Aaron Hillsdon is a graphic designer from Perth, Australia, but if you’ve been on car-internet, you probably know him better as @drawsyourcar. Hillsdon first came to our attention on Reddit, where he classed the place up with a little art. We sat down with Hillsdon to talk about cars and the artistic process.
Jalopnik: How did you start drawing cars?
Hillsdon: Well, I’m 35, and Ive been drawing (mostly cars) since I could hold a pen, so for the better part of 30 years! I’ve always had a fascination for cars and things of a technical nature. Both my parents are creative in some way - my father was involved extensively in the Design Council of my native Tasmania in the late ‘70s-early ‘80s and was always surrounded with design of all types - industrial, furniture, interior, architectural and graphic design to name a few. This was accompanied by many books, magazines and other publications finding their way to the bookshelves of our home, where I would spend countless hours poring over images of Italian design - furniture and cars in particular.
My dad always had an affinity for Italian cars - particularly Fiats (several of which he has owned over the years). Other European cars also featured prominently in my childhood - Citroëns, Renaults, Peugeots, Mercedes-Benz, BMWs. As a young infant, going on walks with my parents around the neighbourhood, I would stop to look at the hubcaps and grilles and badges of the cars I saw parked by the side of the street. The unique and distinctive appearance of European cars always stood out to me, for some unknown reason.
My mother was also creative - as a “textile artist” (quilts - particularly inspired by the “log cabin” style and traditional Amish designs from rural Pennsylvania) and ceramics - pottery and tableware. She was actually studying this subject at university when she fell pregnant with me! So, this creativity certainly influenced me and my early forays into drawing and what I realized I could later call “illustration”
Jalopnik: Your bio says you’re a graphic designer. Do you have any formal training, or did you learn everything you know while you were growing up?
Hillsdon: Yes, graphic designer. I received formal training in this field, but never completed my qualifications. I guess I have just had an innate skill and passion for drawing all along. My earlier memories of drawing cars were probably simple sketches of logos and badges - the Mercedes three-pointed star, the BMW roundel or the serpent-and-cross Milanese coat of arms that make up the Alfa Romeo logo.
Jalopnik: What’s your preferred media for car art?
Hillsdon: Just a simple black ball-point pen, and a small 3 1/2” x 5 1/2” Moleskine notebook. My day job is in security - so there’s quite a bit of sitting around and just “maintaining a presence” - so I’m limited to what I can carry in my pocket!
Jalopnik: What’s your process like?
Hillsdon: Well, first I find inspiration everywhere. Whatever car tickles my fancy will become the subject of a drawing - as I mentioned I’m a big fan of European cars, and I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from BMW and Mercedes fans in particular. Also Japanese cars - especially the “vintage” Japanese classics from the ‘70s and ‘80s. My recent Nissan Skyline GT-R poster received a good response from reddit users and I have even made a few sales out of that!
Once I decide on a car, I search for a good source or reference image on the internet, Google images, Flickr, and other sites have a wealth of good-quality photos to choose from. I then use my mobile phone as a “light-box” of sorts - by positioning it under the page in my sketchbook, I can trace a rough outline onto the page, until i am left with a “wireframe” or outline drawing of the car - simple lines, location of wheels, windows, and other ‘cues’ to guide me. Then, by removing the phone and referring back to the original image I fill in all the other details and shading. Some details can prove extremely tedious and require a lot of concentration - maintaining an even tone across a large area, or concentrating on an intricate wheel or radiator grille, for example. I even hold my breath sometimes as my breathing causes me to move my hands involuntarily!
Jalopnik: Have you ever had an exhibition or displayed your work anywhere?
Hillsdon: No I have never displayed my work or had an exhibition. It’s something I would like to do at some point though. I have nearly 300 drawings over about half a dozen sketchbooks.
Jalopnik: What are your favorite cars to drive? The same ones you draw?
Hillsdon: Haha! My daily driver is a 1997 Hyundai Excel. It’s got 250,000 km (156,000 miles) on the clock and it’s a bit of a beater, but it gets me around. Our family car is a 1999 Honda CR-V - nothing exciting there, either, but its a good grocery-getter and kid-hauler (I have two daughters, 1 and 3). I’ve driven a couple of cars that I’ve drawn, but my dream car would be either a Lancia Delta Integrale or Citroën DS (the latter of which I have actually driven). Oh, and also a Citroën 2CV - i’ve driven one of those, too. Quite a unique experience, that’s for sure.
Jalopnik: If someone wants you to draw their car, what should they do?
Hillsdon: Email is the preferred contact - firstname.lastname@example.org. I would need as much information from them as possible - photos are preferred, but of course, maybe it could be a car that they don’t own! In which case: make. model, year, etc.
Nicole Conlan is a writer and comedian living in New York. She has written and edited for Jalopnik, SB Nation, and Sports Illustrated. Nicole also writes for the UCB Maude team Goodbye Handsome. You can contact her on Twitter right here.