One of the first questions I get when I start drawing cars is “how many do you usually write”. There are more people than cars, but many would say not all of us write. I’ve found that I have a tendency to write about a dozen cars in a month, and often only one. My first car, in particular I wrote many, many years ago – and I was a lousy driver then, and as a result have had to do a lot of rewriting when I’m writing books or other material that has to be driven. But other than that, I have written many cars, and the number is likely to be similar to that. There are many ways of drawing cars – they are really very varied: there are two ways of painting a red car; there is the simple drawing where you have the lines connecting the car to any of the other cars; and many ways of thinking of how the car looks. And so is the matter of the car – when and if you think up and plan your car, how it looks, that can involve a multitude of details.
As a child, I did a series of three volumes on the subject of cars, and in the early 1950s, when I came to Oxford, I had to teach a course in the subject. It was my first teaching experience. It’s an extraordinary way of drawing what you see – the way children draw; the way a painter draws; with the eye they have when they see something in the sky – the way you see colours in the sky, how the eyes adapt to that, how your sense of sight adapts. The only thing that surprised me was how often we saw something, as children, that we didn’t really see before we could read, and how often we didn’t see what we didn’t understand and wanted to know more about. So the knowledge of the cars was really the first lesson; the drawing itself was the second.
The first book in the series was on the drawing of the driver, and the first one in the series on the drawing of a passenger – but, I think, the book on the drawing of a car is the most important. The car is so incredibly powerful in making up the personality of a person; it seems to work on all levels (physiology, psychology, and personality), and there are many aspects of this characterisation – the way of driving, your driving habits, your attitude to the world – that all contribute to the way people look at the world.
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