Art and memorabilia: February 2018
When your day job is designing cars, what about your hobby?
When you look at one of Julian Thompson’s Lotus Elise prints, you’re getting something special. Because Julian is one of this country’s top car designers, and while at Lotus he created the original Elise. Similarly, his multiple Jaguar images, adorned with comments about the design, carry unusual insight: Julian is now Jaguar’s head of advanced design. But like any proper designer he loves drawing, and while he’s not going to reveal the next F-type, you can imbibe his views of other beauties by Ferrari, Ford and Porsche. He’s a big fan of classic racers.
“At Lotus and Jaguar my task has been to take the brand forwards, and an appreciation of the marques’ earlier race cars feeds into that,” he says. “I’ve been to every Goodwood and always take photos, from a designer’s point of view. I love distinctive plan shapes – an E-type has a very distinctive tapering form. I like to draw cars which have these evocative forms from above – the GTO, GT40, Porsche Turbo.” Hence his overhead drawings, an angle the onlooker rarely sees – simple, but with a dramatic slice of colour.
He doesn’t work up highly finished art; his art is about capturing forms and lines. “All my drawings are loose, even doodly, just with pencil or biro, with what I call designer’s notes on them.”
He then combines these with his own photos and drawings overlaid with bold streaks of colour, conveying multiple views of the machine. “I admire the collage style of Warhol and Blake,” he says.
But no single-seaters, surprisingly. He’s related to Prince Bira, and his sister-in-law owned Bira’s ERA ‘Romulus’.