“I have to be all in for the art to come to life and that means giving the best I have is the only way I know. To make that kind of commitment, I must accept that I can fail”
I started art lessons at the age of seven with Madeline LaMarr, someone my parents had found after they thought I would benefit from some structure to go along with my drawing on every available surface. My first medium was pastels, at which the diminutive French lady excelled. Graced by her enormous patience, I quickly developed from copying other artists to making art of my own, often from sketches made during our plein air adventures around southern California.
Despite my art education, my school notebooks were filled, not with sketches for new landscapes or still life, but with Big Daddy Roth inspired cartoons of big wheeled hot rods driven by a variety of freaks with one hand on the steering wheel and the other wrapped around the obligatory ultralong stick shift. I drew in the margins, on any available blank page, on my book covers, I drew everywhere. Madame LaMarr was unimpressed with my doodling but, despite any misgivings she might have had, she taught me how to elevate my sketches from scribblings into full-on cartoons.
To this day, every time I draw something I feel immense gratitude for that gentle teacher who encouraged me to explore and experiment and without whom I likely would not be where I am or doing what I’m doing.
More than anything, Madam LaMarr encouraged me to think about what I wanted my art to be. Not about technique or about planning the work but to cement in my head the vision of what I wanted to say, then to work towards it.
That’s how I still draw and I’m sure that’s exactly how Madam LaMarr would want it to be.
I didn’t so much choose to be an artist as it chose me.
Sports Car Art (then Plan B Illustration) started with a single piece of art—a Lockheed/Borg and Beck decal I rendered for Ralph Zbarsky, a retired engineer, part-time vintage racer, and restorer from Vancouver, Canada. Ralph owned an original MGB GT that had been raced in the sixties. He was in the finishing stages of completing its restoration and was looking for someone who could recreate the B&B contingency decal that appeared on the right rear quarter. I answered the call via an MG message board we both hung out on and soon set about gathering enough photographs to give me an accurate picture of what the original looked like. Enter Henry Camisasca.
While searching for a decent photograph of the decal that I could use for reference, I ran across an image credited to Henry and tracked him down. Finding Henry was easier than you might imagine as there is only one Henry Camisasca in the entire country, a collector living in southern California. Henry and Ralph were well acquainted with each other so, after explaining why I needed the image, a high-resolution copy was on its way to me. I rendered the decal, had several printed and sent them off to Ralph, thinking that was all there would be to it.
In addition to being an avid car collector, Henry also owned a collection of historic automotive photography. His collection included several of the original plates taken of the famous MGB GT that British Leyland engineers had cut in half and that now resides at the British Heritage Museum. Henry shared a few of the photos with me, all taken from different angles and under different lighting conditions, and I took a crack at compositing them but was unable create a credible image. That’s when an idea was born. They photos might not make a decent composite, but they would make an excellent reference for an illustration. And with that, I was off on my very first cutaway, without the slightest idea what I was doing or the impact it would have on my artistic future.