Motorsports Artist Brings the Thrill of the Track to Canvas
It takes a special kind of person to be a niche artist, and motorsports art is certainly no exception. Auto racing is the most fast-paced, dynamic sport in the world, and very few artists out there can truly capture that dynamism and do it justice. Doug Garrison displays the speed and savage passion of racing in paint, but more than that, he’s one of only a handful whose work transcends the subject and becomes true art in its own right. We recently had a chance to speak to him in an exclusive interview about his work, his inspirations, and what drives him as an artist.
Q: How did you first get involved in producing motorsports art?
A: I grew up in Indianapolis. I was a little kid there in the late ’60s and ’70s.
Many cities around the world have great racing traditions, but I always felt very lucky to be kid growing up in a place where for one entire month every year, the whole city was in a good mood, because we were all so proud that the greatest racing drivers in the world were here testing, qualifying, and then finally racing. It would have been impossible not to get interested in racing. Our daily papers had huge sports sections filled with coverage, and the local radio station had daily track reports every hour, every day during the month of May. I read and listened to it all.
As a kid, I was always just as interested in how the cars looked as how fast they went. There were so many brilliant liveries and so many wildly experimental machines in those days. I’ll always remember the day that I saw my future of becoming a motorsport artist. Around 1970, when I was 10 years old or so, my father brought home eight small art prints that were done by a local artist named Ron Burton. They were photo-realistic paintings of various single cars, all going through turn one at the track. Perhaps the paintings would be considered quaint by today’s standards, but back then I was mesmerized by how beautiful they were. I knew right then that if I could ever do anything in my life, I wished that someday I would be able to create artwork just like that and—heaven forbid—have other people feel about my artwork in the same way I felt about those prints.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your process?
A: My artwork, like racing, is built on speed and innovation. I love working fast and quickly moving on to the next great racing moment. My artwork is created with a combination of hand-painted digital abstract watercolors and digital brush work. (I use a digital tablet and pen stylus.) Once I get the watercolors scanned in, I manipulate the watercolors and digital brush work until my creative goals are reached. My originals are then printed with archival inks on museum-grade canvas, and then the original, layered digital file is destroyed.
Q: Is there a particular piece you’re attracted to most?
A: It’s weird, each new piece is instantly my new favorite! I think sometimes I create them just so I can stare at them for a while, which I do, and it drives my wife crazy. If pressed to choose a favorite, it would be a head-on view of two Gulf-liveried Porsche 917Ks at Le Mans in 1970. The #20 and #21. It’s a large work, and I created it to be very loose. Each time it catches my eye, I can almost hear the engines whine and see the ghost of Steve McQueen.
Q: What driver, team, and era of racing inspires you the most?
A: It would have to be the early 1970s, when I was first introduced to the sport. I loved all forms of racing: IndyCar, F1, CanAm, TransAm, sports cars, even drag racing and hydroplanes. If it went fast and looked cool, I dug it. I liked several drivers during the period, but my favorite was probably Peter Revson. I saw many of the great F1 pilots at Indy, which was very cool. My favorite cars were the Elf Tyrrell Formula One cars; they are just beautifully simple and dramatic at the same time.
Q: Where do you like seeing your pieces displayed most?
A: The great thing about social media is that I am able to communicate directly with people who enjoy the artwork I produce. Quite often they’ll send me a photo of my artwork framed on their wall and describe how much the enjoy it, which brings me this incredible joy that my childhood dream came true.
See more of Doug’s work or purchase prints at douggarrison.com.