Sculpting in Automotive Art

Wednesday, June 20, 2012
If college students come home on spring break and tell their parents that they have decided to major in art and become a sculptor, many parents would be aghast. Their first thought would be how would they support themselves and next they would envision their child living at home forever. However, there are sculptors who are self-supporting and don't fit into the 'starving artist' category. And one industry that employs sculptors is automotive manufacturing. The concept of clay modeling in automotive design began at General Motors seventy years ago. Today automotive sculptors combine the designer's drawings with the engineer's specifications to create a three dimensional model.

Harvey Earl first introduced the idea of modeling sculptor's clay to produce three-dimensional models. Clay was more workable than the plaster and wood used previously so it permitted more flexibility and creativity. So sculptors as well as illustrators and engineers became an integral part of an automotive design team. However, when automotive art emerged as a fine art genre, some of the sculptors left the industry and started to freelance.

One of these is Steve Posson. Posson had majored in automotive design at the Art Center College of Design in California and did prototype bodywork for Jeep, Volvo and Renault. Now he has revived the ancient technique of lost wax casting to create bronze automotive sculptures. Lost wax is notable for capturing minute details. His sculptures usually feature people and scenery along with the automobile but still give an illusion of motion. He has exhibited his work at major shows such as the Pebble Beach Retro Auto, The Newport Beach Concours, the L.A. Roadsters Show, and The Grand National Roadster Show, to name a few. Steve also has many well-known corporate clients such as Petersen Automobile Museum, Ford Company, and Auto Aficionado Magazine.

Greg Johnson became involved in automotive sculpture as a result of a career as an entrepreneur in the automotive collision business.

Greg does both painting and sculpture. Greg's sculptures are unique in that his materials are salvaged and wrecked auto parts that he reshapes and combines before applying an acrylic urethane finish. Greg uses the same acrylic urethane paints to create abstract paintings.

Richard Pietruska is another widely recognized automotive sculptor. Richard's career in art began early in his life. When he was in high school, he was a winner of the Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild competition that earned him a scholarship to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. He received a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Design and a Master of Fine Arts from the Art Center College of Design.

He now teaches at the Art Center College of Design in the Transportation and Product Design Department where he has been employed for the last thirty years. Richard's students have included many of the top automotive designers in the world. Some of Richard's work is whimsical such as his red and blue Viper salt and pepper shakers. He has also produced some non-sculpting art such as an interesting creation print and a Ferrari scroll. Richard recently received an invitation to the Automotive Fine Arts Society and is one of their newest members. The Society mounts two exhibitions each year to feature the work of their members.