Yesterday, I had a conversation (OK, a conversation in the digital sense, but words and ideas were conveyed, making it a conversation in the modern sense) with a friend, and, though we were discussing drawing and designing cars for fun and no profit, we hit upon the business side. As we dove deeper into the differences between illustrating and designing, the elephant in the room reared its head, and brought up the classic issue of dealing with monotony and having to educate a client or two along the way. And then he (my pal, not the elephant… I’m sure that the elephant is a she, as it never laughs at farts) did the unthinkable:
He asked a question. If you know me, then, well… you know better than to set the synapses a-firing. He posed the question that has gotten so many into trouble over the years; “What small business doesn’t have to deal with a customer base that doesn’t understand the craft, and always beats you up on price?”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what inspired me to create a whole new niche.
For your consideration: The hot dog cart.
When you approach, you know the price. You may not know what goes into said food product, but you know that you like it. Much like art: Can you make a hot dog? Further: Can you make an EDIBLE, visually pleasing hot dog? …much less in the time frame that you want it? Chances are that you can’t. So you pay the price listed, no haggling, no bartering, no getting five other quotes from other vendors, and then going back to the cart where you found the hot dog you wanted, and telling the proprietor that a cart over on 52nd has them $1 cheaper. You purchase the dog, perhaps you throw a suggestion or two in there (“Mmmm sauerkraut sounds good!”), you eat it. End of transaction.
The porn industry, I’d imagine, is very similar, but lacking the customization in many cases (I’m talking broadcast/pre-recorded… I understand that there are outlets online where they’ll tailor a performance, but for our purposes, that’s like seeking a Picasso that matches your couch, not having your Gremlin drawn — which is a funny innuendo all it’s own, but I digress). You see the video, you delight in the creative title (“Sorority Sisters 85”, “Boobnado” or “The Fucked and the Furious 69”), and think “Yeah, she looks pretty hot”, and BAM! You clean up… I mean “purchase said video”. You don’t quarrel that the lady on the cover should be a brunette or redhead, or haggle for a cheaper price, simply because the prop used wasn’t big enough or this or that color… No, you pay the price, and head back to your parent’s basement and get your creep on. No hassle… you enjoy the movie for the, uh, “art” that it is.
That said, I’m going to hit Shark Tank with my revolutionary idea:
I’m taking my craft on the road. Working from a re-purposed hot dog cart, I’ll sell my art on pre-packaged DVD’s, featuring titles like “Sixty-Nine Camaro 25”, “Brothel Belvedere”, “Salt Flats Slut”, and so-on. Pre-made designs, renderings and illustrations with no hassle. The price is the price. You have a thing for another gray pro-touring Camaro on Forgelines? We’ll have you covered. You like it weird? We’ll have a slammed, patina school bus that’s part Donk, part resto-mod, and all triple-turbocharged with lowrider paint. A little something for everyone.
Should you want a more “customized”, “intimate” experience, well, that’s what the website is for (“Private Drawing Sessions With Brian and His Big Pencil”). And, should this be a hit, the part that I’m most excited about is hearing on the news how the “Adult custom automotive art industry is seeing record numbers, but there’s a dark side: Many are addicted to buying renderings and prints.”
If idle hands are the devil’s workshop and whatnot, just imagine what bored, angry eyes could be. While there is a certain validity in considering a B-movie about Marty Feldman’s reanimated orbs running rampant and slaying hundreds (give me a shout and we’ll write the script), we’re not talking about some fictitious scenario here… We’re talking about the potential for your eyes to become so bored, so absolutely tired of your walls that they turn on you.
What would stop an angry, vindictive eye from going cross just as your Employee of the Month photo were snapped, or even willing the lid to close, rendering you without depth perception at a crucial moment? Yes, you need to keep your eyes happy.
We can help.
Introducing our nifty new Print of the Month Subscription.
Yes, it’s not simply like getting a new print delivered to your door every month… It’s exactly like getting a fresh new print delivered to your door every month. In fact, there’s no “like it” at all. It’s precisely “GETTING A NEW PRINT DELIVERED TO YOUR DOOR EVERY MONTH.” Brilliant, we know.
Your barren walls, aching for some neat-o, automotive art-based decoration.
Your eyes, plotting to steer you directly toward that rogue pile of what you’ll hope was dog poo.
You, pondering one of the great mysteries of life. “Oh how could I ever score some fresh automotive art each month… namely an 18×24-inch, beautiful print to hang on my wall, which would be delivered to me, and save me some cash at the same time??”
We have you covered.
For less than the retail cost of a print, we’ll send you a new one every 30 days or so. Hell, we’ll even eat the shipping. At that point, you’re well ahead. But like most great things, there’s always a but. In this case, it’s a…
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
While you’re thinking “I’m such a lucky bastard to even have this offered to me!”, we’re plotting to potentially make you an even luckier bastard.
Each month, we’ll select a few subscribers at random, and send those “Lucky Bastards” (it’s like a club, but without all of the dues and fanfare and meetings, and crappy shiny nylon bowling jackets) a random item from the Studio. Yep… one random item. Could be a worn-down pencil, a book, a video, some odd trinket we snatched-up at a show, or even a napkin doodle. Ponder the excitement you’ll feel as your print arrives, and with it, there’s a sketch, or another print, or some… Jell-O. Ponder away.
So there you go: A print every 30 days, for 3, 6 or even 12 months, and you save some coin. Heck, you may even make off with a future museum piece from the fabled Studio. Don’t want to keep all of them? Stash ’em for gifts, and save time later on! Why not give someone you love the gift of a print every 30 days? They’d be like “It NEVER STOPS! My eyes are so happy! I’ve never had better depth perception!”, and you’ll save more the longer you subscribe. It’s absolutely mind-boggling.
Check it out here:
We have ’em for domestic (should you live in the continental US): http://bit.ly/NrLHC5
And international (should you be some richy-rich movie star and live in an exotic land like Italy or Alberta):
Not sure where you live? Google yourself, maybe. Can you see yourself on the satellite view? Perhaps even street view? Outstanding. What if you can’t see you, but maybe someone you live with? Your car? How about a familiar landmark you might pass each day? Come to think of it, this may not be the correct way to go about things here. Perhaps it’s best that you close this email, and seek some guidance, if you’re having trouble finding where on the planet you live and all that. But if you do know where you live, by golly, hooray for you! Sign up now using the link that best describes the location of your domicile.
And there you have it. We’ve just saved your life. Or your shoes. Or, heaven forbid, some body part you didn’t want placed somewhere due to failed depth perception… AND given you a great idea for a movie. And possibly, even, directed you to discovering just where on Earth you live.
That is precisely why a woman reading a well-known magazine one time described us as “Givers”.
Pulling out all the stops, and laying out some groovy little extras for the “Print of the Month” shipments. Kinda weird to design a campaign for yourself… I’m my own worst client.
Why not subscribe, and get some great art at a cheap price, and see this crap in person? Your walls will thank you.
And should you be concerned, the forest has assured me that it will continue to grow more trees as we need them. See that? You can help keep the forest AND ink gnomes in a job, and away from the streets. Think traffic is bad now? Imagine the roads clogged with trees and brightly-colored creatures. It’s a circle of giving. Do some good, you selfish bastard.
While many people operate on some arcane belief that thirteen is unlucky, around the Studio, we find that, like anything, it’s all in what you make of it. To say that 2013, when viewed as a product of the work invested, was a success would be an understatement. There was a ton of struggle, more late nights than ever before, and an absolute will to push things as far as possible, and the payoff was, to say the least, something to behold. We were stoked to see so much work from the previous years see light of day as completed projects, and watch as those projects really came into their own.
To say that none of it would have been possible without you, our loyal friends and fans, well, would be the truth! It’s tough to say “Thank You” in a way that could begin to illustrate our heartfelt appreciation here, but know that it means the world to us. Without you, there would be no reason to turn the lights on each day, much less keep them burning late into the following evenings.
That said, kick back, and take a peek at all of the cool things that you helped to create in 2013, and share in my counting of the many blessings that the year brought my way. I have a lot to pay forward in ’14.
Start at the Beginning
…we could Tarrantino the whole thing, however. Or even Peter Jackson it, and split it into three newsletters, using the second part to merely waste your time with a 25-minute chase scene which only serves to present an idea for a theme park ride. But we’re not so bitter as to do that.
The year kicked off with the usual rush to finish some projects which had slid over from the previous calendar, as they usually do. Completing some minor tweaks on cars that were set to debut, and winding down from a whirlwind of last-minute SEMA work, the year always heads out in a flurry of activity.
In January, the Torino took the first bow in paint in Pomona, setting off what would be a year of serious award-winning magic. From concept:
..to finished masterpiece:
(I made motor noises until Moose fired it up. Then I giggled. A lot.)
…the crew at Rad Rides simply pushed the envelope, and threw down some of the most incredible fit and finish ever. While it was spectacular to see the GPT Special become reality, and then to follow-up by sweeping the 2013 Detroit Autorama Best Overall Street Machine, the inaugural Barrett-Jackson Cup in Reno, the 2013 Optima Batteries Street Machine of the Year, and the 2013 Mothers Shine Award, the icing on the cake was seeing my youngest son’s excitement in, as he put it, “finally getting to sit in it!”.
My son. Sitting in a vehicle I designed, which just spent the year cleaning house at every stop.
Best. Feeling. EVER.
In Detroit, Nailed, Mark’s ’56 Buick swept into the Great 8…
Such a fun project to play on, and one of those cars that is so well-detailed that you could spend hours looking at it, and then head back and see things you missed the first time.
It was neat, too, to see the original sketch for the car on rear seat at the SEMA Show in November:
The new year continued to tear some fresh ground with a killer opportunity to blog for Dodge. And blog I did, by golly. It began with a trek to NY, and some massive support from our friends and family in the hot rod industry. To say that it was insane to witness (and be a part of), well… That’s an understatement. Between our family supporting the heck out of it, and good friends campaigning and pushing (hey Tim and Carrie Strange! That would be friends like YOU, for example.) non-stop, I nailed a gig doing something I truly enjoy: Writing. And talking. And writing and talking about cars, and the stories behind them.
(exploring the 2014 Durango mere minutes after its debut. I was there first. Suck it, Ron Burgundy.)
In May, we nailed the first One-n-Done, working with the great guys at Porterbuilt to complete a front and rear Dropmember (and airbag and rack and pinion!) install in Broey’s truck.
In one day, with about 40 volunteers and friends, we accomplished the task, setting the stage for a number of gatherings geared to entertain, educate, and get some work done. Between the coverage in Street Trucks, the LiveCast and more soon, it was a success on many levels!
Following the amazing win in the REDLINE Dodge contest, I was swept off to some great events, like the All Chrysler Nationals in Carlisle:
Even spent a few moments in the Hotchkis Autocross Taxi. Seemed like the thing to do:
…and the following road trip with Steve Magnante was a blast indeed. As we traveled up North, we stopped at Jerry Stein’s place to take in some history, and complete the Max Wedge overload that began in Carlisle:
…and continued with making some great (and occasionally awkward… OK, mostly awkward) memories along the way, with some great stops, including a tour of the Magnante compound. (you can check out all of that in detail HERE)
The next trip would find me in Detroit for the Woodward Dream Cruise, and a chance to fulfill a childhood dream: As a kid, I was obsessed with Steve Lisk’s Hemi Challenger, and swore to one day cruise that famous loop in a Hemi Challenger myself. Check that one off the bucket list (much, much more on this to come).
(that’s me on the left, tanning my left arm!)
Thanks to the great folks at Dodge and Ignite Social Media for making the dream come true (and for the metric ton of memories and experiences along the way that made the past months absolutely surreal). Much more on that soon.
While in Detroit, I finally got to meet my good friend Arv (go and become a fan of his HERE) in person! I’ve had the pleasure of knowing the man for many moons, and we’d never been able to connect in person. He and his lovely family took time, and we managed to connect at the airport, as I was heading home. While it was a quick visit, it was one of those fantastic moments that I’ll always remember. He’s a supremely talented human being, and I’m humbled to be able to discuss art, design and so much more with the man.
September hit, and the year just got crazier. Sick Seconds, the 1969 Camaro I had worked on with Pro Rides/Denny Terzich, and now owned by Tom Bailey, ripped five consecutive six second, quarter-mile passes, capping the event with a 6.70 at 217.42 MPH. When I coined the name for the car some years back, it began as tongue-in-cheek… Proud to not only see it live up to the moniker, but land a spot in the record books, as well! Not too bad for a 3100 lb. car yanking a trailer 300 miles per day. 2013 was nailing shut so many open chapters for me, it was getting crazier to watch by the moment! Topped the street machine segment, and blew the doors off (literally) the on-track part of the show. Hard work was paying off!
Come Fall, things were a whirlwind, working double-time to keep up, and working on a ton of projects set to debut this coming year… and, wouldn’t you know it, SEMA was heading in fast. I was stoked, as I’d have a few marquee rides on the floor, and I’d be attending with my friends from Dodge and Ignite, so my experience would be drastically altered from years past! I saw the show in a different light, to be certain, and made some great new friends, and got to spend a little time with some of my oldest ones, as well.
Heck, I finally shook hands with my pal Max. Known the guy for years, and have had some amazing (and amazingly weird) conversations with the man, collaborated on some fun projects, and my wife and I wear rings he milled by hand.Yet, until that week, I had never shook his hand. Or been asked to be anyone’s ‘badge buddy’ before. Check another off the list:
Design-wise, I had a few items on the floor.
The Pantera hit the floor with a vengeance, and created a buzz that echoed through the week.
It was certainly a different project to have worked on, and the creativity and level of ingenuity shown by the Ring Brothers raised the bar yet again!
Got to spend a few moments with Sam, who took a break from buying some very historically significant rides, well-preserved, ultra-low-mileage Lambrecht Auction vehicles, and building some clean machines to wander Vegas and pose with my goofy mug by Nailed while at the show:
The SEMA Show wound down with the Torino grabbing the Mothers Shine Award, capping a stellar season in grand style.
Following SEMA, it was a quick blast back home, a few days hosting our pal Tim Strange, who was in town for the Goodguys Southwest Nationals, and the annual Git-Down at Dino’s, which I’m proud to have created some artwork for again:
Highlighting the Goodguys show was seeing Nailed and the GPT Special on my home turf:
…and that about wraps up 2013 here. My sincerest thanks to everyone who has been with us from day one, and to the supportive family and friends I’m blessed to be surrounded by. Without you, I certainly wouldn’t be doing what I do, or checking dreams off of my list at such a pace!
May the coming year be nothing short of incredible, healthy and happy for you and all those you care about, and who care for you. Make some time to appreciate those around you, and never, ever give up. If there’s anything this year taught me, it was that. NEVER quit. Enjoy the smallest moments, and keep marking those little things off your list. We’ll check in soon, and thanks for taking time to do likewise!
Hey guys. It’s been a while, and I apologize for that. Today, I’d like to roll out another tutorial, this time, drawing a slick, slammed Fury. This will be an analog (or “traditional”, whichever you prefer) piece, so bust out the pencils, paper, and markers of your choice (I’ll be using Copics, but virtually any marker will do here), and get drawing!
Laying out the guidelines… At this stage, some loose lines to place the key parts of the composition are all that’s needed. Perspective lines give us an idea of where things will be placed, and give a general feel for scale and proportion as well.
I start to tidy-up the car at this point, bringing in a little marker to darken-up the shadow areas, and make permanent those lines I wish to keep:
Blocking-in some gray tones. Just some loose grays to start giving the piece some depth. Key here is deciding which forms will recede in space, and which will be left up front. I also spend a little time defining the car’s shadow:
Cleaning-up some of the stray sketch lines, and adding some color to block in some lighting for later. I like the work to appear translucent, versus having just color planted atop more color (which can get awfully muddy-looking), so a little color washing at this point pays off HUGE later on:
I bring in some color to the car at this stage, tightening-up the shading and lines… While the whole image is loose, I like to have certain areas (like the wheels) show a bunch of detail, to draw the eye in and around the work:
A ton of time spent blocking-in color, and implying some brick on the storefronts. Blending is the key at this stage, and using it in a restrained manner can help to give not only a nice, loose feel, but make the lighting and shadow appear more natural, versus blocked-in and forced. I tend to work from the lightest to darkest areas in stages, moving back over and into those areas that need richer or darker tones:
This is another ‘static’ tutorial, meaning no video. I thought it best to present a few basic tutorials in this way to give you a reference, without any distractions, or need to search for a particular step. This just seems a better way to get you up to speed on the essentials, before we move full-steam into the more advanced tools and techniques. It’s a quick overview, but take your time, and work on controlling every stroke you lay on the page. It’ll pay off in the end.
Being a physics aficionado, the theory of multiple dimensions holds a special place in my brain. Couple that with a love for all things science fiction, and my synapses light up with boundless ideas and tales of the bizarre.
This in mind, I had been imagining for some time a ‘what-if’ scenario, pondering what may have happened if AC Cars had not lost their engine supplier, and if NASCAR wasn’t a primary thought on Ford’s mind in the early 1960’s. Season that with a punch of willingness to make the Thunderbird more of a world-class performer, and you can see where this is headed: The ultimate, alternate-dimension barn find.
Taking the above into consideration, behold the final iteration of the winningest Thunderbird on the opposite side of the space-time bubble. Wearing the shorter, half-width windscreen, we’re obviously looking at a pre-GT car, and this monster is complete, right down to the dirt and grime from it’s final race. While later cars would be fitted with the mighty big blocks, this 289-powered ‘Bird left many a European car behind, engulfed in the shriek of its high-winding exhaust note and dust.
While these cars lend themselves extremely well to the custom treatment, I’ve always pictured one as a track car, and by drawing inspiration from the race cars of the day, I couldn’t help but plot a course for this T-Bird which involved some down-home innovation (like the widened fenders, flip-nose, headlamp covers and full-length hood scoop), and setting it up as a well-preserved chunk of history brought out into the sunlight following a long roost. That said, consider this my proposal for a melding of ‘street cruisers’ and ‘pro-touring’ with some heavy vintage racing feel that anyone on the fringe would be proud to pilot…
(you can find this artwork, and the accompanying article in the May 2013 issue of Street Rodder Magazine)
Since childhood, I’ve been fascinated with cars, photography, and motion pictures. Cars were something I had no control over being into. I was simply born with that gene. On my build sheet, someone checked the RPO for Car Nut, and the deal was sealed. But photography… capturing a moment in time… man, that sparked something in me. And motion pictures? Well, damn. Telling a story with a photo narrative, and having it grab that in an animated sequence? I was sold.
I studied Fine Art, and honed skills like drawing and painting, design… And then went further, studying animation and digital art, and finally working to apply these diverse techniques for creating imagery in one piece.
The majority of my commissioned work happens to be renderings, which, by nature, require strictly static images to supply some direction for a project. As a fan of both animation and painting, as well as someone who has always enjoyed writing and the thrill of crafting a narrative, well, you can imagine the turmoil which surfaces each time I grab a pencil or stylus or brush.
There’s always the drive to take the subject that extra step… to get something to move in the image, to put it over the top. Some time back, I experimented with backgrounds in my renderings that included scanned and reworked splashes and splatters. They had that ‘frozen in time’ feel I was looking for, and allowed me to play with contrasting colors to get some visual pop and movement… And that laid the groundwork for future pieces, sparking inspiration to play with textures, atmosphere, and finally, crafting a story.
The idea, in and of itself, was straightforward. Simply create the setting for the story, and shove the car in there. Right? No… in my world, things have to be a bit more complex when weaving the tale or painting the image. I began taking notes on cars I’ve drawn, would like to draw, and those I simply find interesting.
I began to imagine where these cars might turn up… who would drive them.
Why they would drive them there in the first place. Inspiration began to strike.
There was a way to connect all of the images, but have these little sub-plots running, and even include a car in each of these unique stories. I’d build the stories individually, but have some underlying theme carrying throughout an
entire series, or even a few series.
The example above, showing that blue Merc was bouncing in my head for some time. I always saw the car as a bit sneaky-looking, even when designing it. I imagined the kind of guy who might drive it, where he’d go… inventing little stories as I sketched ideas and details, keeping those notes handy.
Right on about this time, I took on the AutoWeek Magazine/Rad Rides by Troy 2012 calendar project. Twelve cars to be illustrated, creating some bad-ass, modern hot rods from new cars. Here it was: the opportunity to play with narrative, and work to tie a dozen cars, all different in their inspiration and beginnings, but having some underlying story, a connection that went just a step beyond simply being some cars I was designing and illustrating for a calendar.
The challenge became finding a way to make them all work together, yet retain some unique identity. Then it hit me. A calendar helps to mark the passage of time. I would mark some passage of time with the cars, as well. I would break the year down as if it were simply one day. I’d tweak the colors to represent the cycles of the sun, the passage of seasons, and yet, do it in a way that presented itself as a single twenty four-hour span. I’d move around a fictional region, from urban to dry lakes and everything between, and pass time from dawn through nightfall. Each vehicle needed a place, a setting to complement its purpose, and needed to make sense with that particular time of day.
What a can of worms that was. Light shifting throughout the day, atmospheric changes filtering intensity of light, I had even considered altitude of each setting, plotting how the air molecules might scatter the light. I became almost obsessed with color and light theory. But I managed to pull it off.
But the work that led to that grand project only sparked a deeper need to weave some tales. I experimented relentlessly. I dragged old work out of the archives, and played and tweaked and painted and scanned and printed and brushed and sketched and repeated the process for months. I was on to something.
…of course, there were a few pieces that played to my inner nerd:
We all need to hunt a zombie or two now and then… and at this point, I was finding ways to craft an entire tale in one shot.
There’s a LOT going on in this image, from the lighting to the smoke and atmosphere to texture… But the key was in making it look simple.
Note taken:When creating the narrative, find the central theme, and work to craft a setting that slips the drama in almost secondary to the drama created by the car. One should brace the other, and tell the tale, but not completely. Leave a few gaps in the story. Allow the viewer to ask ‘how did the vehicle end up at this particular moment, and what’s around that corner?’ Misdirect on occasion, especially on two-panel works. This could be fun.
My little notebook speaks to me sometimes, and those late-night scribbles tend to be correct more often than not.
Additional note: Sleep-deprived self may be smarter than well-rested self. Definitely finds farts funnier.
Oddly enough, the images didn’t make it into the final calendar in the order I had hoped and presented, but the idea seems to have played off well enough. I was approached by people who caught what was going on, and were excited to have felt a part of the narrative and understood the story. Now we were moving into part two of the plan:
Involving the viewer in the tale.
After all, as a kid, I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure books. Brilliantly written in that you felt a part of the action, and a certain excitement at uncovering some side story or alternate ending that your friends may have skipped over. It was that personal involvement, that ‘look what I just found’, eureka moment that attaches someone to the art, versus simply saying ‘wow… neat wheels’.
I began to find ways of making the cars live and breathe. Illumination of lamps, the light trace of exhaust… Those little things that allow your mind to fill in the blanks, to become a part of the story. After all, I wanted the work to become an almost captured memory. And memories play off of little sensory grabs: A scent, a picture, a sound, the feel of light mist as rain begins to fall on a cool evening. I wanted to offer art that was something more than simply a car in a picture. It needed to be a conversation piece. It needed to spark someone’s imagination much the same as it did mine.
I had always made a habit of photographing odd things while on trips or vacations. I’d see things that interested me: Cobblestone streets, a tree, a lamp post, an alley, a door… I had a large archive of reference photos to draw from, and began to arrange and categorize them, and make notes, find uses for them. I’ve always hidden little things from my past in my work, from license plates to buildings, and so-on. I have even gone as far as sketching a city map, designing the layout of the main streets, side alleys, parks and neighborhoods where my tales would play out. A series was born.
Like any tale, the players (both main and secondary) would cross paths. There might be drama, there may be harmony, but there would be interaction. I began to work with environments where I could present multiple angles and viewing points. I found that I could move this fictional camera around, and find another car hiding in the shadows, or show it from the reverse, and complete one small tale in two images.
Case in point, that Merc from earlier:
First frame: the car in an urban, industrial environment. A simple photo-perfect opportunity? Sure. But when we see the rear view, we learn that the car’s owner is on a late-night visit to a lady friend. Each piece can stand alone… but together, we have a tale!
Taking this idea a big step forward, it only made sense to completely narrate the scene, and add as much drama as possible:
…and the polar opposite:
…a quiet moment before that storm we see brewing in the background. A little foreshadowing of drama can have just as much impact as an all-out gunfight. All of those years spent studying Hitchcock are paying off: The trick isn’t always in heaping the big stuff into someone’s lap… occasionally, all you need to do is hint at it.
That all said, I hope you enjoyed a little back-story to the, uh, stories I’m trying to tell in the art. Look for more in this series soon, as well as prints… and a behind-the-scenes look and tutorial on making one of these. Thanks, as always for your time, and I look forward to your questions, comments and more!
I like looking at things from a decidedly different angle, and am often inspired to seek out the inspiration behind a trend, or a particular style… I’m a fan of mixing and matching themes, styles, whatever…and an even bigger fan of just having fun with whatever I’m doing, and often seek out things that reflect this attitude. Whether in friends, books, movies, or music. Occasionally, this leads me to seek out stuff that’s a bit off the beaten path. Such was the case here in the studio once again.
(Yeah, it’s gonna be another musical jaunt… and it’ll all wrap up nicely, as usual, with cars. Stay with me, I think you’ll dig this little side trip.)
Anyway, I got to thinking, of all things, about Herb Alpert (not Marv Albert. That’d be weird.), and gave a listen to “Whipped Cream and Other Delights”… A far cry from what I was listening to a week ago, to say the least…. and by far much stranger cover art (if not quite risque’, considering its 1965 release date):
Granted, this album was released before my time (granted, there may be another me in some other dimension, hanging out in a lounge giving this a listen back in an alternate ‘65…), but man… how cool were these cats? If you’re not familiar with the Tijuana Brass, here’s a quick history lesson:
Herb Alpert was a trumpet player who developed a unique sound that was a mix of south-of-the-border, mariachi and distinctly lounge-y sounds, probably best described as Ameriachi (as I learned from a few sources). If you’re really lost here, think of the theme from the TV show The Dating Game, called “Spanish Flea”, which was a Herb Alpert/Tijuana Brass tune, and you’ll have an idea… or their version of “The Lonely Bull”.
Anyway, the ‘Brass cranked out a few albums in the ’60’s (even a cool Christmas album! Find a copy, and mambo your way through a Christmas Wonderland…), until Alpert called it quits, and took his (and business partner Jerry Moss’) record label A&M, and signed some heavy talent, releasing a few albums of his own along the way (out-selling Michael Jackson in the late-’70’s, which says a lot for that era, I suppose), before selling the company to PolyGram in the late 1980’s.
So what’s this got to do with cars? Think traditional lowriders. Bellflower custom style(named after the city in LA county where the look spawned). A mix of the lowrider and custom car, and you’ll see where I’m headed.
Consider Watson’s Caddy:
It is the embodiment of the Bellflower look… the low stance, simple (if often ANY) body mod’s, the bold, yet somehow understated paint technique (much like his T-Bird that came before), and those killer pipes. The East LA style, mixing elements from two cultures (like the Tijuana Brass did!), and coming out the other end with a clean, cool style. It’s all about class, luxury, and style. Just like a lowrider, but with custom roots.
Lowriders embodied Mexican tradition. Crusing in a decked-out ride to impress the ladies, and show off your skills was more than just about the cars. Cruising may be traced back to the “paseo”, where singles would walk around in the central plaza of the village, basically checking one another out. The idea here was to impress. Put these kids in cars, and it sure looks a lot like cruising… Which brings us forward a few years to the end of the second world war. Hot rodding was booming as young men returned from military service, eager to make creative use of their new mechanical skills. On the other end of the spectrum, the Mexican immigrants were making their cars look luxurious. It was style over speed… lowered stance, different hubcaps, an accessories like spotlights, skirts, pipes… many items shared in traditional customizing.
Fast-forward a few more years, and combine this look with the growing custom scene, and well, you got some clean, mild cars that made the most of the new styling coming from the factory… Apply it to a luxury car, and you’re well on your way to a crossover look beyond compare. Imagine in late 1957 (coincidentally, the same year Bellflower was incorporated as a city), a young Larry Watson cruising into the Clock Drive-In in his panel-painted T-Bird…
I have a soft spot for this look… A number of years back, I sketched up a modern take on the look, combining it with the pro-touring look — note pinstripe whitewalls on a 5-spoke as a nod to the classic “Supremes and pinners” look (OK, and a mild chop, extended quarters, relocated and shortened trim…):
The idea behind the Bellflower look is clean lines, cool, vibrant and rich colors mixed with just enough chrome to keep your eyes happy…Make use of some ‘flake or pearl, some striping… In other words, think mild custom, but dressed a notch higher. It’s a fun style, to be sure, much like Herb’s band of session musicians belting out Ameriachi cover versions.
And speaking of cover versions, consider how just a few fresh chords, or an alternate take on a solo in a cover song can change things up drastically, consider the lowrider style, versus the custom car style. One change can send the car from one camp to another… For instance, this pickup is pure lowrder-feel:
Yet, this ’50 has a distinct hot rod/custom feel:
Straddling that line, and walking a bit closer to contemporary style (yet still working-in some retro-style mods) is this unibody Ford:
Consider the Impala and Rivieras of the early (and even mid-to-late) 1960’s… the kind of cars that walk between street machine, muscle car, custom, lowrider… And never seem to get lost along the way:
Simply adding or removing an accessory can dramatically change things up (sort of like adding a horn section to your punk band can suddenly change things to sound much more like Ska…) :
Imagine swapping wheels on this beast… it can go from mild to menacing, and be equally at home almost anywhere:
A wheel and tire combo change on any of these could easily change the look and overall feel in a matter of minutes. It’s all in the vibe the vehicle sends… if you pay close attention to that, magical things start to happen, and soon enough, you’re leaving any ‘theme’ behind, and heading into that wild territory of making it your own. Take one thing, and spice it up with another influence, and man, you can’t help but feel the vibe, and nod your head approvingly as you smile.
And that’s how my mind works: From whipped cream to salsa, stopping in between for some quick history, and leaving you to consider mixing up some styles on your project…
We’re having a sale on 18×24-inch prints now through Friday, February 22nd.
These are serious, high-quality, ready-to-frame prints, and we’re offering four select pieces:
A kustom cruiser night scene:
A mild kustom in the first snow in the city:
And a one-time offering of The Big Chase, an action-packed scene:
These are superior-quality, 18×24-inch prints, ready to frame, or hang as-is. Perfect for the office, man cave or garage. 80lb, coated cover stock with incredibly rich inks and detail. Signed by the artist upon request.
The sale ends on Friday, February 22, 2013, and the prints are $14.99/ea plus shipping. This is the perfect time to grab a gift for the car lover in your life, or to start a collection for yourself!
See all of this and more on my site at www.problemchildkustoms.com.
I thought I’d throw down a quick, step-by-step peek into the process I use to start a rendering, tackling the basics from the sketch through marker shading. That said, let’s get right to it, and bust out some paper, pencils (2B and 4B, as well as some non-photo blue, should you be so inclined) and the trusty Copics (cool and warm grays, as well as a blending marker), and have at it!
From humble beginnings: Let’s start by plotting the angle of the car, and general proportions and perspective with some loose guidelines. Keep things very loose and general at this stage. All we’re looking to do is get an idea of where the car is going to live on our paper.
Moving along on the tutorial, let’s clean up some of those sketchy guide lines, and start roughing-in the parts that will make this a Chevelle. We’re plotting and planning a place for all of the stuff that will need to show later on, so take your time, but keep it loose yet.
Onward with the tutorial! At this stage, I like to add the wheels, and start tightening-up those lines I know will be staying. I pay some extra attention to the front wheel, and keep in mind the offset for the rear. Start by laying in an arc to figure-out just where the wheel face will sit in the rim, and set the stance. You can see in this pic that I’ve changed my mind a few times already. Remember: circular and ellipse templates are your friend. Invite them to play along. I like to lay in a few details as well, just to get an idea of where things like the lug nuts and any hardware might sit… And don’t forget the tire sidewall! This could drastically change the car’s ride height or the wheel’s proportion.
Tutorial continues: Made in the shade…ing. Let’s continue our theme of cleaning-up those stray lines, and get on darkening-up the shaded areas, lightening those areas that will get a blast of light, and, sadly, this pic doesn’t show it too well, but I’ve started loosely adding some rally stripes, per the client’s request. Again, we’re working a bit tighter, and slowly building the tones. Easier to add a little at a time, than to start over when it’s all blotchy and too dark. Still working with the Copics (neutral and toner grays at this stage).
Moving along in the tutorial, let’s get those stripes blocked-in (careful… careful!), and continue working the entire car. We’ll darken up some lines, and detail some reflections on the bumper and wheels, as well as blending a bit on the shading. It doesn’t have to be perfect at this stage, just needs to represent a light source, some reflected light from the ground, and show that the body panels have a slight curve. The tricks here include building the shading slowly in layers, and trying to imagine where the brightest areas of light may be hitting the car’s body. We’ll want to leave those lighter areas alone, and work a little bit more in the darker areas, for example, where the bumper has a small overhang, or just to the sides of the hood scoop.
At this stage, we’re simply tightening-up the shading, and continuing to clean up any stray lines or smudges. We’re starting to go over and darken-up some lines to bring that right front fender closer to the viewer, and making those quarters and roof sink back into space a bit. I’m also paying closer attention to the shadows cast on the wheels as they tuck into the fenders. This is where you can make the sketch a little more believable by creating the illusion of parts being in shadow, with light bouncing around a bit. Again, just have fun with it!
Close to finishing-up the ‘traditional’ part of the big how-to: Tightening-up those final details, lines and shading, blending in the tones, and adding a hint of color. We’ll drop some orange in those stripes (per the client), and drop just a hint of blue and green into the glass and chrome. Normally, I’d have scanned this in a few steps back, but for our purposes today, this way just works. Hope you dug this look into the process… Working on some full-on, step-by-step tutorials as time allows, and those will hit soon, in a handy, easy-to reference guide. Keep at it, and above all, have fun, and work to observe lighting, shadows, and reflections, and just play with them in your work.
Next, let’s start adding some color, and we’ll do this sparingly, with a little contrasting orange on the stripe border, and bring that color ever-so-slightly into the windows and some assorted small places, just to keep things visually consistent.
…and we’ll bring in some greens and blues, to contrast the warm orange, and give some ‘glassy’ feel to the windows. Bring a touch of blue into the chrome pieces, just to make the metal there look cool, temperature-wise, and reinforce that the body color, even though it’s gray, is warmer. Bring in a white Prismacolor pencil, and add a few highlights and spots where the lighting might be a bit stronger (‘hot spots’)… This brings a little more reality to what is, essentially a slightly cartooned drawing (in proportion, anyway). Above all, just keep having fun, and don’t over-do it. Less is very much more at this point.
Next time, we’ll get into the background, as well as some digital techniques to finish the rendering… Winding-up with something that looks eerily similar to this:
Thanks, as always, for looking in! I hope you find these steps and hints useful, and will apply them to your work. Any questions, comments, whatever always welcome! Hope you have fun, and keep at it.
Had the opportunity to play a little this year with some good friends on a ’51 Merc project, offering little detail and color options and opinions.
Suffice to say, by that time, Max had the build in some firm control, and Jerry’s Reprise was nearing the end goal of a debut at SEMA, and finally seeing the streets again after some long years of re-design, re-build, re-imagine. One of the projects I took on, then, was to create some artwork to celebrate the completion of the project… and here it is:
I had also whipped-up a t-shirt for the gang: