Car Art Spot out of The Netherlands is a very informative website covering a wide range of excellent automotive artists from all over the world. They must have run out of excellent artists to interview because they recently included an interview with BOMONSTER. The full interview can be viewed here.
How did you get started with painting cars?
On one hand I’ve had a career art directing car ads and commercials for Porsche, Acura, Nissan and Toyota. The goal is to tell a visual story that makes the viewer want to be there. On the other, I’ve always attended vintage drag race events and traditional custom car shows and they always felt separate - not connected to my ad world. Most art directors in advertising can’t draw very well but have lots of ideas. The advertising craft is one of putting existing images together in new ways on a computer screen so that clients with no imagination can see exactly what the proposed ad will look like when it’s produced. I always wanted to develop my art chops but didn’t have the time. Five years ago I was making little white lines on a black computer screen and thought the result looked like a scratchboard technique we did in art class years before, scratching a black inked board to reveal the white layer underneath. I remember liking the look and that lead me to creating some ideas on actual scratchboard – which also allowed me to develop my drawing skills to better level.
What is your background? Did you grow up amongst cars?
When I was a my dad built one-off six cylinder roadsters for drag racing and V-8 powered dune buggies for the desert from cheap cars he bought out of the local classifieds. We went to car shows where I grabbed all the free stickers I could while he talked to clients of his small automotive ad agency. One of his clients was Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. As a little kid I remember meeting Ed in his Maywood, CA shop while he was shaping his “bike/truck” concept show car with plaster over chicken wire. Back then he was calling it “Missing Link” but later it became Captain Pepi’s something or other and then later “Megacycle.” Growing up I also built model cars, raced slot cars and drew cars so I guess I could say I grew up around cars.
Did you go to art school?
I went to a trade school for commercial art in L.A. and then later to a specialized school for advertising concept development. I’ve taken classes in figure drawing but the majority of my schooling was advertising career motivated. My own art is something that is self-taught. I’ve spent most of my life looking at work in galleries and museums all over the world saying “I could do that” but never actually doing it until recently. The challenge to being self taught is staying objective about your own work and learning to trash what doesn’t work and do something over again without someone else telling you it could be better.
What sort of cars do you like to paint?
Hot rod Model As and Ts, ‘36 Fords, ‘40 Fords, ‘50 Fords, ‘50 Mercs, ’60 Cadillacs, VWs, 60’s Chevy trucks and chopped bikes. Basically cars that defined a specific 1950s-1960s time period in America when a grass roots nationwide car guy group, crazy with creativity, developed aftermarket technology, invented customizing trends that most of mainstream America didn’t really understand. I like more than just those cars of course but I always like how hot rods and traditional customs look like out driving in the modern world.
What inspires your paintings?
Inspiration usually comes to me in a visual way – I’ll see a low car and imagine a creepy looking guy looking at a cute girl or blown Chrysler with flames pouring out of the headers and imagine the light it creates. Inspiration to me is a feeling that the outcome is going to be awesome and that I must get started on it right away. The end result doesn’t always match the early enthusiasm but when it does it’s a beautiful thing.
What helps you choose a specific topic to paint?
I bounce around from hot rods to customs to dirt bikes, VWs and choppers. I just did a cross-country trip to Texas and back from California and watched all the cactus go by and it opened my mind up to the types of vehicles, people, animals and stories one might find in that world. Now that my head is filled with deserts, highways, vultures, skies, art and music so I feel inspired to create something from that experience. Same thing happens when I’m around the rockabilly scene, choppers, the beach and from listening to albums. So I would say my experiences help me choose the topics.
What are you expressing with your art?
I want the audience to have the same “WOW” reaction to my work that I had while creating it. Ultimately I want my art to have an uplifting and encouraging vibe to it. In a word “fun” is what I’m going for. My art is usually shown in context of other artist’s work who often explore the dark, creepy and angry, unjust side of life. While I understand its role in expressing individuality and going against the grain I want a different reaction to my work. If my work is seen by others as happy, cool, creative, relevant and positive then I’m satisfied.
What techniques do you use?
What makes my art unique to the eye is the scratchboard technique. I scrape away lines with a knife on a black-inked board to create a white on black look. Often times my designs start as a small thumbnail drawing which I scan bigger, print and retrace. Once the drawing is good, I’ll scan and put on my computer to adjust perspective, composition, cropping, etc. I’ll print the drawing out and then like a tattoo artist I’ll transfer just the outline shapes to the board. But whereas a tattoo artist will start filling in the shadow side to define the illustration, I start scratching the lit areas and leave the shadows alone. Once scratched, I scan the final art and create a printable file for shirts, future books, social media, etc.
Who is your audience in general and which audience are you aiming at?
What I know about my audience I learned by bringing my art to shows and meeting them face-to-face. I go to the biggest and best car shows, chopper shows, rockabilly music events, nostalgic drag races, and wherever I think there’s a fit for my art. I’ve also been in a few lowbrow gallery shows, which is also valuable learning. People who appreciate my work tend to be creative themselves. They usually build and create unique things themselves – cars, clothes, write music and make their own art. My work is appreciated by men, women, old and young – there doesn’t seem to be a specific “demographic’ – it’s more about a mindset.
You have a clear unique style of painting which is easily recognizable. Is that something you learned or a natural influence?
The artist Pizz told me that an artist’s style is defined by their strengths and weaknesses. My aesthetic is inspired by a 60’s style defined by Rick Griffin, Jim Phillips, Ed Newton, Basil Wolverton, R. Crumb, Teen Angel and many others – most usually found on album covers, t-shirts and underground comics. What I’m learning now is not to try and make something photo real and 100% accurate in every detail. I’m trying to make my art look like someone in high school - who could draw really good - drew it. There’s a kind of non-judgemental innocence and not caring what anyone else thought that I like from that time period. It was a “Hey look at this cool thing I drew’ feeling I try to tap into constantly.
What is your ultimate goal or your dream and what do want to achieve with your art?
Ultimately I want my art to pay the bills, buy my cars and motorcycles and let me travel. It sounds crass I know but what better way to make a living than doing what you love? To do that, my art would have to find its way onto commercially available products as a brand and once a style is merchandised the challenge is how to do that in a world of production costs and market demand. That’s usually the point when other artists feel like they’re selling out and losing their love of creating what they love. Hopefully if that ever happens, I’ll have the experience to know where to draw the line between compromise and the nagging desire to create.
BOMONSTER can be reached through his website here.