Paul Chenard has a passion for motorsport history and a deep respect for history in general. Why he considers himself more of an historian who happens to use art to tell his stories.
I see that you’ve recently returned from a fantastic event.
Yes! I attended the 2014 Goodwood Revival. It was my fourth year attending and the first time I’ve ever been without booking a booth. I really enjoyed just having the opportunity to wander around with my good friend Nicolas Cancelier, a Belgian artist, and take in the event from a spectator perspective. I was able to see so much and meet many new people. I’m very pleased with some of the sketches I did as well.
I’ve taught myself to sketch in any situation. Going to an event like Goodwood where you could be standing next to a Maserati 250F where the mechanics are revving the engine requires a lot of focus if you want to sketch! It was nice to know that I could maintain my focus at such a huge event.
I have a passion for motorsport history. I have deep respect for history and the stories that live there. I feel a huge honour to be a part of these stories. I find that there are so many stories to be told but often they aren’t illustrated. I take great pleasure in trying to tell stories through art.
Your art strikes me in that it captures unique moments and illustrates them in an emotionally impactful way.
Moments like the evening before the 12 hours of Sebring are a crucial part of the story. These moments are important because without the preparation and hard work of the mechanics, the race the next day would not have ever happened! There is a story to be told about the drivers, the automobile, and the setting.
I consider myself more of a historian who happens to use art to tell his stories. If someone walks up to my art with no point of reference, what lures him or her into learning more? It is important for the viewer to have a point of reference so that they can look into things further should they so choose. Details like framing and background must be authentic and true to each piece and each car and each driver. I love all those details.
The cultural side of racing and motorsports is so beautiful. I relish the opportunity to try and capture that. For instance, the Italians can’t make an ugly piece of metal. They will take pains to chrome the plug wire pipes. It doesn’t make the car go any faster. But it is more beautiful. The Germans, on the other hand, wouldn’t think of doing that because it is wasteful. But the Italians have to.
There is so much more to motorsports and racing history than “this car won this race”. It is so much more than that.
Tell me about your technique.
As soon as I get comfortable in a technique, that’s usually when I stop using it. Of course, if I receive commission work in a certain style, I will absolutely do that. But as a general rule I find that as soon as I feel comfortable, I need to make a change. It is important for me to feel challenged at all times. What’s nice about trying new techniques, especially ones that nobody else has tried before, is that I don’t know what will happen. It’s all part of the adventure. I love that. It’s like being a kid. Improvisation is where creativity is born.
Professionally, I've been a graphic designer all my life, specializing in logo development. I received my Bachelor of Design in Communications Design from a NSCAD in Nova Scotia. I try to invest money in the development of a new product and some new ideas. For instance, the Aston Martin laser cut stainless steel piece. No one has explored this medium with car art quite like I have: it’s an interactive illustration cut out of stainless steel. I've attached a leather tab on the bonnet of the car so that you can open it and see another laser cut illustration of the engine. I love the idea of a surprises and second levels of information. Psychologically, it’s satisfying to be the person to discover an "Easter egg" like that. It took me three months to put that piece together.
One thing that’s tricky about being an artist is spending so much of your time and resources on a project, all the while not receiving compensation. Everything relies on the sale at the end of the day. The time that it takes me to develop new techniques and styles is difficult because I’m not making money. That said, I believe in what I’m doing and I know I’m doing things that nobody else is. I am always on the search for someone who may be willing to help me in the development of these new techniques and styles.
How does your audience respond to this type of art?
I always find that looking at visual files online don’t have the same impact. It’s so important to see my work in person. The word that comes to mind, seeing pieces like the Aston Martin in person, is disbelief. I always let them open the bonnet. It’s so much fun. I just love seeing the shock on someone’s face. To me, that honours the whole idea. I’m like a 56-year old little kid.
I want to make an impact with my art. I want to educate the public and help organizations learn about this type of history.