Why a Skoda 120, Jethro Tull and Marlboro bring back memories for Ondřej Balak. What inspires him and what is Ondřej's dream car?
What is your story Ondřej?
I was born in 1991 in the Czech Republic and live in Brno. I will tell you all the important bits later :).
What are your earliest memories of cars?
My first memory of cars is travelling in our Skoda 120. It smelled to petrol, Marlboros and vanilla fresheners and we were listening to Jethro Tull from a cassette recorder. I really like recalling this.
Do you come from an artistic family?
I inherited my love for cars and motorcycles from my father and my talent from my mother. But neither of them made art for a living.
Where did you study art and can you give some specifics?
As a kid I was attending an elementary art school, mainly painting and ceramic lessons. Later, I chose an art school in Ostrava as my high school. I studied Industrial design program. I guess I wasn’t too bad because I won a scholarship to universities in Torino and Detroit, thanks to my work. Unfortunately, I didn’t have resources to study abroad, so I started to study at Technical University in Ostrava. It’s funny because at Czech art universities I was labelled as a person who was too practical and without a futuristic imagination.
Did your studies involve car art?
I always wanted to do car design or motorcycles, but I realized that in our bonded and unified world it wasn’t possible for me.
What kind of jobs did you have or have you always been an artist?
In Ostrava, I was working as a construction designer on electromobiles in a Research and Development Department. Today I would love to be an artist and do it for a living but I am not so famous yet. So unfortunately, I have to do a “normal” job. Last time I was trying to be a graphic designer, but I hate sitting the whole day in front of a computer and do stereo-typed work.
How did you become an artist and why cars?
I’ve been painting and sketching since my childhood. But classic painting wasn’t tempting for me. A few years ago I tried to change designer’s markers to brushes and paints and after several horrible experiments, it caught me. My father used to take me with him to car racings. He knew a lot of famous drivers from CSR personally, so I think that was the first big influence.
Do you only paint cars or also other topics?
I don’t paint only cars but I like cars the most. If someone wants a custom painting, I enjoy that too, no matter what the topic is. Except painting people. I hate painting people.
Do you have a certain theme in your work and which techniques do you use?
My main theme is the Masaryk Circuit in Brno and its’ history. But if I see something interesting, I just need to paint it. I don’t use any special techniques, I like to paint by acrylics, dyes on canvas and aniline dyes on paper.
What inspires you to start a specific artwork?
I don’t have only one line of inspiration. I try to combine different components in order to create something special for a specific artwork.
How do you start with an artwork?
I find an old photo which catches my attention. Usually I search on the Internet, in books or I get them from contemporary witnesses. I also need to find out the theme colours and other important details. Then I start painting. Mainly I try to picture some curiosities – for example like in one of my paintings – Drion and Stohl – they were captured during their last race in Brno, where both of them died.
How do you feed your inspiration and what is your creation process?
Sex, drugs and rock n‘ roll!!! It pretty much depends on the specific artwork. Sometimes I feel almost angry about it and spend a lot of time finding the best compositions, colours and style. Then other times it goes well and I just enjoy the process.
What do you want to express with your artwork?
I am trying to capture the moment, the era. As I said before, my main topic is the old Masaryk circuit in Brno (from 1930 to 1986), which has been all but forgotten. I didn’t experience it’s time of glory but its spirit deeply charmed me.
What does your studio looks like?
I am just a poor young artist, so my studio is my kitchen. But my big dream is to renovate the old mill in the country, which belongs to my family, and create my own studio there.
What are you most proud of and what is your best artwork so far?
I am most proud of being successfully accepted by Czech automotive artists. In my opinion, my best artwork is the painting of Hans von Stuck in Auto Union type D. It’s one of my first paintings. At that time I was not using canvas, but fiberboards. But I still like it.
Which artists inspire you and how do you practice and improve your skills?
Not someone in particular. I am inspired by so many artists, I can’t name them individually. Quick sketches by hand and little aniline paintings.
How do you develop your style?
That’s such a secret, even I don’t know 🙂
Do you prefer any specific materials or tools?
Nothing special, I prefer canvas or handmade paper.
Do you work alone and do you work in silence or with music?
Yes, I work alone, but I discuss my ideas with my friends. I listen to music while I work and love rock music and Celtic punk, but it all depends on what I paint. Then I can listen to Bach or Vivaldi.
What does a normal day in your life look like?
If I have a job, I wake up at 6:30 a.m. and go to work. So I can create after returning home in between cooking and my relationship duties. So I don’t have too much time for painting. But if I don’t have a job, I also wake up around 6:30 so that I can almost immediately start creating. If I need some inspiration, I take a ride around the Old Masaryk’s Circuit.
Do you have any preference, brand, make, year or style of car?
I don’t have any specific type or year. Unfortunately, my interest in cars ended about the year 2000. Modern cars are so boring! I just like the combination of the engine, wheel/handlebars and the driver. Modern improvements destroy the joy of driving. I used to have a Fiat Punto MK1, engine 1,0 l. Driving it, a man feels pleasure and fear simultaneously, even when the speed is 60 km/h.
Do you own such a car yourself?
I don’t own my dream car (which would be sooo many). But I have a motorbike, ČZ 125 from 1948.
Have you had any expositions and is your art on display in a museum or elsewhere?
Last year I exhibited my work at a Classic Show in Brno and this year I would like to present myself on some veteran events. The main place where I present my work is currently Facebook. I also have websites but I don’t maintain them.
Do you have contact with other artists or Automotive artists?
Yes, my friends are Tom Havlasek, Daniel Šenkeřík and Jan Sachr. All of them create art much longer than me. They are my inspirators and and also my critics.
Are you a member of an artistic group?
No, but I was thinking about creating one. But I am afraid we would spend much more time talking and drinking, than painting.
What is your dream for the future?
To do art for a living.
What is your advice for people who want to become an Automotive Artist?
It’s a long and difficult path. If you want to do for example Abstract Art, the only thing you have to do is tell the story about a blue circle on a blue background. If it’s interesting, no one wonders if you actually can paint. In Automotive Art, a man has to be a designer, a constructor, a sculptor, a photographer and insane all together. But it’s important not to slack but to find your way. And practice, practice, practice.
Any advice for people who want to buy automotive art or start a car art collection?
Buy my art!:) I am just kidding. There are so many young automotive artists, so one can choose among them and find exactly what they like.
How and where can people buy your art?
Currently the only way to buy something is by contacting me or write me a message on my Facebook page or send me an e-mail.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions, awards of new artwork related to automotive art activities?
I know that I will have a small exhibition in the depo at the Veteran memorial racing in Brno Soběšice in 24. 9. 2016. But this is the only event I am sure about at the moment.
To see more of Ondrej's work, please visit his website.