Painting 'A Car A Day' is quite a challenge but not for Rob Ijbema who did it for a whole year!
My compliments for doing a car a day Rob. That must be a real challenge!
I did ‘a car a day’ for a whole year to create an interest and a base of readers, so that they knew that if they came on my blog everyday, they would see a new car. I’m not doing it so intensely anymore now because I paint other stuff as well, like the Tour de France which I am paint at every stage. To do ‘a painting a day’, you have to paint fast. I like painting outside in the nature because of the colours and the shadows etc . If you paint outside, you have to learn to paint very quick because the light and weather can change so quickly. So I trained myself to be really quick and I try to do a painting in about two hours.
When you paint racing cars and car paintings, do you go to events and paint live there?
No, I work from home. In the beginning I sometimes used to take my easle to the tracks and painted in the pits and paddock.
Painting is the easy bit. Promoting it is the hard part.
Apart from the colours and shadows, what is the benefit of working outside?
The eye of the camera is not as good as the human eye. If you stand outside you see far more colours. On a photograph, a shadow is just black but if you stand outside, you see all the colours around it and every colour is affected by the colour next to it. Then of course you can also see much more atmosphere
You started ‘a car a day’ to get attention. Did that work?
Yes it was really good. I got loads of customers and viewers on my site. It worked really well.
How did you do the promotion?
By networking, connecting with other blogs, writing to magazines and to other websites and blogs.
So you really made the effort to get out there and promote your work?
Yes I did. Painting is the easy bit. Promoting it is the hard part.
You have found a unique impressionistic way of painting. How did you develop your style?
I started painting when I was about 12 years old and copied paintings of Rembrandt and Monet but I started my career making model cars. I used to make them out of cardboard and plasticine and hand paint them. In 1988 I hitched all the way to Monaco and slept in caves during the night because I had no money to pay for a hotel. When I got there, I went into the pits and showed the models around, not expecting too much. I wanted to show my models to my hero’s and they bought them all. It was amazing. During the day, I was on these guys yachts.
So I decided that I had to do something with this and when I got back home to Holland, I packed my backpack and moved to England with some models and 30 pounds and I’m still here.
Quote from Niki Lauda. I'm not allowed to have a favourite track, I have to be good on all the tracks.
And you continued with the model cars?
Yes for ten years. I made model cars for all the drivers and teams like Frank Williams, his son, and got to know all the drivers and team members. I travelled all through Europe going to all the tracks and got free passes. It was so much fun but after ten years, I got a bit tired of it and started painting again.
In the beginning I painted really photographic until I started painting outside and then I really loosened up. If you look at painters like Monet, they had that style because you have to be quick. It’s not like you make a choice of painting loose, you have to paint quick, otherwise it takes too long.
I can imagine that if you do a painting a day, it develops your style much quicker than if you take weeks over one painting.
That’s right and of course with the style of impressionistic, expressionistic or abstract, it really helps to convey the speed.
Is your style still developing?
Yes, I’m getting more and more direct. I need less and less brush strokes to show what I want to express.
So less is more, in your case.
Yes definitely because you get more confident and more experienced. You know what is going to happen or what is needed.
What do you want to capture when you start painting? What is important to you?
Light and movement really. That’s the thing I’m most interested in. I love cars so much and with the models, it’s quite restrictive because you have to be so detailed and spot on. But painting is more free. You can express yourself better.
Your paintings are more about the dynamics.
I learned so much from making the models. I know every detail, so when painting, I know what to leave out and what to put in.
You must have had numerous conversations with drivers and officials on the track. Did that influence the way you paint or the stories behind it?
I don’t know really. I never thought about that. It certainly influenced the models but I don’t know about the paintings. I am more influenced by other people who paint. It doesn’t have to be racing cars.
Are most of your car paintings Formula 1 racing cars?
Well I don’t do many F1 cars anymore because all the cars are the same and the tracks are getting more and more boring. I find painting historic cars and the scenery more interesting.
I noticed that you paint the car in motion but I don’t see a parked car in the pitstop with people working on it.
No, I’m not that interested. I’ve done it in the past but I really like movement.
Do you have a favourite car that you paint more often?
No, I don’t have favourites. When I was a kid I had favourites but it’s also subjective. I remember Niki Lauda once was asked if he had a favourite track and he said “Im not allowed to have a favourite track, I have to be good on all the tracks”.
What kind of advice would you give to artists just starting out.
Follow your dreams and passion. That’s how I always did it. When I was a kid, I lived alone with my mum and we didn’t have much money. If I wanted something, I had to make it myself. That’s how I started making models and painting.
No-one is going to come knocking on your door. You just have to stay ahead and keep writing to people and realize that if you are passionate about something, somebody else is out there in the world who feels as passionate about it as you do. You just have to find those people.
Like with the Tour de France (especially when I started), I would be painting every stage and after two weeks I would have so many paintings but no sales. I just kept writing to magazines and most times they wouldn’t write back but sometimes they would with a congratulations, which sounds a bit patronizing. But you just have to keep going until it works. Suddenly it just takes off. Normally I get a 100 hits on my website but if I get a really good article in a magazine, I get 1500 hits. What I also do sometimes is a competition to give something away and lots of people react to that. I’ve never done anything else. I’ve been an artist all my life.
For more of Rob Ijbema's work, please visit his website.