Paul Karslake RIP

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We’re sad to announce that artist, scooterist and friend Paul Karslake has sadly passed away after battling pneumonia, according to the Southend Echo website.

Privately I’d received a couple of telephone calls from concerned people who had heard rumours, and the family have recently confirmed that the rumours are sadly true. 

Mike, Paul & Jo Karslake featuring on a 1970s Lambretta promotional image.

Born in 1958 and son of renowned Lambretta enthusiast Mike Karslake, Paul grew up with scooters, later helping his dad to restore while he was studying art. I first met Paul when I worked for Stuart Lanning and travelled over to his studio near Southend in Essex to meet him about a magazine article. Not long after I moved to Essex and we became friends, our shared love of Lambretta scooters being the common denominator. As well as sharing a pint or three in the days when he drank, and later on a coffee in whatever cafe was serving the best at that moment within walking distance of the studio. 

After his mother, Rachel, sadly passed away a couple of years ago, Paul sold his dad’s old Lambretta and sidecar that he’d rescued from her shed, simply due to a lack of space, but kept his own Series 2 Lambretta plus other scooters. 

For the last four or five years now, Paul and myself have been discussing a coffee table book based around some of his dad’s old photo albums, but as is often the case, both of us had plenty of other projects on our respective plates. 

Paul Karslake with the Mike Karslake Trophy in 2016, the first time he’d seen the trophy presented in honour of his father.

Many will know Paul’s name as an extremely talented artist who was behind legendary custom scooters such as Dazzle, Wake, Spirit Walker, Shock, Prelude and many, many more. 

But it wasn’t just scooters; Paul’s work has graced lorries, motorbikes, even aeroplanes which would land at Southend airport so Paul could apply his talent in a private hanger. He also painted canvases and worked with the likes of Tracy Emin, as well as being commissioned to paint for all kinds of celebrities from TV, film and music. From guitars for Busted to portraits for Keith Richards. In fact John Depp famously based his character in Pirates of the Caribbean on a portrait of his Keith, that his wife commissioned Paul to paint as a present. 

Although no longer living in Essex, I still kept in touch with Paul fairly regularly, via message and phone calls. I was down in Cornwall last month photographing Wolfie Smith’s old Lambretta that Paul had helped his father with before it was loaned to the BBC. While talking about that, I told him of the upcoming rally in Devon in his father’s name which he told me he hoped to attend. 

After Chuck Swonnell sadly died a few weeks ago, Paul and I spoke about doing a tribute in ScooterNova as he knew Chuck from a young age, via his dad. Paul had promised to paint a cover for ScooterNova magazine ever since he attended our ScooterExpo last July and met Dave Dickinson there painting a cover live at the event for us. The other week Paul told me the cover he wanted to paint was one featuring Chuckles. 

We spoke again about art ideas and also that we needed to get on with the coffee table book about his dad. I know Paul hadn’t been well recently. In fact, with his dad passing away at relatively young age, Paul was always aware that he needed to look after himself, giving up smoking, then drinking many years ago now. 

Then, just prior to Chuck’s funeral Paul sent me a message to say he couldn’t attend because he was self-isolating and was at home with his wife Sandra. 

Four days later and I’m writing this about someone who sounded so happy and positive the last time we spoke despite his concerns. I’ve unfortunately written a number of obituaries over the years, but this has been one of the hardest for me to write yet.

Our thoughts go out to his wife Sandra, son Ted and the rest of the family at this extremely sad time.

Rest In Peace Paul Karslake, you will be sadly missed by so many people. xx

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Paul at Mersea Island scooter rally, 2019 (photo by Gavin Beecham)