Painting Realistic Flames
It's On Fire
In Vol.40 No.11 we ran an article on making over a Road King in which we lowered the front fender with a kit from Fireman Joe’s, added a Russ Wernimont Designs fender extension/filler panel, installed new bag latches from Klock Werks, and a new smooth dash from Milwaukee Iron. With all these pieces in place we were ready to move onto the most exciting part, the paint. The owner of the bike is a retired fireman with the Oakland, California Fire Department, and when he saw the ’05 Firefighter Edition Road King on the showroom floor he just had to have it. However, like most of us, after a while he wanted something a little hotter than the Fire Engine Red paint the bike came with. The owner had seen a few bikes with realistic style flames and really liked the style and decided that’s what he wanted.
As you would expect, real fire is a style in which the flames look so lifelike you almost want to hold your hands near them when it’s bitter cold out. The style has gained popularity over the years, with the advancement in technique honed by its innovator, Mike Lavallee. Mike even has a trademark on the term True Fire. Whereas most people would keep their tricks and recipes closely guarded secrets to take to their graves, Mike encourages painters and paintshops to learn how to apply the style through his instructional DVD’s and training courses.
Fortunately for us, we have a paint shop in our backyard, Martinez Custom Paint and Design, in Orange, California, that has incorporated the True Fire style into its wide repertoire. A family owned and operated paint facility since 1952, the shop is headed by the father and son duo, Al and Danny Martinez. Originally the shop focused on painting hot rods and custom cars when Danny’s great grandfather started the business, but a little more than 10 years ago they shifted their focus to specialize in custom paint for motorcycles. Al runs the front desk while Danny handles all the painting. Martinez Custom Paint has been one of the top paint shops in the SoCal area for many years and we have featured several bikes and tech articles from the shop. As with any industry, you’ve got to be continually learning and adapting with the trends if you want to stay ahead, so several years ago Danny immersed himself into learning Mike Lavallee’s True Fire techniques.
When approached with the concept for this bike, it was pretty straight forward. The owner wanted a bright red base coat topped with True Fire blazing across the fenders, tank, and saddlebags. There was also a special request to have a skeleton with a fireman’s helmet and fire axe bursting through the flames on the front fender. Danny was very receptive to the ideas, and like a true artist offered up his own spin on the idea; intermix two styles of flames, True Fire and traditional. At first the owner was a little weary of mixing the two styles, but once Danny showed him a couple samples the owner was on board. Follow along as Danny shows us how he laid down some traditional style flames with True Fire licking throughout.