AT 19, AMANDA BRISEBOIS’ DAD PICKED HER UP FROM SHERIDAN COLLEGE where she was pursuing a Bachelor’s of Applied Arts in Illustration. Instead of taking her home, he took her to a “really shady shop” to try to encourage her to have a go at airbrush painting. “He handed me a $25 Posh airbrush from Princess Auto and said, ‘Just give it a try!’” she says. Brisebois pushed past her initial reluctance and some equipment issues with the cheap, siphon-feed spray gun,“The solvents kept dissolving the rubber feed hose and I’d have to replace it every 20 minutes,” she recalls, laughing. Finally acquiring a proper gravity-feed spray gun was, “like going from drawing with crayons to oil paints, then I was hooked,” she says.
Brisebois continued to hone her airbrush skills while working contract gigs as a graphic designer for Hudson’s Bay Company and Livewire. In the days before YouTube tutorials, the lifelong rider largely taught herself the nuances of
airbrush painting by working on her own bike. She also started making contacts throughout the custom motorcycle and automotive industries. She credits her “Shop Dad,” Roland Kruyff of Chrome It! with teaching her how to do body work and proper surface preparation.
After balancing her painting work with her graphic design contracts for a few years, Brisebois decided to fi nally make Black Widow Custom Paint her full-time gig in 2012. She’s recently built her own small shop behind her Guelph home—“so I know all about soffit and fascia and all that now,” she laughs. She’s content to stick to motorbikes, “it’s all I can fit in there and I have NO desire to work on cars.”
She travels to bike shows to drum up business and showcase her talents in both custom and restoration work, bringing along her husband’s restored ’76 BMW Airhead that she painted, although she purposely avoids demonstrating certain skills to prospective clients. “Skulls and fl ames, skulls and flames, nine times out of 10. It’s like, ‘Hey, I have this bike, I kinda wanna go with skulls and flames,’so I don’t bring those pieces to shows. I’ll bring the weirdest shit, like my burger helmet or my chicken bike,” she says. Wait. Chicken bike? “Yeah, I’m not cool enough to have an eagle on my bike, so I painted a chicken on it,” she says, “kind of like a SoCal lowrider style with fish scales on the side but they’re actually feathers.”
While there are still tough days, “sometimes I want to burn this mother down,” she says, laughing, but mostly things are good and new projects and people keep things interesting, including painting a helmet for a Paralympic athlete competing in PyeongChang, South Korea. She’s also preparing to paint three Biltwell helmets donated as raffl e prizes for Babes Ride N Rage, a women’s motorcycle event held each year in Northern Ontario. The idea was conceived at last year’s event, on a cold September morning. “We were hanging
out on the beach,” she says, “and it was 3°C and then it went up to like 10°C, and everyone’s like ‘Yes! Naked!’ So they’re in their bathing suits in the sun and I’m just wrapped in my blanket observing because it’s fucking cold,” she says. Brisebois noticed that many of her fellow riders had extensive tatt oo collections, “It sounds creepy but I was gawking at their artwork and it was amazing and I started thinking about the raffl e prizes. They had a helmet but it was just plain and I thought how cool it would be with everyone’s tattoos painted on it—but with all the artwork it would need more than one helmet.” She took pictures of each woman’s favourite tatt oo and pitched her idea to Elizabeth Wimbush and Cas Houde, the organizers of the event, who then got Biltwell on board to donate the three giveaway helmets.
For now, though, Brisebois, has sold the chicken bike and replaced it with a
Suzuki dual sport for which she’s yet to make custom artwork plans. In the mean-
time, she has a basement full of fairings, fenders, and saddlebags to work through, although it’s unclear if any of their owners are cool enough to skip the skulls and flames and embrace the chicken.
Words by Ryan Johansen