Painting with cars - Chutzpah Car meets Popbangcolour
When I was offered a Rolls-Royce for 24 hours, and told the delivery driver where I was taking it, I must say he was a little confused.
No, I wasn't taking it to the beautiful snow-topped mountains of Wales, nor was I rolling it into the centre of London to see the city sights. I was going to Coventry.
The reason for such a decision was that a year or so ago I'd bumped into a brummie called Ian Cook on a press trip. Covered in paint splashes from head to toe, he was a bit of an intriguing character to say the least. We got chatting and he told me all about his career as an artist, then said that I must come and visit his studio one of these days.
Located in the heart of Coventry’s creative quarter in Fargo Village, for car lovers and those who appreciate modern art, the home of Popbangcolour is like walking into Toys R Us for the first time as a child - heaven.
The studio is an expression of his two great loves in life: art and cars. "I was always good at art at school, in fact, it was the only thing I loved to do, and I was into cars from a young age, too," he told me while we stood playing with his Scalextric set.
But look a bit closer at the Popbangcolour studio and you'll notice that it's not just paintings of cars that Ian has made his name from. It's a tad more interesting than that - he paints car art WITH cars. Radio controlled ones. To create his unique artworks, Ian spoons acrylic paint and ink onto large paper and drives the cars over the canvas in short bursts.
"I was given a radio controlled Lightning McQueen as a present one Christmas, and was told that I wasn't to get paint on it," he laughed. "So the first thing I did was take it to my studio and start to experiment, firstly doing colour circles and then moving to my first car art in 2008."
Since then, Ian's art has developed from what he describes as cute, simple and playful, to more daring and intricate, experimenting with different angles and positioning. His artwork has appeared on Blue Peter, Goodwood Festival of Speed, Top Gear, The One Show, and has even won him a Guinness World Record.
The walls of the studio are so full of colour and different bits and bobs that it's almost like being a sweet shop and not knowing where to start. Something that strikes me is a large canvas print of Lewis Hamilton's face, of course, painted by using cars. "That one is a reminder of where things started really," Ian tells me. "I painted it the size of two London double-decker buses back in 2008 and it was unveiled by Tower Bridge, London, and featured on Blue Peter."
The floor in the studio is filled with hundreds of toy cars, most of which are turned upside down but are on the same frequency as others, so that when he starts painting with one, the wheels of the other cars surrounding the studio floor all start moving too. "I like a bit of theatre," Ian admits.
Ian's interesting career choice also led to him meeting his now fiancee, who he explains randomly walked into his shop one day. "She's not into cars at all but she likes Lotuses. She walked in here one day and I gave her a print of a colourful Elise I had painted," he says with a grin on his face.
As for acquiring the cars, Ian visits various shops including TkMaxx and toy shops, and will resort to Amazon and eBay if he can't find something he wants. "I quite like the physical search, though," he explains. And luckily there are enough shops that fill their shelves with these plastic toys around Christmas time.
"I always get questioned at the till by someone who says 'who's the lucky boy then?' It's just a tad embarrassing to admit that I'm buying them for myself!"
From the moment that he knew I was coming to visit, Ian had his eye on overhauling our minimalist Chutzpah Car logo. He was also keen to hear that I was arriving in style in the Rolls-Royce Dawn too, which soon had him cross-legged on the studio floor. Turns out Coventry was the right choice of location after all.