Travis Hess aka Tuki has sprayed a significant amount of paint on to the world of cars and bikes over the past 20 plus years. Some of my all time favorite paint jobs on bikes have come from the hands of Travis. From Born Free builds to close friend's bikes, every single bike he touches is an instant classic. Clean lines, on point pin striping, and the best color combinations are always a part of Travis' style. Some of the color choices he uses, you would never think would go together but it always does just perfectly. It was a no brainer to ask Travis to paint a Biltwell Gringo helmet for Fuel Cleveland that will be on display May 9th. I am super glad he made time in his hectic schedule to paint it because what he sent in for the show is truly a remarkable piece that anyone could wear on their head. Here is little a one on one we had the other day, enjoy!
Where did the name Tuki come from? Any cool story behind it?
T: Not a really a cool story but kind of silly... When I bought my house years ago, I couldn't remember my home phone number so to try and remember it I tried to see what it could spell on the dial pad of the phone and it came up Bob Tuki. My buddies at the tattoo shop started calling me Tuki and it stuck? Ha!
What got you into art?
T: I was always drawing as a kid, then after school I thought I'd go to art school in Pittsburgh but after a tour I realized I could make more money sanding cars at my Dads shop. I ditched that idea of school... bought a drag VW with my money and went to work.
How long have you been at your craft?
T: I've been painting full time 21 years this August.
What's your favorite thing you have ever painted and why?
T: I think my Dad's coupe and his drag car I just painted this past winter... basically because no one dictated what I did, I just did it how I wanted to. I've painted so many cars but but those are probably my two favorite. I also did a rad jet boat, that's up there too.
Any crazy stories or friendships made from painting?
T: I've made lots of good friends through painting. I love talking paint at shows. My favorite part is hanging with the old pros.
When did motorcycles become apart of your life?
T: I got my first bike when I was like 7 it was a Honda trail 50 and my Dad had Harley's when I was little.
Who or what inspires you and does it reflect in your designs and techniques?
T: I'm inspired mostly by 70's drag car paint and Lowriders. Mainly the California Lowrider painters. Lettering it's Grimes and Glen Weisgerber mostly.
If you could only have one bike, what bike would it be and why?
That's a tuff one, I love Triumphs so I think I'd like to have a mint '66 Triumph T120TT. They are fast and killer to look at.
What car or bike do you currently have and or are working on?
T: I have an 02 Sporty and a 70Tr6C Triumph that I'm changing up. I'm also in the middle of a big Hotrod build with my Dad '32 Ford coupe.
If you could jump on a bike and go anywhere in the world where would it be and why?
T: I think it would be amazing to buzz up the coast in Cali with my wife on the back..
Any big projects in the works right now?
T: I'm working on a '60 impala right now full custom paint and I have a '68 Hemi Cuda drag car restoration paint coming in soon. Notice I don't talk much about chopper paint, I seem to get over looked with the chopper crowd. Ha!
Favorite thing to do other then painting and riding motorcycles?
T: I like being with my wife and riding in my old roadster on the back roads. We live a pretty simplistic life.
What are some challenges if any you face when doing custom art for customers?
T: I think for me it's the budget. Always trying to do the best quality work in someone's budget is the a challenge.
What was a day in the life like for 16 year old Travis?
T: I guess cruising in my Cali-look VW beetle and skateboarding. I can't remember much from then, too many paint fumes?
Van Halen with David lee Roth or Van Hagar?
T: Definitely Roth. Go ahead and Jump!
Anyone you would to thank and or give a shout out to?
T: My Dad and Mom for giving me the opportunity to do what I love each day, my wife Lauren is always my biggest fan, and God for the talents I have in my life. Thanks!
Make sure to check out Travis' Biltwell helmet that will be on display at Fuel Cleveland on May 9th and to see more of his work go to www.kolorbytuki.com