Drawn to Speed: The Automotive Art of John Lander
by John Lander
Meet John McPherson Lander. Hardly a young whippersnapper; retired, in fact. If you have an eidetic memory you may recall having seen his auto-themed drawings in the occasional magazine or, if you travel in certain circles, on the walls of his private clients.
This obscurity may well be of his own choosing and in fact it took someone else’s prodding to get this little book of lovely little ink drawings out of him. The 92 pieces in this book date from 2000 to 2013 and all have something to do with cars and, occasionally, other things that move (planes, trains, boats) or move him (pretty women: “Ettore Bugatti created wonderful, beautiful automobiles. God created wonderful, beautiful women.”)
Having been a car guy for along time, and married to a car gal (they met at a dealership’s service counter, how cute) means he has cars on the brain. He also put in a year at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and another at the Atlanta Art Institute but his professional life had to do with an entirely different sort of design: trade show exhibits. Still, some skills travel well—an eye for line and proportion, theme and composition, scale and perspective.
The Foreword by Larry Crane, one of the editors who used Landers’ work in car magazines, speaks to Landers’ ability to apply his affinity for cars towards creating scenes that are full of meaningful meta detail, stories within stories. He doesn’t just draw machinery but cars at a moment in their or their owners’ life that is emblematic of an aspect uniquely relevant to a particular situation. Obviously, such detail would be lost on the proverbial innocent bystander and only be meaningful to the artist or the client—but here, in this book, the artist describes his own work and draws attention to the back-story. Furthermore, two of the 12 chapters illustrate his “process,” showing examples of several of the pieces showcased here progressing from rough outline to different stages of sketches.
Now, he does take liberties. All his cars are quickly and unambiguously recognizable for what they are. But not every line, every angle is clinically correct. Cars in motion want to convey speed so there may be a radiator leaning a bit forward, or a wheel titled at an improbable angle. Perfectly legit, considering his style. In one particular case Landers himself points out an overly generous bosom (p. 100), elongated beyond even what cosmetic surgery can accomplish in a universe governed by the laws of gravity, simply to have its curve intersect with one on the car. All good—but, and without any disrespect, some cars are just a bit off, and for no obvious reason; and more often human features, especially facial expressions and gestures, are just not entirely resolved in fine detail. This is not anything to harp about and we mention it only for the sake of the reader who himself has artistic leanings and would notice such things.
Racing cars, French cars, British cars are recurring themes (and, in fact, organized thusly in their own chapters) but a look through the book—or the Index, yes, there is one!—shows a roaming eye.
So, meet John McPherson Lander. At last.
Copyright 2015, Sabu Advani (speedreaders.info).