In the third of the Footman James ‘meet the artist’ profiles, we meet Stefan Marjoram, the automotive artist, illustrator, animator and photographer. A well-known face at many historic car events up and down the country, Stefan is as known for his traditional sketches as he is for his iPad animations and renderings. We wanted to find out more about the man and his work.
FJ: Your recent works include the wonderfully photorealistic ‘Matchbox’ series of digital paintings. What drew you to these model cars as a subject?
S: I was obsessed with cars as a child, and I had a huge collection of Matchbox toy cars. It has always struck me that when it comes to small boys and cars, they usually fall into two groups: those that push them around at high speed before crashing them into each other, and those that look after the models. I was definitely in the second group; I cherished my model cars, and I was endlessly fascinated by their designs.
Growing up as I did, in the 1970’s, the average cars on the road in the UK were mostly very run-of-the-mill and so, aside from trips with my parents to Germany where I was able to see real-life Mercedes-Benz and BMWs, my only other real exposure to exotic machinery was through Matchbox models.
They opened up a whole world of exciting cars for me, and so that’s what drew me back to them - a celebration of what they represent.
FJ: Was it the love of this design that led you into animation?
S: In fact, it was almost the other way around. I was very keen to become a car designer when I was younger but my parents, who I think may have confused design with engineering, told me I would need good maths skills, which put me off. Instead, I carried on drawing and went to art college.
I enjoyed both filmmaking and drawing equally, so it was natural that I went into animation, as it combines the best of both worlds. I eventually became a director with Aardman Animations, (of Wallace and Gromit fame) making short films, commercials and TV Idents.
FJ: How did you make the leap from Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep to what you do now?
S: It was quite by chance really. Richard Noble was embarking on Bloodhound (the land speed record project) in the building next door to us. I naturally had an interest in it, and so when I heard Richard needed a film-maker to cover the project, I jumped at the chance. It was meant to be a year’s sabbatical, but in the end, I stayed for nine!
FJ: Do you have a medium, or a subject that you prefer?
S: I love to experiment with different tools, but my passion is for sketching from life. If you attend events and draw vehicles ‘in-situ’ then you really get to soak up the atmosphere of a place. I spend a lot of time at historic car events, as I have a huge love of vintage cars and ‘specials’. People tend to open up to artists, so I often get to hear incredible stories around the cars I’m drawing.
My visits to Prescott Hill Climb have led to doing drawing workshops for the Bugatti Trust. They’ve been enormously well received and I’ve attempted to continue them through lockdown in an on-line form through the REVS-Limiter events and on youtube. It’s wonderful to get a message from someone who was tempted to pick up a pencil again after many years.