Automotive Fine Arts Society
Dennis Brown paints automobiles. Not just any automobiles, though, but the ones that interest him most: antiques, classics, and racing cars. Dennis works in a variety of mediums, but the majority of his work starts out as an outline in pen and ink, followed by filling in with transparent watercolor or acrylic. He likes layering deep, vivid colors with bright, hot highlights - the colors glistening so much the car looks freshly painted and still wet from the spray gun.
His approach to his subjects is as fresh as the look he gives them, displaying intense color and vitality. Dennis is a master at diminishing color values; the front of the car in perspective brighter and more defined than the part that's in the background.
Sometimes his cars are portrayed as a free-standing objets d'art, but more often Dennis creates scenes in which he places the cars to give them additional life. Possibly because of his background and experience in magazine illustrations, the people in his painting look as though they belong there. He doesn't paint people just to have more elements in the picture, they are there to add immediacy and presence to the picture.
Dennis Brown's award-winning work has been commissioned by major automobile companies worldwide, and is represented in private and public collections in the United States, Europe and Japan.
Dennis is a member of the Automotive Fine Arts Society and won the prestigious Lincoln Award (for most elegant artwork) in 2011 and an AFAS Award of Excellence in 2004. He is also a member of the Los Angeles Society of Illustrators, a contributing artist for Road & Track and other acclaimed publications, as well as an art teacher at one of the largest junior colleges in the United States.
Commission Dennis to create a unique painting for you!
Peter Aylett at 949-443-0500
Hemmings Classic Car
Technical. Loose. Saturated. Transparent. Wet. Crisp. Atmospheric. These are just a few terms that attempt to describe the artistry of Dennis Brown. With his fine art pieces steeped in the juxtaposition of abstraction and precise architectural illustration, this Southern California native and founding member of the Automotive Fine Arts Society continues to create evocative auto-themed pieces in his unique style.
"I was drawing all the time since I was five years old," Dennis explains. "Seeing Norman Rockwell illustrations in the Saturday Evening Post really inspired me... I loved the different illustrators of that time, how they could capture people's expressions and gestures. I also enjoyed drawing animals from National Geographic, but I was always into mechanical things, so I was drawing made-up cars when I was six or seven years old."
Dennis's creativity was fueled by visits to car shows throughout the 1950s; "My dad used to take me to shows like the GM Motorama at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium, where we saw Harley Earl's Buick dream cars...it was all fabulous stuff. I just happened to have been born at a great time." After high school and three years in the Army, Dennis majored in fine arts at Long Beach State, studying further at Otis/Parsons Art Institute and the Art Center College of Design.
Ten years of work as an architectural illustrator developed this artist's trademark style; "When I'd draw three-dimensional plot plans and houses, I'd draw them loose enough to be a bit artistic. We incorporated color by painting on the back of clear Mylar overlays. We called them 'artist's conceptions,'" he explains. "It was there that I learned perspective. Perspective is crucial to a person who designs cars, and I use some of this in my paintings."
"While I was working there, I also did car-themed black and white line drawings. A friend suggested that I send some stuff to Road & Track, because at that time (the late 1970s) they printed spot line drawings all throughout the magazine. One day (R&T art director) Bill Motta called and offered me a two-piece color spread." A foot in the door with this important publication brought Dennis's work to a wide enthusiast audience, and established his new career as an automotive fine artist.
Although some might think this artist achieves the appearance of layers of wet paint with watercolors, his favored media is liquid acrylic. "My paints are pre-mixed in the bottle, and are super-transparent... you can see down through the color to the inked line work," he explains. "That's the neat thing about acrylics -- they can range from a thick oil-looking paint to a watercolor."
Dennis finds many of his subject cars at concours events and vintage races, where he takes multiple reference photographs from many different angles. "I'll have an idea that might not involve a particular car, but a situation," he says. "I'll sit down and draw rough thumbnails, and place a house in the background. I've got some great old architectural books, and they help to establish perspective... how far the house is set back, at what angle the house and car will be, which eye level. When I'm satisfied with the composition, I'll do a line drawing on hot pressboard. I'll make a Xerox of the drawing to do the color rough. Depending on the subject, I like to get runs and splashes in the paint--perhaps I won't show tire treads, or the shadow below a car will be drippy. I can't control that stuff. It's the same as using watercolors when I paint the sky... in each painting, the drip patterns are different."
This artist tends to work on two or three pieces at a time. In addition to cars, Dennis enjoys painting portraits, landscapes, birds and flowers; he considers himself a quick painter, with an ability to finish a piece in as little as three days. When he's not painting, he's teaching future generations of artists how to do so. "I teach at a junior college (Mount San Antonio) in Walnut, one of the largest junior colleges in the United States. I taught illustration for years, but I decided to go into basic drawing to give art students a solid foundation. To be good in painting or in computer graphics, you have to know how to draw. A good thing I can offer the students is my perspective from being out in the field."
The hard-earned lessons that he shares with his students can be applied to anyone who is interested in expressing his or her creativity through drawing and painting. "Pick up the brush and just go for it," he stated. "You can sit around and talk, but you just have to put pencil to paper and do it. It knocks that fear out. Everybody can draw--we could draw when we were born. I just help the students along so they don't lose their confidence. It's ultimately relaxing."