César Pieri is an Automotive Designer by day and an 'after hours' artist. What inspires him?
How does an Italian guy start designing British cars César?
That’s a good question. I am Brazilian/Italian. I work at Jaguar and am running a project in Italy and travel back and forth from Italy to UK.
Working for Jaguar as a car designer must be a boys’ dream come true.
Becoming a designer for Jaguar working on sports cars is a very special thing. I even get paid.
Jaguar has a great heritage. How do you preserve that and continue with new designs?
Many other brands would be glad to have at least half of the Jaguar heritage. Designing for a brand who has designed such beautiful cars in the past, is more than a normal job. You have to look at past designs, do a lot of research in order to understand the brand and be really attached to it. You need that as a reference. You can’t be retro. You must be forward thinking, keep your ‘mind set’ very fresh to keep producing new things
I can imagine the design history and certain elements which are every Jaguar limits you. Is that the case?
We have our design DNA and elements which every Jaguar must have. Every Jaguar must be elegant, powerful, have the right stance, the right kind of tension, surface and lines etc. We need to keep that but in a very modern way and always looking forward. We don’t want to be retro.
For the Project 7. What was your main challenge?
Project 7 was a very special thing. When I joined Jaguar, I worked on the F-type project and was very lucky to be able to work on that project and get into the company. But I had a D-type artwork in my desk. I was working on the aero dynamics for a front wheel drive car and I had that artwork in front of me. The E-type was one of the most aero dynamic cars we ever had and I wondered what would happen if I mixed them both together. Nobody had asked me to sketch Project 7 and it wasn’t on the program. So it just happened. I did a sketch and when Ian Callum saw it, he thought it was a great idea. He is completely responsible for the project moving forward. It became a personal project for me but the timing to deliver was the biggest challenge. We had an excellent interaction between our design team, our engineering team and all the people involved in the building of the car. So I think it was an absolutely stunning design exercise and very nice to be part of it. It is probably the only time that a sketch became a production car because usually the people at the top of the company decide the program and then the designers start doing a creative process. It never starts with a sketch. So it was a truly special project.
Do you consider Project 7 to be a piece of art in itself?
It might be. I see the car in a very different way because I was part of it and it was part of my life. I don’t really know how to classify the car. I just really love it.
My future is a consequence of what I am doing now. César Pieri.
Do you think that cars can be art?
Sure, why not? If you think about the D or C type and other models, they are absolutely stunning. Take the XJS (I think he said XJS since that car has a very outspoken sportscar design); it was beautiful and at that time we had no restraints or restrictions. So it was pure intuitive design which can be considered art, for sure.
On your website, you state that you are an automotive designer and in the evening hours, you are an artist. How does this blend?
It’s a very funny thing, I started doing artworks when I was working on the launch of the F-type convertible, the coupé, the F-type itself, XF, FCR now. So for all the cars I had created a set of artworks, 9 or 10 depending on each car. This is very connected to Jaguar and to myself. As car designers, we are always fighting for millimeters and everybody thinks it has a lot of glamour but it has a lot of pressure too. It is a very stressful career. We are always working with the engineers, trying to find the best way of dealing with the right materials, putting it into production, getting every part right, respecting all the laws, regulations of different countries etc. So it’s a very stressful and dynamic environment. I started doing artworks as relaxing moments. It was my way of doing something different and getting back to a more creative mindset and using it to almost restart my brain.
But if you paint your XJS bonnets in the evening hours, you obviously still have a lot of energy.
All the artworks I created for Jaguar, obviously belong to them but I wanted to do something for myself.
I wanted to do something expressive and different other than using canvas. I kept thinking about what I could do, using my passion for Jaguars and their heritage. So I bought a bonnet in London and then tried to paint it and realized that no paint would stick to the metal. I wanted to work with very big brushes and didn’t want to be precise but show my passion with big strokes, while not really going into detail or a photographic approach. I am doing that at work during my daytime.
I don’t know how many bonnets I lost but I needed to restart and try different things and in the end, I developed my own paint which would not melt or bubble up. The problem is, when you apply paint with a brush, it’s really thick and that will never dry because the material will never absorb the paint.
It was a very experimental project and in the end, I started to get passionate about it and bought more and more bonnets. In the end I had more than 25 bonnets at home. In my living room, my garden, everywhere. It was crazy.
You said you don’t put a lot of detail in your bonnets but there is still a lot of detail of the car.
Because of my background and how we work on a daily basis which is really precise and detailed, to me my artworks are not and I consider it as art because it is so difficult for me not to go into detail.
So it started as an escape from your day job and now it has become your own expression.
That’s the funny thing about it. I started about 1.5 years ago with no expectations. I did industrial design at university and worked for many years as a graphic designer in New York, Brazil, Italy and the UK. So I wanted to mix all that 'exPierience' and create something different. But I never thought about showing it because it started out as a single bonnet. Then one day a friend came to my house and saw my garage was full of painted bonnets in the corner. He wanted to look at them. He asked why I didn’t show them. For me it was personal and for my own pleasure but he wanted to show them. There was Motorfest in Coventry and my friend found a place to put my bonnets. The feedback was quite stunning. People liked it and I thought that was really cool. Then I got an invitaton to take them to the museum in Gaydon, UK which is the biggest British automotive museum in the UK. I went to Gaydon and stayed there for two months. Then I got an invitation to take my artwork to Dubai, to Brazil and to Italy. So now they were in this museum in Italy and for me it was just stunning because it is the most important and biggest automotive museum in Europe. It was just fantastic and the feedback I am getting from that is so nice. Also from the Motorfest and in magazines all around the world. It was a ‘wow’ feeling and it’s really moving forward very fast.
What triggers me about your story is that you showed your own vulnerability by going public with your private work because you never know how it will be received. How was that for you?
As a car designer, I am under this kind of pressure of being judged all the time. People are always looking at what I am creating and sketching and judging. So I am used to critiscm. I always say to my wife that I am in the ‘no’ profession and sometimes I get a ‘yes’. So I am very used to this approach but I received a very different feedback from people about my bonnets.
Why do you think that is? Is it because you are using bonnets or is it the topic of your work?
I think both. Using Jaguar bonnets and being a Jaguar designer, it makes sense. It has the right kind of thinking behind it. That’s why I decided to do this. Because of my passion for the brand and for what I am doing. Because I am a designer and maybe an artist as well, I am possibly discovering another side to myself.
What is it that you want to express with your artwork?
That’s the point. I didn’t intend to show it to anyone. I wanted to satisfy my own request to have a different artwork in my living room. It’s a crazy thing which you don’t expect to have happen.
I hear that from other artists; it’s a drive from within, to express themselves in their artwork. Is that the same for you?
I don’t have that necessity for expressing myself. I do that everyday in my work. I put ideas from my brain onto a piece of paper or a computer at least 8 hours per day. So it’s a very creative way of doing things.
Where do you find your inspiration César?
I think it’s my love for Jaguar and the automotive field.
Do you study the work of other car designers or artists?
To be a car designer is a very complex thing. You must know a lot of automotive designs, know other designers, know very well the brand you are sketching because you must sketch that brand and not the other ones. So you must understand the other brands as well since you don’t want to put a competitor’s detail in your car design. You need to come up with something new. I have a Masters Degree and have studied architecture, so have always been connected to this field. I still study everyday and try to get better and better to constantly move forward. I work together with the advance design team, so we get the most exciting technology our suppliers can provide. They are constantly updating us and always show us what they might be doing in ten years time.
Where do you see yourself in ten years time?
I dream about it but I don’t think about it. Everyone is driven by something. I try to live in a very intense way and keep my life focused on what I am doing now, and do that really well and try to prepare for the future. I am now sketching cars for 2025. We try to predict what will happen in the future. My future is a consequence of what I am doing now. I am trying to enjoy all the opportunites that I am having now. When I was younger, i was working for a bank drawing technical plans. Now that I work with car design, I have to work with 3D programs and all the things I did in the past, is who I am today. So probably what I am doing now will be very important for me in the future.