Open Road

Automotive artist spotlight on Lawrence Gardinier

This is the third in a series of posts highlighting automotive artists. The earlier posts spotlighted Danny Whitfield, and Hot Rod Jen.

A few years ago I came across an artist's social media page that made me stop and take it all in. I found a few of his pictures on the page interesting, not only because of the automotive themed works, but also for the detail on seemingly miniscule canvases - watch faces. From automotive pictures provided by the owner, this artist would take apart a brand new watch and then hand paint that same picture on the watch face in great detail.

That's not all! After digging around on social media I found that he was mentioned in connection with other automotive related artwork. In fact, he's developed strong networking connections as well as his talents. Clients have included everything from individual enthusiasts, to Shelby American Automobile Club, to museums that wanted large format chalk work done to be put on exhibit for a special cause.

The artist is Lawrence Gardinier. I have found him to be an approachable fellow. So, I reached out to Mr. Gardinier. He kindly agreed to take a few moments to answer some of my questions about his career.

The remainder of this space is the Q&A with Mr. Gardinier, along with some pictures of his work.

How long have you been an artist?

My gift/career path was discovered in second grade.

Do you remember how you started?

I did a little freelance work in high school, more in college as well as working at a couple of ad agencies. After college I was a sign designer followed by a job as an architectural illustrator. I became a full time self -employed artist in 1990.

You've used varied medium, paint, chalk, etc,... What's your favorite?

Paint is my favorite. Chalk is a new medium for me. I've been doing it for a little over a year. I also work in ink, graphite and colored pencil.

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Lug Nut

Tell us about your relationship with the Shelby organization.

I did a few black and white pencil drawings and pitched them to the Shelby American Automobile Club. They didn't have any interest in them, but the club president Rick Kopec commissioned a drawing of his GT350R and was happy enough to pitch the Decade of Shelby poster to me. He had to pitch it to me, because other artists had turned it down.

The poster featured 72 Shelby street and race cars built from 1962-1972. It was an enormous amount of work and Rick was a perfectionist about the details. I was a perfect fit. At one point Rick came to my studio to check on my progress and bring by more reference pictures (pre-internet). He saw a piece I was doing for an ad agency that looked like a vintage movie poster and that's when the relationship got serious.

One of the fascinating things you work on is watch faces. They are so small and intricate. How long do they take?

They started as a dare and then I began to challenge myself to increase the detail. They take between 25 and 60 hours depending on the level of detail. If it shows up in a 4"x6" photograph I can paint it on a watch face. Cars with a lot of graphics like sponsor decals can get pretty time consuming. Trees, grass, leaves and stones are all pretty easy, but buildings are difficult. It's surprisingly hard to paint straight lines that small, the only thing more maddening are spoked wheels. Seriously, painting spoked wheels on a watch face is insane!

You've put a lot of effort into Skull Canvas Show the last few years (helmet art exhibit), among other shows. Tell me about your inspiration for this event.

A college buddy tagged me in a video about the 21 Helmets show and I found it fascinating. I asked him to get me information on the show so I can see about painting a helmet for it. He asked why I didn't just create my own show here on the east coast. I didn't have a good answer. So I did it. I pitched the show to Bryan Fuller at Fuller Hot Rods and he suggested we do it at the Barber Vintage Motorcycle Festival in Birmingham, AL. He was right. It's a fantastic venue for the show. I organize the show on Facebook with my artist friends and I'm still trying to make it as cool as the 21 Helmets show. In fact, I'd still love to paint a helmet for that show.

What has been your most challenging piece from your career?

The hardest deadline was doing a cutaway painting of the 1997 Panoz Roadster in only 3 weeks. It didn't help that they didn't have a finished car to get photo reference from. This was before I had a home computer or a digital camera. So, it was a lot of driving (60 miles to Panoz), taking pictures, waiting for film to be developed. Then I could finally get to the painting.

The most time consuming piece was building and painting my '66 Dodge Dart. After I did all the body work it took 6 months to design, layout and paint the graphics. Then, of course there was going through all the mechanical aspects of the car. A couple years ago I painted all those graphics again on a watch face. That may have been my most challenging watch.

Newest challenge or inspiration ahead of you?

I don't know. There's not much that I will shy away from. So, if an opportunity comes along, I'm usually game for it. The Skull Canvas Helmet Art Show will continue for the foreseeable future.

Continue reading below the image.

Shelby Daytona Painting

How long was it before one of your works was first published? What did it feel like?

I was fortunate enough to get published in a few car magazines pretty early. I think it was before I was full-time freelance. It was a huge ego boost and now I'm eternally grateful. I really should approach car magazines more often.

How would you encourage others coming behind you in the Automotive Art arena?

I tell young artists (especially automotive artists) to only do it if you have no other marketable skills. This business is crowded so prices are low. One of my hardest realizations was figuring out that I was never going to be rich and famous doing this. And now I'm too old to be a super model so I guess I'm stuck with having to get up and paint pictures all day. Woe is me.

You can find Lawrence Gardinier at:
Parent website:

Sources in addition to Q&A

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