Those of us within the classic car community like to talk about automobiles as art. Rolling sculpture. Form with function. Aerodynamics and aesthetics. Proportion and propulsion. And remember, even da Vinci designed self-propelled motor vehicles centuries before they would be practical; Mona Lisa and the motorcar.
The recent union between RM Auctions and Sotheby’s underscores the link between the worlds of art and automobiles, a link that will be reinforced May 2 in Fort Worth, Texas, with the offer at auction of some 75 vehicles from the Andrews Collection.
The collection was assembled by father and son Paul and Chris Andrews. Paul built TTI into a major and global distributor of electronic components and Chris was among the top executives at Yahoo. But Chris also is an artist who studied that craft in Paris, so RM decided to blend art and autos in the auction catalog, which is illustrated not only by photography of the vehicles but by watercolor illustrations by Stefan Marjoram, a British photographer and film maker who also has become known for his automotive art.
Marjoram’s father is British and his father’s father was an aircraft mechanic who, after World War II, worked for several prominent British auto racing teams. Marjoram’s mother is from Germany and her father was a racing photographer whose lens focused on the Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows.
Marjoram grew up wanting to be a car designer, but discovered film making at art school and combined it with his skill in drawing to work in animation — games and graphics — eventually becoming creative director at a major animation studio.
He often spent weekends photographing auto races but, he told ClassicCars.com in an email exchange, “I started to find that spending a whole weekend looking through a viewfinder left me with a feeling that I hadn’t really experienced the event fully.”
That wasn’t the case when he started drawing what he saw.
“Once I decided to try and sketch some of the cars that caught my eye I found it much more rewarding,” he continued, in part, he added, because, “You got to chat to people as they came past, you found out more about the car — it was much more sociable.”
While the photographer and artist both capture a moment in time, the result can be very different.
“I’m very much of the opinion that a drawing or painting should not look like a photo,” he said. “It should bring something new to the image.
“That said, I do approach both in a similar way. There are the same decisions about composition, which bit to focus on, etc. My sketches are quite loose and I leave some parts almost unfinished — much like in a photo with a shallow depth-of-field — there’s an area that I want people to be drawn to and other areas which are less important.
“Photos are obviously a lot quicker to do and there is something magical about being able to freeze a moment in time. My sketches usually take about an hour to do. I don’t know what it is about drawings that I like so much — making marks on walls or paper has been popular for tens of thousands of years though!”
Adraan Geluk, part of the creative team behind RM’s catalogs, owns several of Marjoram’s prints, as does Chris Andrews. It was Geluk who contacted Marjoram about doing illustrations for the Andrews auction catalog.
“I was delighted to take the job on — though a little bit daunted about the number of sketches,” Marjoram said. “Luckily, I knew they would be used quite small so I drew them at a smaller size, too. Also, they weren’t all full cars — many are just little details.
“Although I always try to work from life — and much prefer it — it wasn’t possible this time. I was given access to all the photos from the shoot and free reign to choose whatever subject I wanted. Being able to choose what to draw made it much more enjoyable. What was interesting to me was that the collection contained a lot of vehicles that we never really see over here in the UK — like the wonderful big Packards and Duesenbergs.”
While becoming known as an artist and taking on such projects as the catalog illustrations, Marjoram has not abandoned his cameras. He’s also photographer and film maker for Richard Noble and the Bloodhound SSC team that hopes to push the world land speed record to 1,000 miles per hour.
Illustrations by Stefan Marjoram, courtesy RM Sotheby’s