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      08-26-2007, 09:25 AM   #1
Brookside
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Gimme Some Fin > Original Drawings From Detroit's Glory Days

Gimme Some Fin
Original Drawings From Detroit’s Glory Days



A futuristic Pontiac drawn by Roger Hughet.
Most drawings were simply destroyed as time went on and the studios were cleaned up.


GROWING up in Detroit during the muscle car years as a daughter of a Chrysler executive, Kay Grubola can remember attending a party at the house of her father’s boss. What made the event so memorable were the drawings on the walls, striking colorful works by automobile designers dreaming up the cars of the future. She never forgot the power and excitement of those drawings.

When Ms. Grubola, now the curator of the Louisville Visual Art Association in Kentucky, learned last year that a legendary General Motors designer of that period, William Porter, was one of the city’s natives, she was inspired. Mr. Porter, 76, had created some of the most magical drawings of the era that had fascinated Ms. Grubola. Designer of distinctive shapes like the 1968 Pontiac GTO, Mr. Porter went on to head the Pontiac and Buick studios.

The connections have resulted in a show, “Designing an Icon, Creativity and the American Automobile,” for which Mr. Porter was adviser. The exhibit, which opened Friday, will be on view until Nov. 10 at the Visual Art Association’s unusual Water Tower building, which resembles a lighthouse.



George Camp's sketch for a GTO Judge was closer to production reality.

Ms. Grubola learned that Mr. Porter had not only grown up in Louisville but had taken the free children’s art classes for which the organization is locally famous.
“I drew mostly airplanes with bullets shooting out of them,” Mr. Porter recalled. That, he said, “turned out to be just the vocabulary of imagery at General Motors in the 1950s.”

What Ms. Grubola did not know, but Mr. Porter did, was that the drawings she saw as a youngster were among the few seen outside the Detroit design studios. Strict security measures kept the images of future models inside; only a few executives took it upon themselves to bring samples home. Mr. Porter said the designers were warned never to take their work from the studio.

Most drawings were simply destroyed as time went on and the studios were cleaned up, he said. That is why, when he was asked to help assemble a show, Mr. Porter was skeptical.



A design proposal for a Chevelle by Don Wood.


He had searched for design drawings before, in the early ’80s, when he and the late Dave Holls, a G.M. designer and recognized historian of the profession, helped to organize a museum show in Detroit. “We only found a handful at that time,” Mr. Porter said.

But Mr. Porter is respected by his peers as one of the most articulate and accomplished designers of his generation; making phone calls among his friends in Detroit, he discovered more drawings. He loaded them into his Chevrolet van and drove to Louisville, where Ms. Grubola began to sort through the material. She ended up picking about 100 drawings and a half-dozen models for the show. Mr. Porter said he thought the exhibition was the first to concentrate on future concepts.



A Chevrolet concept by John Perkins.

The designers whose works are in the show, mostly from G.M. but also from Chrysler, Ford and other automakers, include Wayne Kady, known for his Cadillacs; Elia Russinoff, who signed his work simply Russ; Roger Hughet, who created the theme for the third-generation Camaro; and Jerry Brochstein, a favorite of Mr. Porter. A sequence of drawings by Dave McIntosh tells the story of a single sports car concept from the first impulsive sketch on vellum all the way to the views prepared for presentation to company executives.

The Louisville show follows others in making the case that auto design drawings are important art: at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, the Detroit Public Library and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Researchers like Hampton Wayte and collectors like Frederic Sharf have helped to establish the drawings as worthy items to collect.



Bill Porter's theme for a future Buick.

On Sept. 16, Mr. Porter and Chuck Jordan, former chief of design at G.M., will be among designers discussing the art of automobile design in Louisville.

During the long tenures of Harley Earl, the G.M. design chief credited with inventing the auto design profession, and his successor, William Mitchell, designers were too terrified to remove drawings from the studios. The tyranny, Mr. Porter argued, kept G.M.’s brands consistent.

For this show, Mr. Porter was interested in drawings that showed how designers work. “I wanted to get below the surface and demythologize the process,” he said.



Special edition Dodge Chargers by Bob Hubbach.

He sought to illuminate the work of his profession. Designers still operate in the shadow of the chief designer, and publicists conjure up creation myths to promote new models.

The drawings also reveal the stages of the design process and differ depending on their purpose. A brief sketch would be enough to interest others in the Pontiac studio, but a full presentation of an idea to the boss of a division — or ultimately to the board of directors — had to be approached differently.

When he sketched one idea for a future Buick, Mr. Porter recalled, it seemed far out and futuristic to him.
So, he said, “I painted a gray, snowy background to bring it down to earth and make it seem realistic.”



Strict security measures kept the images of future models inside Detroit design studios.

Designers became specialists according to their styles. Some were visionary, others more practical. “Phil Garcia was good at drawing things to convince the guys at Livonia Bumper that the shapes could really be built,” Mr. Porter said, referring to a metal-forming plant.

Designers’ styles were their calling cards. One designer was known for his deep black Pluvius 352 pencil. Mr. Porter favored Prismacolor pencils on French-made Canson Mi-Teintes paper. “You could run the pencil at an angle to shade areas while using the point to achieve sharp lines,” he said.

The paper had the right tooth, or texture. Some designers made their drawings more dramatic by using colored paper. A red car on black paper could be striking. Black paper was a tradition that went back to Mitchell in the 1930s.


Many designers have declared that the shape of the finished car owes a lot to the medium in which it is first sketched. The three-dimensional sheet metal of a car imagined in bright colored markers, which became popular in the 1980s, is likely to be very different from one conceived in charcoal or pastel.
Some critics argue that felt tips had a lot to do with the softer car shapes that appeared in the mid-1980s.



Most drawings and models were simply destroyed as time went on and the studios were cleaned up.
Drawing styles were also the means by which young designers distinguished themselves in competing for the few jobs that opened up. “If you couldn’t draw pretty well, you didn’t make the first cut,” Mr. Porter said.

This is still true, said Rita Sue Siegel, who recruits designers for auto companies around the world. “Any creative endeavor has to have elements of the head, the heart and the hand,” she said.

“For the designer’s hand, drawing is still important.” This still holds true, she added, even if the drawing is more often done now with markers or a digital stylus and pad linked to a computer.


Phil Patton.NYT
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      08-26-2007, 09:56 AM   #2
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For more info:http://www.louisvillevisualart.org



If I could, I’d collect this art. The drawings knock me out.
Imagine the ultimate black leather/dark wood batch pad- (I’m going with a Darth Vader plus touch of David Niven combo) with original drawings
by George Camp, Roger Hughet, and Don Wood on the walls. Very very cool.
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      08-26-2007, 10:15 AM   #3
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Great article. Thanks for sharing.
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      08-26-2007, 11:08 AM   #4
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Thanks, that's 76 miles away from me. I'm gonna check it out in person.
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      08-26-2007, 02:19 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WolfsburgerMitFries View Post
Thanks, that's 76 miles away from me. I'm gonna check it out in person.
Wish I could see it in person. I envy you.
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      08-26-2007, 07:37 PM   #6
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Very cool. Not to far from me, either. Maybe I'll ride my bike down there...
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