All artwork from Stefan Marjoram’s 2015 Auto Art Advent series. Courtesy of Stefan Marjoram.
Artist, photographer, animator and filmmaker Stefan Marjoram has been sprinkling a little extra magic into the Christmas season since 2011 by offering an original pencil-and-watercolor sketch of a different vintage automobile each day during Advent. It’s been a first-come-first-served opportunity for lucky purchasers to own an original piece of artwork for just 24 pounds ($34.50 as of this writing); once they’re sold, the idea went, they’re gone, like a snowflake melting on an eyelash.
Stefan has also been busy documenting the 1,000-MPH Bloodhound SSC (“Supersonic Car”) land speed record effort, and he created the video of the Beast of Turin that went viral (actually it’s a trailer to the documentary he’s making on the legendary car) all while continuing to contract with clients like Jaguar, Castrol, Adobe and Popular Mechanics. Along the way, his automotive Advent art has become so beloved that enthusiasts have been calling for the chance to own prints of the originals. This spring, Stefan is responding by offering a limited run of prints of each of last year’s pieces. Prints will sell for £20 (about $29 at the time of this writing) each and are available here: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/StefanMarjoram
The artist at work, creating one of his 2013 offerings in a short video full of the enchantment of the holiday season.
If you or someone you love is fond of European grand prix cars or American racers and hot rods, you’ll want to check out the energetic, almost fanciful art of Stefan Marjoram. In advance of the release of his limited-edition printing of the 2015 Auto Art Advent series, we reached out across the pond to Stefan for an interview…
J. Daniel Beaudry: How would you describe your style?
Stefan Marjoram: I like things to be accurate, but I also like to work quite fast. Sometimes I have areas with fewer details—or no details—and I get onlookers asking things like, “So, will you finish this at home later?” I’m a big fan of car designer’s sketches. They can often capture a car in just a few energetic strokes. That’s what I’m hoping to do.
JDB: You’ve mentioned that you traded your camera for pencil and paper and that it’s been satisfying; can you talk a little more about this?
SM: Not traded. I still take plenty of photos, but I make time to sit and sketch, too. If you cover an event with a camera, you can end up experiencing the whole thing through the tiny viewfinder. You hardly socialize with people because you’re hiding behind the camera, focused on finding some interesting action or a nice composition. When you sit and sketch for an hour or two, all sorts of people come up and chat with you. You hear about the history of the car, the restoration, people’s childhood dreams, and it often leads to other interesting commissions. You arrive home having felt much more part of the proceedings. The downside is that you can’t make as many sketches as you can photos.
JDB: Looking at your drawings over the last few years, how would you say your style has changed?
SM: I’ve gotten a bit better. I’ve been drawing for years, but I still have loads to learn—and the only way you improve is by doing more of it. It still doesn’t come easy—some cars, especially curvy ones or modern ones, can be really tricky. I still never really know what I’m going to end up with until it’s done.
JDB: I see a little of Carlo Demand, maybe, in your work; who are your artistic inspirations?
SM: We’re definitely interested in the same subjects, but for me my biggest inspiration (apart from the car designers I mentioned) is Bob Freeman. He used to illustrate for Supercar Classics, a magazine I bought as a teenager in the 80s. He was truly a genius. He could tackle the most complicated subjects, usually engines, in amazing detail and accuracy, but the finished works were never stiff or lifeless. He’d sketch in pencil and then add light watercolor washes—his ability to capture all the different materials was incredible. I haven’t quite got the patience to take my drawings that far, so mine tend to come out a bit more sketchy.
JDB: As one who is both an artist and photographer, what would you say to someone who asked why draw a car when you can just take a picture of it?
SM: When you sit and sketch something for an hour or two you really take in every little detail. You learn about the design and how it is put together. How often do you look at a photo that long? It’s also quite a challenge, which makes it rewarding when it occasionally comes out well.
JDB: While I see that you will occasionally render a work using an iPad and software, you still favor traditional media: pencil, paint and paper; why is that?
SM: The good thing about having a physical sketch is that you can sell it. iPads, computers, pencils, pens: They’re all just tools which can be used to make an image. None of them is more worthy than any other. I like to experiment with iPad apps because they can make marks or work in ways that my pencils can’t. I think it’s good not too get too stuck on one style. I’ve recently been experimenting with some larger charcoal drawings, something I avoided for a long time because I found them difficult to control and messy. It’s important to get out of your comfort zone every once in a while.
JDB: It seems like a unique theme; how/why did you begin an Advent calendar series?
SM: I’ve always enjoyed following other artists “picture-a-day” series and Jake Parker’s InkTober drawings. It’s quite a challenge, and I don’t think I could do it for an entire year. I was thinking about trying something like this one winter and the Advent idea hit me—24 postcard-sized watercolors for £24 including postage anywhere in the world. As it was Christmas, I thought it’d be nice to offer people the chance to get some original art at a cheap price. Five years on, it’s proved more popular than I expected, and I’ve had to limit them to one per household.
I usually work from life, so the Advent drawings are a chance for me to let my imagination loose. In the previous years, the cars have nearly all been invented—my dream garage. I thought I’d vary it a little, and the 2015 drawings were all actual cars—25 of my favorites from throughout history—I could easily add hundreds more!
In recent years, I’ve had a few people ask if I plan to put any work up in a gallery or at an event. I’ve always thought it would be good to have a theme for something like that and so have printed out an entire set of the 2015 series. When I draw them, I never get to see all 24 pictures together as they get posted off each day. I think they’re going to look quite smart once they’re all framed. The first place I hope to show them is at Bicester Heritage—an amazing hub for the UK classic car industry based on an old WWII bomber base worthy of a feature itself. I’ll be doing a limited print run (probably 24) of each sketch, too.