passes were closed due to weather, and we would like to be given another chance to ride through the mountains)
Riding the Coast near Collioure, France (Tight off camber roads that is challenging to ride with epic views of the Mediterranean)
Andorra (Just a fantastic ride to and from. Twist up this tiny road through France through quaint towns to the country on the top of a mountain covered with snow riding miles of hairpin turns down the side of a mountain. You can’t find roads like this in the US. We have found ways to make roads on the path of least resistance they spin you round and round an back and forth and take you to some amazing places)
Portugal (Twisty and green.. you can smell the ocean, and it feels so secluded on the back roads... good fun riding)
I’ve also noticed that you attend many motorcycle events. What are some of your favorites to visit and why? Choppertown Camparaound in Arizona. It's a bikers campout. No thrills, no vendors, no trailers, just a bunch of bikes ridden in from all over to camp, party and tell stories. I met my husband there in 2014, in 2016 he asked me to marry him there. How could it not be my favorite? The One Moto Show. I enjoy this because it is all types of motorcycles. Adventure, choppers, vintage, weird build; you get a real taste of the love of two wheels. Chopper Fest - What can I say I love California weather, riding the 1 and seeing friends and family. Being an artist and the show developed for an art legend featuring the artists of today.
Can you tell us about the Marinara Mountain Run that you and Charlie host? The Marinara Mountain Run was inspired by a motorcycle campout we attended in Italy in 2015. We met up with some guys and were like "tomorrow we go to chopper campout" Ok sweet. We met up with the guys of Gasstation Disciples in Florence, Italy and had a huge family dinner of Paella and slept in their Clubhouse. The next day we rode to the Road Crew Party and had one of the coolest motorcycle experiences. Seventies American music cover band, vintage American bikes all over, rebel flags. Then at like nine the whole chopper show sat down and had a large pasta family dinner together. Drank wine and espresso (in the middle of nowhere in the woods with a generator). It moved us so much, the sense of community, that we wanted to recreate the experience here. It's an event where you can come to for free; I cook pasta for everyone, and we sit around eat, tell stories and watch old movies. So the Marinara is because of the inspiration from the Italians. We have been back to visit them and will continue to do so every chance we get!
Has art always played a role in your life? It is the first memory I have. I have always drawn and painted. I liked being alone and lost in thought and art allows me to do that. My life has always been one that was drawn to create and make and to strive to get to the point that I have recently come to. Which is to make a living making art.
Are you self-taught? I drew and painted most of my life and honed my skills with formal training, and have a bachelors of fine arts and was blessed to be able to study and make art while living in Italy for a semester.
What are some of the services that you provide? I do portraits and portraits in landscapes with oil, ink, or watercolor. I do enamel work (painting on helmets, tanks, etc.); I also do mural work. I am by trade a commission artist, so I will paint almost anything with anything.. haha.
How did your book “Joey and The Chopper Boys” with Jessi Combs come about? I had just moved to California and met Jessi randomly on the Love Ride. We got to chatting and went to her shop. We hung out for a few days, talking about ideas, and well I ended up living in her shop for about a year, and it was one of the ideas that came to fruition while I spent some very creative time there! We just wanted to make a book about a little girl who, like us, were heavily influenced by our fathers and inspired to do things that, when were young, were boy activities. We wanted to help young women open the door to the possibilities that are out there. It is where the Real Deal came from as well which is a nonprofit started by Jessi to empower women to get their hands dirty. Live your dreams.
I’ve been loving the 100 Colorado Landscapes paintings that you’ve been sharing lately - What are you planning on doing with the series once you are finished? Thanks. The Series is now complete and was released on June 11th which also happens to be my 4 years sober date! Adulting has its perks. The book is printed in premium color so the images in the book comes close to matching the originals. I also hope to show 25 of the originals in a gallery setting, and am still planning out those details. The soft cover book is available on Amazon.com and the hard cover is available through Barnes and Noble.
Can you tell us about The Tiny Window project that you’re currently working on and how our readers can get involved? I am doing 100 paintings called The Tiny Windows. I wanted to do a series of motorcycle driven art in watercolors that features those out riding and adventuring. The collection will be compiled in a book, and I plan to show and sell the originals at the Harley Museum doing the Harley 115th. I picked the first few at random, and now the submissions are starting to roll in. The intent is to have the story of the bike or the rider attached to each image. I want the bike or the bike and person out riding. To feature adventure. Be it a photo of the bike and a grand vista or the bike next to a tent or all packed down from crushing miles. Of people out seeking. So if you know anyone that would like to be featured in this collection, please have them email photos and stories to email@example.com.
Mr. and Mrs. Willie Davidson, Heyltje Rose Bond and Kayla.
Congratulations for showcasing your work at the Harley-Davidson Museum during their upcoming 115th Anniversary celebration! Can you give our readers a sneak peek on some of the pieces that you’ll have on site? I haven't done this event with them in a couple of years because I no longer live in Milwaukee and it can be challenging to get back but I couldn't be more excited to be back in Milwaukee and showing/selling art during the 115th. I remember when they started doing the artist row, and I was their local invite, and I was beyond flattered and humbled to be able to go back and see the city I love and where everything started has me overwhelmed with joy. The event is from I will have several originals and even more prints available during this show on August 30 - Sept 3rd (9am - 9pm)
Do you have anything else in the works that you’d like to tell our reader about? Oil and Dirt at the Boxcar Gallery in Denver put on by Eparilla Photos (Enrique) which opened on June 6th - I will be showing 2 of the Tiny Windows and Mountain Run and oil paintings, as well as selling prints. Rogues Gallery 134 E Juneau Ave Milwaukee - Art on Display from Mid August through Mid September - 6 Pieces of Motor along with pieces from Russel Murchie, Caroline Perron, and Jeffrey O. Durrant. Myself and others will be doing live art on a mini stage during the 115th in the evening!
What would you consider as a perfect day? 65 degrees, sunny, and no breeze riding motorcycles to some far off place with my husband. Just the two of us because after these many years of touring together we ride a lot alike. Finding someplace in the wilderness, unloading our bikes, setting camp and cooking a 4-course meal upon our jetboil and camp stove.. followed by playing some cards, drawing and writing before watching the sunset and curling up in our sleeping bags. That is what I call living the dream.
Kayla's latest mural for Triple Tree Cafe in Denver, CO. Photo by Enrique.
What’s the best way for our readers to follow your world? Your readers can see more of my work on my website, Facebook, and Instagram.
Would you like to thank anyone? I would like to thank Charlie Weisel and my close friends for their support and influence. And thank you for noticing and putting my art on a fantastic platform.