As the Creative Design Manager at Jaguar Advanced Design, Cesar Pieri spends a lot of time thinking about cars. So when he decided to take up painting as a creative outlet, he found inspiration from his day job. Using Jaguar hoods (bonnets) as canvases, Pieri has created a collection of fine art pieces prized by collectors from around the world.
Here, Pieri shares the inspiration for his auto art, thoughts on designing for transport versus emotion, and what cars are in his dream garage.
Core77: What inspired you to create this series of artworks?
Cesar Pieri: Since my job is designing Jaguars all day, I started doing some artworks for myself, inspired by F-types, Project-7, XEs, etc. At the same time Sir Chris Hoy, who had been a Jaguar ambassador, was leaving and we needed to give him a gift, so we talked about doing some artwork for him.
I wanted to do something different, rather than something digital. I wanted it to be hand-painted, trying to do the opposite of my everyday job which, because you’re fighting for millimeters, is very precise work! This was about being much looser, letting it flow.
Then I went mad, I bought 19 Jaguar bonnets (hoods) on eBay! My wife hated me; I had bonnets everywhere—they’re still everywhere. I started painting on them, learning the process. Painting on metal is a completely different method; it doesn’t stick. I had to create a process for myself. So if you compare the first one to the last, there’s a progression in the technique—now I can control the process much better.
Is it important for designers to have a release from the constraints of daily work?
It depends on the designer. For me, yes. I never thought about selling these—it’s just a way of challenging myself—but now I’m selling to collectors in Japan, USA, UK, Brazil and Italy.
What is your advice for someone starting a career in car design?
It’s very difficult when you don’t have experience! The biggest problem when you start out is if you think you already know the process. You’re not a design director, yet! You must be humble, you must learn things…then, if you work really hard, one day you might become someone.
When you start out you know how to sketch like a printing machine. But in the end, you need to understand that you are there to solve a problem—you need to find a way to solve that problem first, and get it into production.
So, understand packaging, engineering, materials. You can’t re-invent the wheel, and you must understand the environment you’re working in; be respectful of it. When I started, I tried to understand what design was, product design, marketing, production processes, engineering limitations, etc.
Gert Hildebrand [Quoros, previously MINI] told me: “You can design anything that you want…but first, design what you’ve been asked to do.”
You may have to design boring stuff, but make sure you do it right. First you deliver what you were asked to do, then, if you want to go mad and you have time, go for it. Really understand the design language of the brand, why the company is where it is now; the heritage, the past— you need to understand that before you can design.
It’s a team job too. You might become a top designer or you might be sketching mirror caps and wheels for years! Just remember—we get paid to do this, it’s fun! Every day is different.
Really understand the design language of the brand, why the company is where it is now; the heritage, the past.
When did you realize you wanted to be a car designer?
I always liked cars from a very early age, but I remember very clearly—I was with my mother, she was mad with me for some reason, and driving. I kept pushing her, and she got mad, and drove really fast—I loved it! I was like, “Wow, this is really cool!” I loved the sense of speed, mixed with danger. That was when I realized I loved cars.
How did your career start?
I tried to become a designer for many years. I studied architecture, worked in graphic design, and then product design. In Brazil, Italy, US, and the UK. Then I started finding automotive design work and worked for a consultancy where GMC was a client. Finally, I did a Masters in Transportation Design at the Polytechnic de Milano in 2010. It’s a process that took some time, but I always drew cars even when I was designing other things.
What’s your take on autonomous cars?
I think that queuing in traffic is a pain in the ass! If I could go through emails, read the paper, etc, and arrive at work fresh, it’s a good thing. But you must be able to take control. From that perspective, sports cars will always be around. If you want to race the thing, you need to be able to just switch off all the controls and go fast when you want…
I think that’s why we’re so passionate about classic cars. If you take the emotion out of a modern car, you start to see classic cars as gold. They’re honest. And so in the future I can see two types of cars. The first you could call ‘petrol domestics’—by that I mean simple, low-maintenance appliances that get you from A to B. The second is the ‘proper car,’ as it was in the past. It can go fast, it’s interactive. Two different functions; transport and emotion. It’s like in design: we take the best designers and get the passion and emotional design from them, and there’s also the workaday designer who does the ‘regular’ design.
Do you think the creative processes we use are evolving?
Everything that happens creates an influence: great movies, great designs, great music. If you see something and you think: “That’s cool, how does it work?”—sketch it. Try to keep all the influences that inspire you.
What’s changed now is that my daughter has a bigger image bank than Michelangelo! They had crazy brains, these artists and inventors, but now we have access to images from all around the world. Flying machines—they had to imagine those! Today we have many more options. We have the tech, but we can be lazy; we don’t explore in the way people used to have to. So, explore, ask why, like they did in the past. Also, ask why not? You need to push, chase, explore. It’s an attitude.
That’s why being in the advanced design group is great…you can go mad in the creative process. But we also need to figure out how can we create what we design. It’s the perfect balance of creativity and reality.
Finally, what’s in your dream garage?
An Alfa 33 Stradale a Lamborghini Muira, an early Audi Quattro UR, a Jaguar D-Type and a Ferrari 250GTO.
The Jaguar Bonnet Artwork Collection is now on view at the Heritage Motor Centre in Gaydon, UK through November 2015.