Letterfly creates art the old-fashioned way
by hand with paint. In addition to creating
Airbrushed Murals, Gold Leaf Gilding,
Wet-Blended Pictorials and Hand-Lettering
all disappearing from the mainstream
Letterfly is in demand as…
Have you ever pondered living a life filled with extensive travel, experienced the excitement of wondering what is around the next bend and became completely immersed doing fascinating things in faraway places? Have you witnessed…
Have you experienced a heartwarming talk that made you laugh? Heard a concept that made you think twice, inspired a change to your life’s trajectory and then lifted your awareness to a new level? Have you heard a speech that…
Dave Letterfly Knoderer “The smartest thing I ever did was join the circus!”
This decision launched a teenager into a prolific, itinerate and successful career on an old time, under canvas, three-ring circus in 1970. Dave Letterfly Knoderer first found expression as a show drummer accenting the efforts of the aerialists, performers and artistes, elevating the experience of the patrons in this fast-paced, uniquely American lifestyle. He also satisfied an emerging creative tendency by painting huge signs, wild animal depictions and festive artwork on the fleet.
While drumming, Dave became fascinated with the performing animals in the show. Becoming familiar with this unique artform, he found affinity with horses while learning about multiple animal liberty horse presentations. He later gravitated toward other disciplines of classic horsemanship developing a passion for “Haute E’cole,” meaning high school, (or horse schooled to the highest level). Being part of this distinct entertainment experience provided skills that morphed into his relentless appetite for creativity, fun and adventure that continues to this day.
As an apprentice to the sign painting and design trade, he sought sensational challenges that led to many amazing projects. A skilled painter, Dave designed and painted large wall graphics and theater sets, themed interior and exterior murals in amusement parks, crafted delicate gold leaf gilding and decoration on Antique Fire Trucks, hand lettered signage and scenery on carnival midways, and award-winning gilded window treatments and storefront décor.
As levels of finesse were accomplished with his equine dance partners, parallel developments showed up in the pinstriping, airbrushing and graphic work that financed his quest as a performing horseman. As the evolution of entertainment grew to exclude horses, the demand for his unique style of artwork expanded. Travel to serve a growing list of clients remained one of the constants in his life.
Letterfly clearly qualifies as an old school/renaissance man with a command of design layout formulas, intimacy with letterform, old school pinstriping, and both wet-blended and airbrushed pictorial painting. As his skills with the brush developed, he could not disregard his penchant for adventure.
As sign making began to go the way of the computer over four decades ago, Letterfly found a niche airbrushing high-quality murals on the backs of motor homes. After nine solid years of chasing the work, he became the resident artist at the largest RV dealership in the country.
One project, an eagle flying over snowcapped mountains, was for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle store owner who soon after, also commissioned murals inside and out at his motorcycle dealership. That episode led to other similar projects during the building boom of those retail facilities. While in the proximity of bikers it became impossible for Dave to avoid the relentless requests for delicate pinline designs that personalize, individualize and distinguish their bike from the rest.
Today “Have brush will travel” is the top producer of old school pinstriping, traditional brush-painted pin-up girls, pictorials, hand-painted lettering, gold leaf inscriptions, pet portrayals, portraits and custom images of all kinds on motorcycles, hot rods, guitars, cake mixers, and other modes of moving fast at customer-dedicated Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealerships between Philadelphia and Chicago each summer. The Letterfly Pinstriping route is posted on a blog; Travelog.Letterfly.com so you can find out when the artist is going to be near you.
Perhaps the most amazing feature of this artist is his uncanny ability to visualize, develop and create images that have never been done before, along with the wide variety of styles of pinline designs, his oneness with eagles, wolves, horses, feathers, flames, military logos and countless other icons that make up the mainstay of his work.
The delicate nature of the hand painted pinline design is the result of years of practice and developing finesse with the ungainly, specialized brush. The creation of each motif is an exercise in good-natured meditation where the process becomes like play and the artist opens himself up to possibilities as each stroke occurs, only to discover the visual destination as the last connecting stroke is made.
During the winter months, extensive paint jobs and the fabrication of an endless variety of interesting things takes place at his home/studio/workshop called ArtPark, in Florida. Lush garden pathways connect the shop, studio, RV parking and gallery situated in a quiet oak hammock that is a haven for creativity and a destination for RVers and bikers alike.
When its cold up north, motorcycle enthusiasts dismantle their bikes and ship the pieces to Letterfly ArtPark for intricate design work, over-all custom repaints and spectacular paint jobs that showcase his vast repertoire.
When RVers head to Florida during the winter, they visit ArtPark to get a custom airbrushed mural on the back of their motor home, a portrait of their pet on the entry door, some graphic shapes on their tow-car that match the stripe designs on the coach, a monogram, a special inscription or any number of one-of-a-kind images that the artist conjures up just for them.
No matter what sort of wheeled machine you have; touring bike, motor home, automobile, hot rod, motorcycle or even a guitar, fanciful artwork, colorful swoops, hand lettered inscriptions, a full-fledged mural or a mini portrait, gold leaf gilding and the old school hand-painted pinstriping that he is famous for, the finishing touch will personalize your rig, make “looking good” a reality and traveling down the road more fun.
The artist/author Dave Letterfly Knoderer is not only the guru of living an interesting life but is also an inspirational speaker ready to take you behind the scenes of the fascinating places discovered along the road of his life.
Writing began as newsletter content thirty years ago. Soon Dave had enough material for one book, then two, and now he is working on several memoires that chronical the surprise twists, turbulent chaos and confusing detours of a tumultuous life that ultimately led to love.
Dave is quick to point out that everyone’s mixture of life’s challenges is divinely choreographed to help us discover our true purpose. Subscribe to receive his bi-monthly email newsletter called Tales of a Traveling Airbrush. Read these ongoingly to find inspiration to overcome the obstacles of your life that really are the gifts that bring about one's greatest transformation.
RV/MH Heritage Museum
The history of rolling artwork is as old as travel itself. The RV/MH Museum in Elkhart, Indiana is currently in the midst of a complete makeover to provide guests a unique five-dimensional journey through the ages of RVing. Among the antique RVs on display will be the story of how artwork accompanied these travelers.
The tradition of artwork on vehicles is timeless. Ancient Egypt enjoyed elaborate decorations on their wagons, boats and ships. The Romans built roads to support the movement of carriages, chariots and the Carpentum. European Gypsys lived in detailed Vardos, Woolywagons and living Caravans, the forerunners of the RV lifestyle. The passengers who saw the elaborate pinstriping, elegant lettering and the pastoral scenes painted on Pullman railroad cars were left with the impression that no expense had been spared for their railroading comfort, enjoyment and experience.
Before Henry Ford introduced mass production, proud teams of tradesmen built carriages and wagons one at a time. The finishing touch was accurate, thin painted lines that went over the carefully fitted wooden joints. The precise decoration established their output as high-quality. Pinstriping logically followed the evolving automobile industry and the pinstriper near the end of the assembly line was the highest paid man of all. By the end of World War II, the boomers created the hot rod scene and custom paint exploded to include all forms of creative expression with paint.
Traveling country and western singers, gospel groups and rock and roll bands wanted their tour buses to stand out with cutting edge painted effects. Impressive hand-painted exteriors touted airbrushed steam boats reminiscent of the early days of taking music and entertainment up and down the great Mississippi river, large eagles flying majestically over desert scenes referred to the romance of solitude in faraway places. Fantasy icons, logos of all kinds and fantastic graphic stripe schemes were all carefully designed and crafted by hand by cutting edge painters of all kinds.
Ma and Pa USA wanted to hit the road too. A few decades into the emerging RV phenomenon, remarkable diesel pushers arrived on the scene to rival the impression once the exclusive realm of the entertainment industry. Interestingly the emerging trend coincided with folks retiring to become full-timers.
Regular folks began looking for ways to make their motorhome look better than the touring country stars and created a market for artists to create custom airbrushed murals for the back of their coach. The phenomenon of hand painted artwork on motorhomes was a trend that lasted well over two decades.
When technology introduced both an efficient way to generate paint mask for spectacular full body graphics and computer generated and printed wraps, the era of the artist who decorated RVs by hand was over. Today the RVers are happy with the way the spectacular swoops, animated ribbons and scrolly curly-cues look. And todays touring musicians prefer to go incognito.
Artistic milestones included in the exhibit are examples of artwork created to decorate the retail environment of where Letterfly was the artist in residence for fifteen years, the cover illustration for Family Motor Coach Magazine, airbrushed the same way that thousands of murals on motor homes were created, and a new twist on the family crest for the visitors to consider.
Arlington Heights High School, Arlington Heights, Illinois
Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois
Ringling School of Art & Design, Sarasota, Florida
2020 Showmen’s Museum, Riverview, Florida
2018 American Museum of the Mule, California
2016 American Sign Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio
2016 Mack Brush Company, Jonesville, Michigan
2014 Mural Museum, Pontiac, Illinois
2004 Bike Week, Daytona Beach, Florida
2004 Seminar; “Rolling Art… Why A Mural” Clinton Harley-Davidson, Clinton, Iowa
2004 Seminar; “Rolling Art…Why A Mural?” Heartland Harley-Davidson, Burlington, Iowa
2003American Society of Interior Decorators Trade Show, Sarasota, Florida
2003 Instruction Workshop “Airbrush Techniques” Ringling School of Art & Design, Sarasota, Florida
1998 Biketoberfest, Daytona Beach, Florida
1998-2013; Weekly Seminar; “Rolling Art… Why A Mural?” Lazydays RV Supercenter, Seffner, Florida
1998 American Saddlebred Museum, Kentucky Horse Park
1997 Participant, Group Artists Show at Unity Gallery, Sarasota, Florida
1997 Finalist, Sign Business Magazine Auto Art Contest
1995 Participant, Group Artists Show at Unity Gallery, Sarasota, Florida
1994 IIASA Trade Show “Best of Show” Award for “Skee Ball Lightning” Themed Piece
1989 Winner, Signs of the Times design competition for storefront window decor
Books & Magazines
2021 Speedy hurled through havoc, self-published memoire
2020 Born to Ride Magazine, contributing writer
2004 Careers for Geniuses and Other Gifted Types by Jan Goldberg
2004- to date; Tales of a Traveling Airbrush, Dave “Letterfly” Knoderer
2002 Cover Art Family Motor Coaching Magazine
2002 My Life, an Autobiography, Dave “Letterfly” Knoderer
1999-2000 Marquis Who’s Who in America, Publication
1998 Destinations, Tours and Travel, Article “Rare View” June Page 96
1998 Motorhome Magazine, Story “Traveling Trademark” July Page 36
1997 Sign Business, Auto Art Contest 97 Page 134
1997 Arriving February Page 64 “Letterfly’s Patriotic Offerings”
1997 The American Saddlebred April\May Page 66 “Letterfly and Souveran”
1995 Family Motor Coaching February Page 201” Motor home Artist”
1994 Family Motor Coaching December Page 70 “Motor Coach Art”
1992 The American Saddlebred May June Page 31 “Saddlebred Wins at Sarasota”
Achievements and Murals
2004 “Black Hills Saloon” Signage J. Bonner, Port Orange, Florida
2004 “Marilyn & Elvis, James Dean & Natalie Woods” Murals, Darnell Collection, Hickory Flats, Georgia
2004 “Angel on the Ceiling” Rochette Home, Fort Meade, Florida
2004 “A Taste of Tuscany” Dining Room Mural, Delapa home, Marco Island, Florida
2004 “Route 66” Mural, Bennie and Julie Darnell, Canton, Georgia
2003 “Clinton Harley-Davidson” Wall Mural, Clinton, Iowa
2003 HGTV Televised Show; “Designers Challenge” Safety Harbor, Florida
2003 “Ceiling Motif” Harbor Island home, Harbor Island, Florida
2002 “Thank A Veteran” Jack Giampapa, Conifer, Colorado
2002 “Buffalo Mural” Cheryl and Wayne Cook, Shipshewana, Indiana
2001 “Flaming Eagle” Lloyd & Norma McVey, Naples, Florida
2001 “Garden Vista” Banquet Room, Tara Golf & Country Club, Bradenton, Florida
2000 “John Wayne” Mural, Jack Tipton, St. Louis, Missouri
2000 “Italian Vista” Mural, Delapa home, Marco Island, Florida
1999 “Fantasy Golf Course” Restaurant Mural, Tara Golf & Country Club, Bradenton, Florida
1998 “Winner” Performing Domestic animal act, Sarasota International Circus Talent Competition
1998 “Cover Art” Auto Art Magazine, Kansas City, Missouri
1998 “Fantasy View” RJ Wos home, Davis Island, Florida
1997 “Cherish the Magic” Book Cover, Jack Giampapa, Conifer, Colorado
1997 “Venice” mural with marble effects – Trompe L’oeil artwork, Colkitt, Sarasota
1997 Model Railroad room murals: “C&O Streamliner in Monument Valley”, “Magical Mountain Sky”, “Modern Express About to Arrive”, “Peaceful Night of the Coyote”, Jim Butner, Floyd’s Knob, Indiana
1997 “Racing Cars” (canvas), Butner Auto, Clarksville, Indiana
1997 “Don Quixote”, Phil & Bertha, Plantation, Florida
1996 “Whales Tail”, Dale & Betty, Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
1996 “Souveran” a portrait, Arleen G Knoderer, Sulphur Springs, Arkansas
1996 “Floral Dance Floor” Airport Marriott, Tampa, Florida
1996 “Arabian Stallion”, Hickory Groves, Eaton, Indiana
1996 “Boaters World”, Desoto Mall, Bradenton, Florida
1996 Portrait of “Best”, Arabian Stallion (canvas), Wilde Farms, Hastings, Michigan
1996 “History of Printed Information” (library wall mural), Decatur (Indiana) High School
1996 “Dream Room”, Customers Lounge at Fleetwood Mfg., Decatur, Indiana
1996 “Roman Room”, John, Benton Harbor, Michigan
1995 “Friesian Fantasy”, Jack & Tillie, San Jacinto, California
1994 “Beardsley” (on a toilet seat), Stephen & Elsie, Cape May, New Jersey
1986 “Anna’s Apparel” Award Winning Victorian Storefront, Jackson, Michigan
1989 “Acapulco”, Kip’s Taco, Jackson, Michigan
Dave Letterfly Knoderer
Passion for the performing arts of the circus lead me on an interesting path of accumulating specific knowledge of a vast animal training niche. I developed skills for several forms of schooling the animal; classic Haute E’cole, or high school horsemanship, liberty disciplines and trick training with the goal of becoming a circus performer.
1996 Performed circus acts twice a day; “Souveran” the Haute E’cole or high school dancing Saddlebred horse, and “Betty” the liberty, trick and comedy mule - Gold-Dust and the Old Cuss – for the summer season at the tourist attraction called the Circus Hall of Fame in Peru, Indiana.
1991-96 Riding student of Kathy Daly: Dressage instructor, Prix St Georges competitor and “R” rated Judge. Kathy continued with the agenda started by Dorita Konyot to develop my classic seat and understanding of exercises to facilitate engagement and lightening of the forehand. Kathy provided additional instruction for my working knowledge of all aspects of influencing the horse for the development of advanced movements.
1989-94 Riding student of Dorita Konyot. During the fall and spring between my summer season and wintertime gigs, Dorita refined my use of legs, seat and hands to promote the finesse needed to achieve harmony with my high school horse. The Konyot family is credited with bringing dressage to this country. Dorita’s father Arthur influenced both Vi Hopkins and Chuck Grant. We became close friends. Dorita, being elderly, recognized my need for additional advanced one-on-one instruction and referred me to her protege Kathy Daly.
1989 Winner at the Sarasota International Circus Festival Talent Competition of the first-place award in the domestic animal category on Souveran the American Saddlebred Haute E’cole horse.
1988-90 Student of John Herriott; Liberty Horse trainer, circus personality and trainer of all kinds of animals in Sarasota, Florida. We prepared our horses for circus performing; I rode “Souveran” the American Saddlebred and John rode “American Jubilee” his American Saddlebred. In addition to developing leg extensions, lateral movements and trick poses with our horses, John provided understanding of how to start the hind leg walk with Betty the Mule.
1994 Cirque Gastione tour of Quebec, Canada
1992 Kentucky Shrine Circus dates
1989 Sparling Brothers Circus Tour – Ontario, Canada
1989 Understudy of Chuck Grant: The Grandfather of American Dressage and Master Horseman – Brighton, Michigan. Chuck provided a foundational understanding of all the movements of a circus horse and a tremendous amount of encouragement. We began the foundational work of training the high school horse during the fall of the year. I met Mr. Grant fifteen years earlier when I observed lessons during rehearsals for his “Horsecapades.” We became close friends.
1988-89 Understudy of Violet Hopkins; riding instructor and creator of the USDF Dressage Instructors Clinic, Union Lake, Michigan. Started “Souveran” the American Saddlebred as a five-year-old with ground driving and lunge-work in preparation to make a dressage horse. Worked closely with Vi on foundational riding skills to gain suppleness and develop a classic seat. Developed trot work skills - Traverse & Renvers – to develop specific muscle groups to promote engagement. While learning finesse with all aspects of living with and riding the horse, we became close friends and I learned her spiritual analogy for living life.
1987 acquired “Betty” the jet-black 12 hand mule as a baby. Began training her to perform at liberty and with tricks of the ménage; lay-down, sit-up, bow, waltz, etc. for the sake of developing a comedy act.
1986 Performed as the headline act at the Big D Saddle Horse Show in Dallas, Texas is “Class n Sass” the American Saddlebred equine ballerina.
1984 Performed with “Class n Sass” Haute E’cole dancing horse on Bentley Brothers Circus and various Shrine Circus dates.
1982-85 Understudy of Evy Karoli circus high school horse trainer and dancing horse presenter. The Karoli family is known throughout Europe for riding acts, high school horses and other trained animal acts. Acquired “Class n Sass” American Saddlebred and with Evy’s help participated with the training of the march, three step, passage, breakdown bow, rear, backwards-double two-step, etc. Evy provided a significant segue in my classic horsemanship education and influenced my circus style of riding.
1982 Performed with “Sir Bingo” the Manege Horse on Bentley Brothers Circus as part of a three-ring display of horses. Performed nationwide with various Shrine Circus dates
1979 Sold six pony liberty act to Ian Garden of Garden Brothers Circus in Canada. His son presented the act for twelve years.
1978 Performed twice a day on one day stands with both my six-pony Liberty act and Manege horse on King Brothers three ring Circus for the season and then with the Great American big top Circus in America.
1976 Performed with six pony liberty act and began performing with Bingo the Manege horse on touring big top three ring shows; Royal Brothers Circus in Canada, and Fisher Brothers Circus in America.
1974-78 Riding student of Clarence Hastings, Master Huntsman in Jackson, Michigan. During the off-season Clarence provided understanding of fundamentals of riding in preparation for my presenting another act with the circus; the Buckskin Tobiano Quarter Horse “Sir Bingo”. My riding lessons continued each winter along with excursions to observe activities at Chuck Grant’s stables in Brighton, Michigan where Clarence was the director of “Horse Capades.” I became close friends with both Clarence Hastings and Chuck Grant, often taking them to see the Detroit Shrine Circus to meet circus horse and animal trainers and presenters.
1975 performed with my six-pony liberty act on Royal Brothers Circus in Canada
1974 performed with three-pony liberty act on Barnes & Dailey Circus and Voorheis Brothers Circus
1973-76 Wintertime understudy of Bob Grubb retired trainer/presenter of circus liberty acts, Manege horses and all-around circus horseman in Hugo, Oklahoma. I accumulated a string of palomino ponies for my own act and brought them to Hugo. With Bob’s help I learned liberty training. I took three ponies trained out on the road with the circus to get them seasoned. I returned the next winter and we added three more. After two winters, I had a six-pony liberty act and I began performing on numerous tours with traveling big top circuses.
1970-1972 Fascination with circus horsemanship began while playing drums in the circus band observing the trained animal acts. Helped Brownie Silverlake with lead stock on the circus. Because of my interest I received encouragement from my peers to learn to perform with horses.