Published: Jan 04, 2012 02:00 AM
Modified: Jan 02, 2012 06:07 PM
CHAPEL HILL - Betty Neese is a needle artist. Her bright, colorful quilts adorn her walls and crescent-shaped couch in her home on Carolina Avenue near downtown.
So when she and her husband got a new garage door recently, Neese, 81, kept looking at the big, empty, white rectangle at the end of the driveway, thinking she could do better.
Or that Michael Brown could.
Neese hired the Chapel Hill painter, best known for his downtown murals, to paint a portrait of her and husband Perry Colwell astride their 1961 BMW R69S - on her garage door.
"She didn't want to paint it brown, and she just got this idea," Brown said, sitting brush in hand on an upturned bucket. "Thank goodness for that, (or) I'd have to move to New York."
Bundled in a hoodie and hat against the December chill two weeks ago, Brown worked from photocopied pictures taped to the garage door.
"It's not every screw and everything just right in that motor area," he said, leaning back to assess his progress.
"But (Colwell) loves his bikes," Brown said. "And he works on them himself. I don't think he'd have it any other way."
Neese, 81, and Colwell, 85, both retired from AT&T, married in 1983 and moved to Chapel Hill from the New York City area about 20 years ago.
They began riding together soon after that.
He'd been riding motorcycles since he was 16; she'd done some riding with her sons.
Even so, Neese says her husband wasn't sold on the idea of having a painting on their garage door, until he saw Brown's sketches.
"I think he has the most wonderful perspective," Neese said. "I took out (motorcycle) jackets I have. Perry's was terribly faded. He made everything look just like us."
Friends and neighbors agree.
The couple have ridden to Texas, California and to Canada and New York state's Finger Lakes twice.
They don't ride together as much lately.
Colwell rides a motorcycle with a sidecar filled with weights for extra stability.
Neese sometimes rides a motorcycle behind her husband but misses sharing the same bike, "squeezing him with my knees."
The painting wasn't a birthday or anniversary gift.
"It was just a present to us," she said, "and we're happy every time we look at it."