Francis Ooi (above) creates some pretty cool classic racebikes (below). Not in a workshop, but on his MacBook Pro. Not bad!
Based in Singapore, Francis Ooi is an illustrator who loves classic motorcycles and who currently rides a 1994 Ducati 900SS and a 2010 MV Agusta F4. Ooi doesn’t just love riding, but also builds classic racebikes. Not in a conventional workshop or a garage, but on his MacBook Pro, which he refers to as his 12-inch garage.
Each of Ooi’s bikes is comprised of up to 800 individual compoents, created in multiple layers in the illustration software that he uses. The bikes are finally printed on thick, uncoated, textured paper – his first six machines are limited to 100 prints and you might want to take a look at those on his website.
We thought Ooi’s work is pretty cool, so we caught up with him for a quick chat. Here’s what the bike-mad illustrator has to say about his work and his love for motorcycles:
On his work and his love for bikes
During the day, I work as a creative director in an ad agency based in Singapore. At night, I turn into an illustrator working on my dreams. Cars are very expensive in Singapore, so the only transport that I could afford, when I started working in 1990, was a motorcycle.
Bikes give me a sense of freedom which cars don’t. My first bike was a Kawasaki KDX200, followed by many others, including a Yamaha TW200 and XT660Z Tenere, Honda Transalp 400, BMW 1100 RT, 1150 GS, K1300R and S1000RR, Ducati Monster 900 and 1098S Tricolore, Suzuki GSX-R750, Honda VFR800 and VTR1000 SP1, Kawasaki ZX-6R, Moto Guzzi V11 and MV Agusta F4.
On what inspired him to start creating his motorcycle art
I love classic and custom motorcycles, but unfortunately authorities in Singapore are very strict with modifications. Even an aftermarket LED light would not pass the 'Land Transport Authority' inspection. Almost everything has to be stock, which is a constant cause of frustration for local riders here.
Late last year, I decided I needed to work on a motorcycle project. But instead of building a custom bike and get into trouble with the authorities, I decided to build my motorcycles in my 12-inch garage, my MacBook Pro! Once I started, I found it to be very addictive – it’s a journey and you just don’t want to stop. It’s about combining the things you love and bringing it together.
On the challenges he faces while creating his moto art, and how the creation process works
It's actually quite tough, as Singapore has no motorcycle culture to begin with. It can be difficult to source pictures that can act as references for what I want to create. Still, once I’m able to collect the pictures I need, I start drawing my bikes on my illustrator software. This digital medium allows me to enlarge and zoom into details, which I wouldn’t be able to do with the conventional canvas painting. It is intensive work as there are a lot of layers for each illustration. But the more complicated the bike is to draw, the more beautiful I find it to be. Each illustration has more than 800 components and layers. Watch the video (scroll down the page...) to understand what I’m trying to explain.
A lot of people have written to me, complimenting my work, which I appreciate very much – it’s very encouraging. Some even suggest that I should print it on T-shirts which is not a bad idea I suppose.
On his motorcycling heroes and his favourite bikes
Mike Hailwood, Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Noriyuki Haga and Troy Baylis are my heroes. But the man that I admire the most is John Britten. And some of my favourite bikes are the Honda CB750 Racing Type, Moto Guzzi MGS-01, Britten V1000, Ducati MH900e and 916, and MV Agusta F4.
On what’s next, after these first six prints
I am currently working on Barry Sheene's Suzuki RGB500 and gathering material for John Britten’s V1000, MV Agusta 500 Triple and Rossi’s MotoGP bike!
We thank Francis for taking the time to speak to Faster and Faster and we wish him all the best for his future work. You can connect with Francis on Tumblr and Facebook