In October 2016 I was contacted by Craig Watson, UK Sales Director of Kawasaki UK, about a possible painting of Jonathan Rea as it was looking ever likely that Jonathan would win back to back World Superbike championship titles on the ZX-10R.
When it came to the last race weekend at Local International Circuit in Qatar Jonathan secured the WSB title in the first race and the secret project began.
Craig Watson explained the thought process behind commissioning the oil painting: “I wanted to do something that would not only be a great surprise for Jonathan, but something that he could keep forever to remember. I called ‘Billy Art’ as I’m always amazed at the work he produces and asked if we could commission a one-off painting. We used a shot from the final race of the season – and this is it. I think it looks amazing.”
I was taken with work until the 21st December and the oil on linen canvas painting was to be presented to Jonathan at the Cornmarket Motorcycle Awards on January 27th 2017 in Belfast. This art was a gift along with an ‘Outstanding Achievement Award’ from Kawasaki for Jonathan’s back to back wins. The first consecutive title win in World Superbikes for 17 years. The last person to achieve back to back wins was Carl ‘Foggy’ Fogarty.
So on the 22nd December 2016 the secret project began. The Jonathan Rea oil painting had to be completed in time for it to dry so that a commemorative limited edition print could be produced, a special edition that Kawasaki UK had from the painting and I have none to sell, and the art could be framed and delivered to Craig Watson of Kawasaki UK and he could get it to Belfast for the Cornmarket Awards evening.
What followed was a a lot of 12-15 hour days. I did have Christmas and Boxing Day off but the clock was ticking and the Jonathan Rea art had to be completed. There was no excuse as there was a presentation deadline date to hit so the long days were a necessity.
Nothing was posted online about the project so that it was kept secret from Jonathan. It was to be a total surprise. I was fortunate to go to the Cornmarket Motorbike Aawards evening with a friend’s table as I couldn’t really go on the Kawasaki table as until the art was presented it could have made conversation a little awkward, ‘And why are you here this evening Billy with the Kawasaki UK folks?…’ I couldn’t even tell my friends either and they were wonderful about it and looked forward to the surprise. Jonathan Rea also received the Joey Dunlop trophy for the fourth time that evening as Motorcyclist of the year.
Jonathan Rea commented: “This really is a shock – but a fantastic shock. I was out with Howard (Howard Dale, Kawasaki UK General Manager) a few weeks ago in Kobe near Kawasaki’s Akashi Factory playing darts and he didn’t mention a thing. I’ve only had a quick look at the painting on the stage but already you can see how special it is. It’s an honour to receive the award and the painting from the team at Kawasaki Motors UK.”
Howard Dale (Kawasaki UK General Manager) said: “Jonathan is always very quick to thank all those supporting him to enable him to chase his dreams. We, at Kawasaki Motors UK, felt that it is not only a nice gesture but also the right thing to do to show our appreciation of his talent, professionalism and his commitment to do his best for himself, his team and Kawasaki. His success reflects onto Kawasaki as a brand, creates brand exposure and makes our job of selling and marketing that much easier.”
Overall this was a fantastic project to work on and Kawasaki UK put up a time-lapse video condensing 200 hours work into 90 seconds. I have put up the full HD time-lapse video on my Youtube Channel that shows the Jonathan Rea 2016 WSB Champion oil painting from start to finish. The full HD time-lapse link of the Jonathan Rea art at the bottom.
Here is the Jonathan Rea 2016 World Superbike Champion Oil Painting by Billy Full HD time-lapse video.