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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Shawn Long "The Imperial House" 1952 Panhead

With incredible hand painted one of kind pieces that truly are unlike most you will ever see, Shawn Long from Sparta, Illinois brings an incredible design and vision to every single thing he puts paint on. I challenge you to not get lost in his intricate detailing and beautiful pin striping, it's pretty impossible not to. Not only is Shawn an extraordinary painter but an excellent bike builder too. He is gracious enough to not only be painting a Biltwell Gringo for Fuel Cleveland on May 9th but he is also going to be bringing out his absolutely killer '52 Pan as seen in the photos from this feature. You absolutely need to see this bike in person, the pictures don't give any justice. From the intricate sissy bar design to the blue strategically placed drips in the flame job on the tank, this bike is full of class and super clean. I am a sucker for Pans and this Pan is spectacular. I asked Shawn to write a little about himself and his history when it comes to painting and bike building; this is what came of it, enjoy!

- Mikey Revolt

It's kind of funny when people ask what got me into bikes and/or painting, because the two came along for me at exactly the same time. My wife and I traveled to an Easyrider show in Kentucky back in Feb of 2004, after hearing of an appearance by Chica of Chica's Customs. Back then I was more of a car guy, but I had always admired his bikes, even though at the time I did not even own a bike. At the show I got to talk with Chica and his crew, including Johnny Vasko, and riddled them with a ton of questions. They fielded every one and seemed genuinely engaged. They brought along 6 fully customized bikes, and one thing that jumped out at me was that each one of the riders had customized helmets, with pinstriping, lettering, gold leafing, etc. I had always wanted to try my hand at pinstriping, but once I saw these helmets and bikes, I knew that I was going to make myself learn the art. Upon arriving home, I purchased a few Mack brushes and some oneShot paints and got started! So, 2004 was the real birth of Imperial Artworks.

That same year, I came across a bike project that I thought would be fun to tackle and that's really when the bikes took off in my mind. It was an EVO motor in a wishbone frame, and had some nice older original parts as well. I built it in the styling of a 60's custom/rider with split tanks, fishtail pipes, skinny apes, jockey shift, and it ended up wearing my first complete paintjob for a motorcycle. It was my first bike, but I knew it wouldn't be my last. It lead to a few Triumph builds, and finally to a slabside shovel build that I called Gypsy Soul. All of these bikes have come and gone, but what remains is a passion for creating. I love the entire process. Although stressful at times, because I am 100% self-taught, (fancy way of saying I learn from my mistakes) it is one of the most rewarding endeavors I have ever taken on. Somewhere in the middle of these bikes, I changed my name from Imperial Artworks to The Imperial House.

Though self-taught, I still gotta give props to all those that have come before me. To all of the guys that answered my questions, about painting and motorcycles, I'd like to offer up a huge "thank you". I love engaging some old timer (whether he/she is an artist or a builder) that truly has forgotten more than I will ever know; I could talk to them for hours. I also have to thank all of my customers. The feeling of satisfaction I get when a customer gives me freedom to work up something original for them, is hard to beat! I must also mention that I am blown away by the opportunities that have been opened up because of this love for art and motorcycles. I have met some of the GREATEST individuals, many of which, I call friends! Before all of these though, I must thank my family; my beautiful bride and my two daughters. (For anyone out there, chasing their passions, you know what I mean.) They too, experience the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the successes and the frustrations firsthand. I love you ladies! 

I hear it said a lot, that "it's all been done" and I believe that statement for the most part. It is our job as artists/builders to glean from those before us but to never be afraid to create our own vibe. Do your thing and do it with pride! Avoid the drama. I strive to do this in everything I do. I've never been one to follow the masses; got to admit I still like it that way.

Many have asked, "Why, Imperial House?". The only way to explain it is this, "It fits". Regardless of what direction I want to take it, or what I want to focus on, it still fits. I started out customizing helmets, but I knew that I wanted to do more. I love building bikes and laying down full blown paint jobs, but I am sure there's still more ahead. I have been an artist since I could hold a pencil, and I have always loved challenging myself with new things. Hell, truth be told, I am a nut job of sorts. I can't sit still for more than 5 minutes without thinking I am missing out on something. If I see something I am really digging, I got to try it. The last thing I wanted, was to limit myself by a name. If I grow old and can't turn a wrench, if the whiskey catches up to me and I can't pull a tight line, or if I just get burnt out on the now; I can take that same name, Imperial House, open up a nail salon, and guess what.......it still fits.

Be great everyone! Never forget the words of Dr. Dre, "Never let me slip, cause if I slip, then I'm slippin".

Make sure to check out Shawn's '52 Panhead and custom one off helmet he is going to create for Fuel Cleveland on May 9th. For more of his brilliant designs and builds check out www.Imperialhouse71.blogspot.com

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