Bryndu, Bwlch y Ffridd,
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In the context of automotive art, "WHO IS GARY WHINN?" should in theory be answered by the pictures I paint with the minimum of explanation. Of course in reality that is an ambitious aim for any artist and I would be the first to admit that I rarely succeed to my satisfaction. Hopefully though, the act of trying is enough to create the minimum requirement – a beautiful painting that somebody is moved to buy!
The chance to look back over my artistic career has been an interesting exercise in reflecting on the twists and turns of fate that brought me to this time and place in my life. Initially, the overwhelming temptation was to do what we all tend to do – write out a list of achievements, proudly declare I was published here and I was published there, recount the awards won, the posters commissioned and all the places I've exhibited. As my wife Lorraine would jokingly point out it's that familiar tale that starts "I was born at an early age…."
I guess it's that crutch that we all lean on to support our belief in our own endeavors, whether they are artistic or in any other walk of life. However, if I were you, reading this, I probably wouldn't be too interested in wading through a chronological résumé compared to learning a bit more about that painting that caught your eye. What really matters is the art. Suffice to say my work so far has brought me into the ranks of the AFAS and I guess that recognition from my contemporaries in the world of automotive art is a good enough abbreviation of my artistic achievements to date. I work hard to live up to their high standards and I'm proud to be counted amongst their number.
Personally, when I read about another artist I tend to skip over the exhibition listings and professional achievements. I'm already hooked. The fact that I've picked up the book or magazine is proof that I'm already impressed by what really matters – I like the art and I want to know what motivates the artist to create those images.
I WOULD SAY MY BACKGROUND IS NOT TYPICAL FOR AN AUTOMOTIVE ARTIST.
I came to it late in life and I had no real involvement with the world of cars. I've always been interested in art from as young an age as I can remember but in my formative years I never made the connection between art and making a living. Nobody that I knew earned money by painting pictures. It was a hobby thing, something that people did at evening class or at best taught in school and I was sure I didn't want to teach. My parents were very encouraging but they had no more idea than I did about how to turn a natural talent for drawing into a way of earning a living. So it was that I headed into adulthood leaving the dream of being an artist to fade into the background behind the responsibilities of making my way in the world. It would be decades later before that dream was re-kindled.
I once read a quotation, "Women will never be as successful as men because they have no wives to advise them". I couldn't help but smile because behind every successful artist there is usually a long-suffering wife or partner who has played a more than significant role in that success. So it is with me and it all began with encouragement from Lorraine to dust off that deeply buried ambition to somehow be an artist or else accept the alternative – the inevitable regret at the end of my life that I had never tried. I was feeling jaded with my job as a graphic designer and I felt the need to be more personally creative. Nevertheless, in my anxiety I threw in every "reason not to" that I could muster until she had calmly overturned all of my objections and gave me the confidence to finally give it a go.
Why automotive art? Well it was a combination of pragmatism and a simple twist of fate. After handing in my notice at work and the security of a monthly salary I realized that I simply didn't have time to "find myself" and go on an indulgent journey of self-expression. The world of art viewed from the bottom rung of the ladder is quite simply immense and it would be so easy to get lost trying to find one's true path in that maze of possibilities. I needed to make the decision quickly about which road to follow and a trip to Silverstone Race Track for an Historic Race meeting brought me into contact with two "firsts" in my life – classic cars and an exhibition of automotive art.
Fast approaching my 40th birthday I knew nothing about historic Bugatti and Maserati grand prix cars. Discovery of their existence and all the sights, sounds and smells of them racing was intoxicating. The same day I walked into an exhibition of paintings depicting these fabulous machines and it was as clear as day what I was going to do next. Probably for the first time in my life I had a sense of certainty about what I wanted to do and it was a liberating emotion. Who were these guys who painted these wonderful images? I didn't just want to find out - I wanted to join their ranks as soon as possible!
The nuts and bolts of how I got started and progressed probably bear similarities with many other artists. We all go through a learning curve. As in all creative endeavors you have to pay your dues and how you start often bears little connection to where you end up. The jumping off point for me was motor racing history and like many before me I plundered the old photographs trying to find ones that excited my imagination that hadn't already been exhausted by all the automotive artists who got there before me. A short series entitled "Road Racing Pioneers" followed where I tried to capture some of the excitement and heroism of those early cars and drivers. However, I quickly realized that there was very little of me in the images apart from an evolving style of painting.
I searched for those key elements that I wanted to express, the qualities which captured my fascination with my chosen subject on a deeper level than simply illustrating a vehicle or a moment in racing history. This train of thought could send us into some fairly deep philosophical waters with questions about what is art and how much self-expression can you get into a picture of a Model T? That could easily lead into pretentious territory which would overstate my artistic ambition!
All artists are in the business of creating eye candy because however lofty the ideals behind it the painting has to look good enough that somebody would want to hang it on their wall. Cars in themselves can be such beautiful objects that simply painting one well is enough to create a beautiful picture worthy of that wall space. My own aim is always to do at least that much but also to add an extra dimension that will hopefully stir the emotions and fire the imagination of the viewer. Sometimes that can be as simple as evoking nostalgic memories and the feel-good factor brought on by "Hey, that's my car!" and "Boy, they were good times!" One of the early images capturing those sentiments was "Those Were the Days, Joe!"
Apart from their obvious functional role cars are an integral part of our lives on so many other levels. They embody our desires and aspirations and play a very real part in the realization of our dreams. I tried to evoke these ideas in "Secret Liaison". I don't want to spell it out; I rather hope that it is an image whose symbolism speaks for itself and encourages the imagination of the onlooker to interpret the story their way. "Teardrop by the Ocean" was an obvious play on the model name of the Talbot Lago but there is also an implied story with the empty chair and the untouched drink in the foreground suggesting a connection to the melancholic, lone figure of a woman in the background.
I'm now fast approaching my 50th birthday and I continue to enjoy painting pictures of cars with a hint of narrative. For anybody interested of course I did lots of other things before this but it seems to me that what matters now in profiling Gary Whinn the artist is the way I turn my personal history into automotive art. Undoubtedly some of those life experiences have filtered through to my paintings and come out in ways which are a surprise even to me. This creative process is both mysterious and satisfying and when somebody buys a painting because it is a powerful reminder to them of a scene from their own life it is a very rewarding experience. It never ceases to be a thrill that with a painting I created back in my studio I have in some way communicated on an emotional level with a perfect stranger, perhaps living thousands of miles away. How cool is that?