Catching Up With A Former Car Designer-Turned-Reverend Over The Course Of A Rally And A Drawing
Photography by Will Broadhead
Reverend Adam Gompertz isn’t your average man of the cloth, and “average” really isn’t a suitable adjective for him full stop. As well as being a delight to debate with in all areas of theology (and for having pretty progressive ideas when it comes to that), he is also a lifelong petrolhead and it wouldn’t surprise me if the communion wine he serves to his parish comes with an octane rating.
Beyond that pair of two different devotions, he is also an extremely talented artist, with an instantly recognizable style that led the powers that be at Aston Martin to instate him as their first artist in residence. So, I went along to catch up with this fascinating man while seeing one of his creations unfolding before me and an audience of automobiles.
I first met “Revs,” as he is known, on the Rallye Monte-Carlo Classique earlier this year, where he was campaigning a 1947 MG-TC in the event and raising money for OCD Action, which is a mental health charity very close to Adam’s heart. Despite long hours in the cars and general scarcity of sleep, it was still a great forum for us to get to know one another and talk about motorsport, art, and all the tangents wrapped up in between. Such is Adam’s humility that it took quite a bit of probing to learn more about the pieces that he creates and the history behind it all.
I eventually learned that Revs has been sketching since childhood, and he recalls family “sketch days” with great fondness. His Father, who was a water colors artist, was a vicar as well, and the instigator behind these sketch days. A wry smile creeps across Adam’s face as he tells me about how the rest would be sketching the landscape while he could more often than not be found in the car park, drafting images of whatever happened to there that day. It’s both an amusing and heartwarming scene, imagining a young kid drawing an everyday hatchback with great enthusiasm.
He was an early talent, and the motoring theme continued to be a part of his life when Revs went to work as a designer after university, initially for Rover, but after the British marque’s sad demise, the hallowed halls of Rolls Royce snapped him up.
Not a bad CV, and one might expect a dream job, but for Adam a return to the Church beckoned, following in the footsteps of both his father and his mother. Not that the drawing stopped, though, and over the past few years Revs’ signature style has been honed, and despite having no formal qualifications, you can see some of the crossover of his design days in his work in the annotations that often accompany the drawings and the pared-back look of the finished pieces—an almost deconstructed, blueprinted approach—showing the journey from first pencil strokes to finished design.
It’s a style that has won him many fans, including Aston Martin, but despite this and regardless of the fact that he now sketches live at car shows and the like, it’s still very much Revs’ hobby and not his life. “It’s a chance to escape and relax,” he tells me, “it’s also a wonderful tool to help with my version of ministry, the live sketching in particular allows me to meet new people and hear their stories, it’s a really wonderful byproduct of the drawing itself.”
Watching him in action is a treat, and I’m keen to understand his approach. “I usually begin with a wheel as a kind of anchor point, and then work the lines out from there,” he tells me. After that he adds color using shavings of pastels, and then adds shape to the piece through more detailed shading, as well as adding highlights by rubbing out areas of the color, revealing the white of the page underneath.
As we sit and chat Adam’s pencil is seemingly never off of the page, and whilst I’m watching intently, for a large amount of time it appears to me as a group of unfamiliar lines on a page. But then, all of a sudden, the historic grand prix car that we are both looking at suddenly starts to appear on his page, the additions giving clarity to the previous mess. He describes it like joining the dots on a child’s drawing, as you get towards the finish all of the lines begin to make sense and the image materializes at an almost logarithmic pace.
To me, someone who is more van driver than Van Gogh, it’s magical to see the process unfold as he explains it to me in real time, but Revs adopts a typical level of humility about it all, preferring to point out the errors he’s seeing rather than accept my praise for what I am.