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Austin Jost converts passion into a career

Austin Jost converts his passion — airbrush painting — into a career.

Staff writer

Austin Jost, of Hillsboro worked patiently, slowly detailing the outline of a white skull on the black, detached front fender of the Harley.

The hissing sound of the airbrush was the constant soundtrack for Jost’s efforts. A yellow foam skull rested to Jost’s left; a panel that Jost painted earlier sat to his right. On the panel was a skull that looked like it was backlit by a full moon. The examples help Jost add the necessary depth at the top of the skull.

Quickly, airbrush squiggles transform into eye sockets, a forehead, and the upper portion of the skull’s mouth.

“It’s just a bunch of squiggly lines,” Jost said. “You just try to put them in the right places.”

The front fender is the first part of the motorcycle that Jost is painting. He will craft murals on four different sections of the bike — gas tank, oil tank, front fender, and back fender — for Brad June of Milford, Neb. June is a friend of Jost’s wife’s uncle. Although this graphics job comes from a relation, it is common that patrons will come to Jost’s shop, at 107 W. A Street Hillsboro, from long distances.

“This graphics work is pretty spread out,” Jost said. “People are willing to go a long way to find a person they like. The first bike I ever did was for a guy in Pratt.”

Jost features his work at motorcycle conventions and other events. His skulls have been noticed — they are realistic depictions with a touch of fantasy.

“I never really thought I’d have any interest in doing skulls and stuff,” he said. “But, it’s something that you can add a lot of detail to without getting carried away.”

For Jost, the customer is always right, and customers have most often requested skulls and flames, going back to when he started five years ago at Big Dog Motorcycles in Wichita. Pictures on his Web site show numerous examples of a design Jost perfected at Big Dog: a banner of skulls running down the center of the bike inlaid by flames.

“I would do like four or five of those a day,” he said.

Jost has more creative license since his shop opened in August. He collaborated with June on the initial drawings for each section of the bike. The sketches that made the final cut are depictions of a grim reaper seated in a throne flanked by scantily clad women, a grim reaper floating ominously on a cloud, an armed reaper on top of a bucking horse, and what Jost started painting on Wednesday — a hooded skull surrounded by flames.

When the painting is complete, the front fender will include several colors — white, red, orange, blue, and purple — but, Jost made an outline Wednesday. He put in a hood with long, broad strokes and he put in white flames with a paper outline to add the cartoonish flames to the top of the skull. He also used black paint, sprinkled with red, to add depth to the skull and give it an almost charred appearance.

The initial painting took Jost an hour to complete and he said that he should be able to finish the entire bike in a matter of weeks.

However, Jost is a perfectionist. He said that he prefers to finish an entire painting, but if it is not up to his standard, he will wipe his tablet clean and start over.

“I’m the biggest critic of my work and my wife is the second biggest,” he said. “If I like it, I show it to her, and if she doesn’t like it, I redo it.”

His biggest challenge is managing his time between doing his necessary upholstery work and getting the painting for the bike finished. Airbrush painting is Jost’s passion, dating back to when his parents bought him his first airbrush while he was in high school. He got his certification at Wyoming Technical College in Laramie, Wyo.

Jost, eventually, would like to do graphics full time, but the majority of his work is doing upholstery for furniture and car seats.

“I had a little bit of interest in upholstery,” he said. “And I screwed up and have to do it.”

Last modified Jan. 28, 2010

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