Art / Car Culture / People

Steve Anderson: Pictures of Perfection

thumbnail4Is it possible to capture the essence of an automobile with mere ink and paint? For artist Steve Anderson, it’s an everyday thing… this magician of the marker creates fantastic, gallery-worthy automotive illustrations. Let’s hear what he has to say about cars, the creative process, and the future of the automotive industry.

Steve Anderson at work in the studio.

Steve Anderson at work in the studio.

IMG: Steve, you have such a technically-crisp, almost picture-perfect illustration style. Do you have formal training?

SA: I’m a graduate of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. There I received a B.S. in Transportation Design – I got into the illustration aspect as an integral part of my day-to-day job. In the automotive industry, many a design executive has been quoted saying “my eyes don’t have ears”, so drawing well is a means of survival. With my illustration business, I’ve been lucky enough to have found an audience which appreciates this type of effort.

IMG: How did this particular endeavor, creating custom illustrations, come about?

SA: Early in my career, I had the (amazing) opportunity to work alongside Freeman Thomas at the newly opened Volkswagen / Audi studio in California. He and I were both Porsche nuts. One day Freeman brought in a 911 body blueprint he was given while working at Porsche. I asked if I could make a copy and render it. It was just a fun exercise, but I soon realized that creating illustrations to depict the exact specification of a car would be a really cool way to enhance the ownership experience.  I began showing the finished art to fellow enthusiasts in the local PCA community and the rest is history.

1958 Porsche 356 A Speedster

IMG: Who is your “typical” client?

SA: The typical client is a one-car guy who’s completely obsessed with his car and participating in the “complete” ownership experience. They tend to be more aesthetes – all about the design, colors and the way in which the car presents itself. At any given time, approximately 60% of my workload is return client, so these guys move on to something else and give me a call to “do the new one”.

IMG: Tell us a little about your process.

SA: Despite the computerization of modern society, I’m still what you would call a traditionalist or “old school”. My fascination and admiration for the early Italian carozzerie renderings dictate that I will always employ more of a hands-on approach when creating the art. I do rely on my Mac to get the post-production side of things perfect but in the end hope my clients appreciate the value and authenticity of a hand-crafted piece.


IMG: What’s the most unique car you’ve been commissioned to illustrate?

SA: The most unique wasn’t even a car but a Bar-B-Que! A client had me do an illustration of his 911 GT2 and wrote one day asking if I’d be party to creating a humorous gift for a friend – turns out, a rather strange request. It seems his best friend had seen the (GT2) illustration and remarked “the closest I’ll ever get to one of those is my Bar-B-Que!” It was actually a pretty nice grille and the illustration was a fun diversion form the car stuff – reminiscent of the product design consultation I’ll occasionally take on.

Car-wise, I suppose I’d have to go with one I’m currently working on for a client in Mexico. He owns (among many fantastic cars in his collection) an ex-Lauda Ferrari 312 B4.


IMG: The most personally-gratifying project?

SA: I recently completed an illustration of a very early Porsche 930 Turbo (the 20th produced), actually called “Turbo Carrera”. It was commissioned by the son of the car’s original owner for his 80th birthday! The drawing was tremendously complex – we incorporated some great insider details such as the odometer which was shown to reflect the car’s VIN. In the end, I had pushed myself to a new level of accomplishment and had the honor to be a part of this milestone celebration. Having said that, each of these illustrations, and what it means for the owner’s relationship with their car, are so interesting in their own right. The day I get to the completion stage and feel no sense of satisfaction is the day I hang it up.

IMG: What do you think is the most aesthetically-pleasing car being built today? Of all time?

SA: Today, I’d have to say the Alfa Romeo 8C – it’s one of the few I can imagine on the lawn (or perhaps synthetic enviro-turf?) at Pebble Beach in 50 years. Of all time: Ralph Lauren’s Mercedes-Benz Count Trossi SSK.


IMG: Anything special parked in your garage?

SA: I love all cars and have tried, albeit with somewhat humble means, to “sample” a variety. Currently, the recipient of my “Griot-tention” is a 1961 Jaguar E Type OTS. The car is remarkable on so many levels (design, construction, performance, heritage…) I am really enjoying everything about it.

IMG: It’s tough times in the car business. Can design save the automotive industry?

SA: Taken holistically, yes, design can save the industry. I say this because design is, at it’s best, so much more than the last 30mm of a car’s exterior. Basically, design is a business process which sets out to determine how a product “does a specific job” for its consumer. Whether that be simple tasks like running the kids to school, making the best use of time while getting to work, or a four wheeled manifestation of what you’d like others to think of you, transportation design has and will continue to shape how we move ourselves in the future. For me, the best efforts of all designers must equally move our hearts as much as our bodies.


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  1. Wow! We have a ’73 Beetle that’s near and dear to our family’s heart. Would be so great to have this sort of documentation to stay with us even after the beetle has left!

  2. Richard of KY says:

    He is an awesomee artist; My two Porsche turbos (1989 GP White and 1994 Amazon Green) he put on one drawing which is hung in my garage in a place of honor. It is perfect!

  3. We have Steve’s drawings for our two Porsches and they are fabulous. They hang in the garage and will stay with the cars once we hand them off to our children. They are part of the collection of literature that is part of the history of our cars.

    Keep up the great work!!!

  4. Steve’s work is unbelivable, how he captures everything on his prints. My 2007 F430 Ferrari is Nero Daytona and it looks it in his work!! Kudo’s

  5. jeff balsamo says:

    steve is an unbelieveable artist. he captured the gt3rs perfectly. think the cobra will be next.

  6. Richard de Cheff says:

    Wonder where he found such a Bar-B-Que!!

  7. Billyray says:

    I had Steve create an illustration of my collector car. He not only did a wonderful job but the level of detail was extreme. On the photos I sent Steve he noticed my car had a grill badge I had added. He called and asked if I wanted to have that included in the illustration. It’s an affordable, custom piece of art I’ll keep forever. Steve’s a super nice guy too!

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