The Automotive Art of Nicolas Cancelier

Flipping through Nicolas’ portfolio of a variety of racing imagery is a real treat. There is a wonderful variety here that really impresses, not just variety of subject matter, but of technique. I’ve always been drawn to well-executed watercolor, largely because the required approach just hasn’t clicked with me whenever I’ve picked up the brush.

Control over the amount of liquid; layering the colors to get the right richness and value of tone; creating strong and well defined lines: all of these fundamental techniques have completely been thrown out the window every time I’ve made at an attempt. Usually my own watercolors become a long and intense study of mud puddles. For Nicolas though, he’s somehow able to create the pits at LeMans or the body of Clark’s Lotus from the humble, yet elusive, watercolor palette. Marvelous stuff—and that’s just one of his mediums.

One of his pieces absolutely leaped off the screen at me. The rendering of Jackie Stewart in a BRM is remarkable. The contrast of the shadows and highlights that we’re so used to rendering in one long gradient on a white canvas becomes so much more nuanced and interesting when broken into a 2 pronged approach on a medium value background. Using the paper color to create the base tone of the BRM’s livery is fantastic. We often think of working in black and white, when usually that means black ON white, actually dividing the tones into black AND white produces beautiful results.

You can see more of Nicolas’ work at his site and see the prints at his blog.

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