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Cedar Rapids airbrush artist has more ideas than he can ever use

Clients from around nation find 'geeked-out' Scott Takes for custom creations

Scott Takes of Cedar Rapids airbrushed an image of the late rock singer Janis Joplin on a motorcycle gas tank at his shop, Underground Art Studios in downtown Cedar Rapids. Takes’ art is widely sought by people wanting to customize motorcycles, trailers, cars and places of business. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Scott Takes of Cedar Rapids airbrushed an image of the late rock singer Janis Joplin on a motorcycle gas tank at his shop, Underground Art Studios in downtown Cedar Rapids. Takes’ art is widely sought by people wanting to customize motorcycles, trailers, cars and places of business. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Years ago — in his teenage years — Scott Takes recalls being alone one night spray-painting his artistic vision on a wall.

A nervous chill washed over him as he became aware of a couple who had been out for a stroll standing behind him — watching. He turned around to face them.

“This is amazing,” they said of his work and just stayed, observing him perform his art. “I realized at that point, you can entertain with your art.”

Takes, now 48, has honed his craft — no longer relegated to splashing graffiti in the dark of night — and become a sought-after airbrush artist doing paint jobs for high-end motorcycles, trailers and automobiles, as well as stand-alone pieces.

Raised in Cedar Rapids, he operates from an unassuming downtown studio. His business, Underground Art Studios, is expected to relocate to 727 Second Ave. SE by Tuesday.

While he has received some publicity locally — for his role in a fundraiser for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital — he also has been featured in numerous national magazines, including Cycle Source and Easyriders. His work also has appeared on the Discovery Channel.

He created the sign for Quarter Barrel Arcade and Brewery, 616 Second Ave. SE, and the paintings of Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia, Bob Marley and John Lennon that hang at Quinton’s Bar & Deli, 215 E. Washington St., Iowa City.

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He also has memorialized legends in motorcycle culture, such as Lawrence DeSmedt, better known as Indian Larry, who died in 2004.

He always has projects in the pipeline, such as a 3D sculpture for Willis Dady Homeless Services and for a show at country music singer Loretta Lynn’s ranch.

He describes his signature style as “illusion of depth.” Some designs, which he sketches over and over until he arrives at something he likes, layer lines into an almost marble-like effect.

Ideas drive him.

“What comes naturally are the ideas,” he said. “I have more ideas than I can ever use.”

Takes, who is married with three children, feeds off his clients, many of whom pay custom builders and artists handsomely to obsess over every detail of a bike or automobile.

He learns about clients’ wishes and then works with them.

He recalled one customer from Texas who wanted a design of marijuana leaves on his custom-built chopper. Takes reasoned with him. Without judging, he questioned why invest thousands on a bike and choose a paint job that would limit where it could be shown.

Instead, they turned to the client’s favorite whiskey, Crown Royal, and designed tank art featuring the bottle.

The bike wound up being shown around the country at NASCAR races and exhibitions.

The ability to create images that communicate something to the user brings joy. In some work, he embeds tributes for people to discover.

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“They want that same geeked-out person to do the paint, and that’s me,” he said.

Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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