Mike Lavallee, the artist behind the “True Fire” airbrush technique, has died at the age of 60. Lavallee had a stroke on April 6 and suffered from a brain bleed. His death was not related to coronavirus.
Lavallee’s friend, Rocky Howsden, confirmed in a Facebook post that the gifted artist passed away at 4 p.m. on April 14. Heavy has reached out to Lavallee’s colleagues at his business, Killer Paint, for further comment on his death.
A subsequent post on Lavallee’s official Facebook page further confirmed his death. That post read in part, “Our hope here at Killer Paint is that he will be remembered for not only his amazing artwork but for the amazing man many of you knew him to be. … He was our friend, teacher, and boss. We were all lucky to have been a part of, and witness, his crazy and wonderful life.” An auction of Lavallee’s work will be held in order to raise money to help his family to pay for his funeral.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Lavallee Underwent Surgery to Relieve the Swelling on His Brain Following His Stroke
At the time of writing, the most recent update on Lavallee’s condition on his official website said he was “moving in the right direction.” The update asked Lavallee’s friends and fans to donate to his GoFundMe page in order to help to pay for the cost of his medical treatment. That page said Lavallee underwent surgery following his stroke to relieve the swelling on his brain.
At the time of writing, Lavallee’s fundraising page had raised close to $10,000. The ultimate goal of the page is $50,000. A second GoFundMe page had also been set up, with more than $6,600 in donations. The operators of the official page say the donations to the second page will be consolidated and combined with those of the official page.
2. Lavallee Graduated From Butera School of Art in Boston With a Degree in Sign Painting in 1979
According to his bio on Killer Paint’s official website, Lavallee graduated from Butera School of Art in Boston in 1979 with a degree in sign painting. Lavallee fell in love with working on motorcycles after attending a rally in Laconia, New Hampshire, the bio says. “Immersing himself in a decades-long trek he would travel the motorcycle circuit as an artist until choosing to settle in the Pacific Northwest,” it says. In 1999, Lavallee opened his Killer Paint studio in Snohomish, Washington.
The bio ends with the words, “It’s been a journey from one end of the country to another, some times being far easier than others. Along the way he’s touched lives, inspired awe, spread smiles and lived to the fullest. In Mike’s words, ‘What more could you ask for?’” On his Instagram bio, Lavallee wrote, “I’ve been playing with paint my whole life. Every journey for me has started with one single brushstroke.” Lavallee’s final artwork on that page was uploaded on April 3.
3. Lavallee’s Friendship With Jesse James of West Coast Choppers Led to His Multiple TV Appearances
Lavallee made multiple appearances in television series like Overhaulin’, Miami Ink, and Monster Garage, according to his IMDb page. Lavallee’s official website credits the artist’s friendship with Jesse James of West Coast Choppers with beginning Lavallee’s television career.
In 2005, Lavallee was brought into James’ shop to do custom artwork on a bike for musician Kid Rock. The artwork on the bike included a small portrait of the character General Lee from the television series The Dukes of Hazzard as well as the words “American Bad Ass,” the title of a 2000 Kid Rock hit song.
4. Lavallee Once Said He Was Considering Competing in the Olympics as a Gymnast
In an online essay, Lavallee said he was born at the Brooklyn Navy Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, in May 1959. Lavallee wrote that in his youth he was drawn to gymnastics. The essay says, “I was a good student in school, and because of my size I really excelled in gymnastics. Mostly floor exercises, tumbling, vaulting and that sort of thing. Being the smallest, I always got picked to be the top of the human pyramid!”
Lavallee said his interest in gymnastics ended when his family moved to Merrimack, New Hampshire, and his new high school didn’t have a gymnastics program. From there, Lavallee’s interest in art took off. Lavallee said his father’s career as a taxidermist led to his fascination with wildlife art. Speaking about high school, Lavallee said, “Thank God for art class. That constant A grade helped me out when I wasn’t doing so well in other classes that involved left brain usage.”
At the time of writing the essay, Lavallee said he was living in Rochester, New York. Lavallee said that due to his lifestyle of living on the road, his two marriages ended in divorce.
5. Lavallee Said in 2016 That He Wanted to Be Known for More Than Being the ‘Fire Guy’
In a 2016 interview with the Everett Herald, Lavallee said he dreamed of having his own television series. Lavallee told the newspaper, “I don’t want to be known as just the fire guy. I will take it and I will run with it and I will wear it as a badge of honor. But it’s not all that I do.”
During that interview, Lavallee said he was drawn to the Pacific Northwest by a woman from the area. Lavallee said he met the woman in Indiana. Lavallee added that although the relationship with the woman didn’t work out, his relationship with Washington State lasted until the end of his life.