How one of the most famous car chasing scenes in movie history inspired Eric White.
Why do so many cars show up in your artwork Eric?
For one thing I’m from Michigan but both my parents and grandparents were born and raised in Detroit. My Dad’s father worked his entire life in the automotive factory and my Mums father was an automotive engineer. He holds about 25 patents on brake designs.
Was it a topic that was discussed a lot at home?
It really wasn’t. My Dad was an architect and my Mum was a nurse and they had nothing to do with the automotive industry. My Dad has an appreciation and knowledge of cars though. He can identify old makes and models in an astounding way. We had a mustard yellow Toyota Corolla and drove to Detroit fairly often and I remember sitting on the back seat looking around and not seeing a single other foreign car. Just gigantic American cars all various shades of brown and I remember thinking they were so hideous at that time but now I love those cars. It’s kind of just in my DNA and the fact that my grandparents were both in the industry and being so close to it.
In your work, you often just show the dashboard or the wheel. Is that kind of a prop to tell a story?
It is yeah. Basically the use of film has been in my work forever. It’s not in every piece but working with imagery from film is a major thing in my work. At some point I started collecting car scenes from movies but it wasn’t until years later that I started using some of that material. I began by taking photo’s off the screen and just amassed a collection of the clips and stills. I did a whole other series before the car series which was for a show in Norway. The car was a new direction and I really started to get interested in cars. I was basically defaulting the point of view to the cameras point of view, which is either from the back seat looking at the back of the head of the driver and out the windshield, or something mounted on the hood looking at the driver. One thing I really like and which is so hilarious to me are the older movies with the very artificial scenario’s, which now look so fake to us. They are clearly sitting in a car or a partial car on a stage with a projected screen behind with fake lighting and the background flying around. I have been noticing more closely lately that even in current movies and t.v. shows, I am seeing the same thing.
I’m now looking at your painting The French Connection. Did you play that movie a couple of times to familiarize yourself with the scene or is it from a photo that you took?
Well that was a rare case. I was living in Brooklyn at that time and that was a bit of a different take to the other ones because I expanded it and wanted to have multiple points of views simultaneously. So I think there are five Gene Hackmans in that movie. I actually got to drive to where they shot that movie and was taking photo’s as I was driving around. So that was really nice to be able to engage a little bit deeper with that work. Then I took screen shots from the movie and put them with the photo’s I had taken while driving, into photoshot and made a collage and worked from that.
Is that how you do most of your work?
Pretty much. There are some exceptions but I rely on the computer pretty heavily. I didn’t think I would but photoshop is such a perfect tool for what I want to do.
I really like the work you did which is on the cover of your new book (Eric White) with the Ford Galaxy. Did you use models for that?
For that one I didn’t but sometimes I do. My sunset series of the drive in movies were not drawn from specific films. I was bringing various elements into them using my own photo’s and combining them with stills from movies, while also inventing my own things from taking photo’s of incredible sunsets over Brooklyn. So those were more of a combination but the earlier ones were directly from a single film and I wanted to break away from that for the show I did in Italy. A lot of the work I did for the Italian show were cars from the 70’s, which are beautiful compared to modern cars today.
I like to set up parameters for myself. The make, model and year would be the title of the painting and then in parentheses I would put the title of the film and I really like that idea. I found a website which is the internet car movie database and those guys are really knowledgeable and spend a lot of time identifying each and every car. It's such a great resource and I only really used it to get the title of the movies but it really helped me to find the make and model of every single car that I was looking for. It's confusing for the Galleries I work for because the titles are so long and have these numbers because I always want to acknowledge the source and will always put the title of the film. But then that changed when I did the sunset ones because although a lot of them were pulled from specific movies but they weren't meant to look like those movies. I was just bringing in mutiple sources from different places. In the past I tried to keep the car in my work accurate to the title of the film but in other work not relating to a specific film, I generalized it.
Are collectors of your work really interested in cars and see that as a reason to look at your work?
I don’t think my buyers are collecting my work for that reason. I love older cars and European cars but I consider that one facet of my work.
Do you find inspiration from other artists in general?
Absolutely. I remember seeing the work of Robert Bechtle and his work was very inspirational to me. He painted a hell of lot of cars.
I noticed you have the 3rd scale retro which if I understand are one third size reproductions hand painted in China. That is such a creative idea but so many artists see that as a big threat. You seem to use this to your advantage. So do you give them a high quality photo to paint as a reproduction?
Actually I give them a low quality photo because that was kind of the point of it to me, to have it look somewhat wrong. I wasn’t trying to pass them off as anything other than what they are.
Do you do full sized reproductions or giclees limited editions with your work or not at all?
I have done and although some of them have done pretty well, I’ve never had a ton of success with those. I do some very limited editions but it’s not really a priority for me and the market has changed. If I do more reprints, I would be more interested in doing things that are unique and which exist only as that print. Some kind of etching that doesn’t exist anywhere else. Like traditional print making. I actually did one of the French Connection painting because people were asking for it. I did a run of ten only.
Am I correct that you will be coming to Amsterdam?
Yes I can’t wait. I have an exhibition on April 29th at Grimm Gallery.
Have you been to Holland before?
Once before for a music festival in Maastricht. I really loved it but hope to stay longer this time.
Eric will be exhibiting his work at Grimm Gallery in Amsterdam on the 29th of April and CarArtSpot plans to be there and share the event with you.