Toyota Designer, Mike Kim, Paints Racing Legends in Spare Time
Mr. Mike Kim, from Los Angeles, California, is an exterior designer for Toyota and has been working there since his graduation from Art Center College of Design in 2010. Born and raised in Southern California, he describes himself as a “simple guy with a complex obsession for cars and objects that move people around.” A lot of younger boys go through this obsession with cars and machines, but “I just happened to get more and more into it as time went on. I remember in high school I could just sit around and try to imagine what man-made machines would look like in 100 years and it always brought me a sense of wonder.”
Q: How did your love for cars develop?
A: It’s always interesting to look back and remember how your taste evolves throughout the years. I’m realizing more and more that you don’t have to hate or love a car but appreciate or understand what the vision and goal for that car was. However, I do remember back in elementary school that my friend’s dad had an early ’90s Chevy Corvette. I remember I used to stare at how low and wide it was, the red paint somehow seemed to always get redder. That was when I started to appreciate the beauty of sports cars and realize that some cars were purely for emotional fulfillment.
Q: What cars inspire you the most?
A: I would have to say the most inspirational cars for me are the Ferrari F40 and the Lamborghini Countach LP400. These two cars to me really set and defined what it meant to be a real supercar. The F40 is just so raw with its short wheelbase and long overhangs, and that brutal wing and the rear just chopped off and wide as can be. The LP400 because of its extreme wedge profile and the wild fact that the side glass is lying on the same plane as the shoulder
Q: If you had the opportunity to reinterpret a classic car for sale today, which would you choose?
A: [long pause] Probably, the Porsche 928. It’s so iconic and the opportunity to design it for today’s market would be fun. Porsche has the Panamera now, but I’d love to do a smaller Porsche with a front engine and rear-wheel drive to compete with the Aston Martin Vantage. And now that Porsche is tied into the VW/Audi group, the parts are there.
Q: How does the creative process begin for you?
A: The creative process itself can be random at times, but I always start with a goal in mind. It is hard to pinpoint what it is, but for me I would have to say it usually begins with an image or mood that I wish to portray in my work. I feel that my mood is what drives my automotive artwork at times, whether it be bright or dark.
Q: Do you own or aspire to own a vintage car (and which one)?
A: Does a late ’90s Chevy Corvette count as vintage? Just kidding… I currently do not own a vintage car but hope to in the near future, hopefully more than one because there are so many that I love. The two on top of my list are the second generation Corvette split-window coupe, and I know this is not really vintage but the Porsche 964 RS America.
Q: How did you first get involved in producing automotive art?
A:It is something I learned while going through Art Center. It had such an impact on my technique and inspiration that I continued producing it in addition to other assignments to help fuel my work flow.
Q: What drives your paintings?
A: I try and visualize something in my head that I would like to see hanging in my room or garage and then execute it in a style that fits the mood I am in. In most of my paintings I try to show the essence and what I believe to be the key characteristic of the subject car.
Q: Where do you like or would you like to seeing your art displayed most?
A: I feel that the best display of my work would be in the personal space of some automotive nutcase that owns an automobile for emotional investment. Whether it is a room or garage, just a place that will reflect their passion and love for the car.
Check out more of Mike’s work here.