Brian Caldersmith, Automotive Artist

By: Glenn Torrens, Photography by: Mark Bean

Presented by

brian caldersmith11 brian caldersmith11
brian caldersmith brian caldersmith
brian caldersmith 2 brian caldersmith 2
brian caldersmith 3 brian caldersmith 3
brian caldersmith 4 brian caldersmith 4
brian caldersmith 6 brian caldersmith 6
brian caldersmith 8 brian caldersmith 8
brian caldersmith 9 brian caldersmith 9
brian caldersmith10 brian caldersmith10
brian caldersmith11 brian caldersmith11
brian caldersmith12 brian caldersmith12
brian caldersmith13 brian caldersmith13
brian caldersmith14 brian caldersmith14

With his instantly recognisable style, Brian Caldersmith is among Australia's greatest automotive artists

As Posters and commemorative clocks, his work adorns the walls of many  garages, man-caves and venues such as the ARDC Café at Sydney Motorsport Park. His beautiful in-the-moment portrayals of Australian competition cars stand out from the covers of countless race-track programmes and advertising posters. Many older Aussie car enthusiasts will remember his beautiful official Holden: 50th Anniversary poster from two decades ago and he’s painted most of Australia’s greatest racing heroes – past and present, living and gone. There’s also a small clique of classic car enthusiasts who have had him personally paint portraits with their vehicles – or have been surprised with secret presents!

It might be cheeky to put him in the same sentence as legendary Australian painters such as Pro Hart or Hans Heysen, but Brian Caldersmith is surely the greatest automotive artist in Australia.

brian-caldersmith-2.jpgBrian creating another masterpiece

"I started after my second retrenchment," Brian says of his third career’s kick-start after his time with computer mob Imagineering. Prior to that, he was a product development manager with Malleys/Whirlpool… a stand-out brand in a once-strong Aussie whitegoods manufacturing industry that was – like, our car industry in 2017 – lost to cheap imports.

"Mavis [his wife] was sick of me moping around the house," he continues. "She said, ‘Go out and do something – go and paint a picture of a car or something! Get out of here!’"

His first published work was for the (now closed) NSW Amaroo Park Raceway’s Australia Day Long Weekend Historic meet in 1992. Probably the work most widely known to Australia car enthusiasts is his Holden 50th Anniversary poster. That official Holden project, commissioned for its 1998 celebrations, took three months; each of the eight cars depicted (48-215, FE Special sedan, EH ute, LC Torana GTR, HT Monaro GTS, HQ Kingswood sedan, Brockie’s last VK Commodore Group C car and the 1998 VT Calais) had to be sourced, photographed and painted onto the one frame.

brian-caldersmith-3.jpg

Brian works from his home studio in Sydney’s leafy northern suburbs and he and Mavis are parents to two adult children, Darren and Julia (an old workmate of mine). During the 1990s he mixed his art with retail, establishing the well-regarded motoring-specialist Wheels bookshop in Sydney’s Parramatta. Yes, Brian is a true car nut – he’s owned a 1961 Lotus Elite for 43 years and (much to my personal dismay!) recently sold his HSV-upgraded VR V8 Holden Calais. He raced the Lotus for 30 years but these days he’s hung up his helmet.

"My knees and back need replacing!" he jokes. "Plus, it’s selfish – I have grand-kids now."

These days, as always, his art is a blend of corporate and private work and it’s mostly cars, with a little boating and aeronautical subjects in the mix, too. "I like to see the car," he says of how he begins a new poster or pic. "That way I can rip-off a few hundred pics. You need all sorts of angles – you need to really know the detail of the car. They look dirty; they look alive; they look patinaed."

brian-caldersmith15.jpg

Brian usually paints in water-colour but sometimes uses coloured and lead/black pencil. Water colours provide a terrific photographic-like quality to the finished art but it’s especially challenging to master as you can’t make a mistake; there’s neither reworking of the image nor painting over a blemish as there is with the thicker-textured oils or acrylic often used by, say, landscape artists.

"If you have seven cars [such as on a poster] and you stuff-up the last car you have to start again!"

The detail is mind-boggling and Brian admits that’s a continuing challenge.

brian-caldersmith12.jpg

"Car people – they’ll tell you if you’re wrong!" he says with a chuckle. "If, for instance a car’s grille has 19 elements in it, they’ll notice it if you only paint it with 18.

"Plane people are even more pedantic," he continues. "When you look inside a cockpit, there’s dozens of gauges. Every needle must be in the right place for the scenario in the pic, such as if the plane is coming in to land!"

Brian’s work can be seen and bought at brian-caldersmith.smugmug.com

Contact by email at briantc@bigpond.com

 

Classic Australian Family Car Value Guide home page

Muscle Car Value Guide home page

Japanese Classic Car Value Guide home page

Recent auction results

Sell your car for free right here

 

Sign up to our free weekly newsletter for more unique car reviews and features plus see the latest unique and classic cars for sale.

Subscribe to Unique Cars magazine
- Print edition
- Digital edition