You and your family have a history, shall we say obsession, with motor vehicles. However, you worked in video games for a while. Can you tell us how you got into that and how you made your way to automotive illustration?
I’ve always like cars and bikes since childhood, especially custom cars and VW Beetles. When I met my wife Rowena I would go to her father’s house on the weekend, which was a real eye opener. Nick is fanatical about Morgan 3 Wheelers and British bikes among other machines, and it wasn’t uncommon to have engines on the kitchen table or even in the fireplace! I used to paw through his magazines and books, and my love for old machinery was revived. We went to events and race meetings, but my artwork at that time was not automotive at all.
I gained a degree in Fine Art specializing in painting, and my work was totally abstract based on satellite photography, but illustration, comics and graffiti have been constant influences. Upon graduation I wasn’t taken with the idea of a fine artist career, so I looked for other ways to make a living. A friend gave me a 3D program, and I soon worked out that if I could use it I could possibly work in the computer games industry. I locked myself away for six months, taught myself the program, and created a portfolio of 2D and 3D work. I got a job as an artist for about nine years, but towards the end I had become a lead artist and wasn’t really doing artwork any more.
This is where the automotive work started. I loved old black and white photos of racing scenes and started recreating them using India ink. Nick encouraged me to show them at a Morgan 3 Wheeler meet. After a really positive response I started showing at vintage motor shows where I would paint in oil or acrylic recreating a period photograph. This was fun, but at an event in France I saw Jean-Marie Guivarc’h, now good friend, sit in front of a Nick Morgan Aero and sketch it there and then. That’s when I had a rethink, “I could be sketching the real thing!" At the shows there are so many machines; now I mostly go around sketching with a portfolio of my work.
Your mobile studio, if we can call it that, is quite ingenious for your format. Can you tell us a little about your process?
Yeah, this is a work in progress. I have a fishing stool that doubles as a backpack that fits an A4 sketchbook and materials—it’s perfect. At shows I go round the whole event and pick one machine that interests me to sketch. Sometimes people ask me to sketch their machines, and this is a great way to deepen my knowledge as I have direct contact with the owner who can tell me more about their machine. Sometimes people will stop and talk to me about the machine I’m sketching too. I love the whole social aspect of the motoring scene and I see the way that I work as an extension of that.
Much of your work is pencil, ink and watercolors. What about these media do you like?
My roots are in painting, but the ink came out of the necessity to do something quickly. At events it takes me 1 to 2 hours to sketch a machine. I used to do just ink sketches using technical pens, but I wasn’t getting the marks that I wanted. I found flex nib fountain pens that give a wide range of line widths based on varying the pressure; it’s like a small brush. I also use a brush pen for larger black areas. After the show, in the studio I put washes of watercolour or ink on the sketches. This is all I can put over the ink sketch without destroying the work. I used to be scared of watercolour as you have to think about the white of the paper as your light, and layer up the paint to achieve shadows. But having used them for a while I’m getting fairly comfortable with them.