All regular readers of this blog will know that first and foremost I’m an automotive photographer. That’s cars, trucks, motorbikes, in fact anything that has wheels and moves.
So it should be no surprise then that I tend to socialise with like-minded image producers and artists who add an automotive colour to their work.
One such person is Piers Dowell, who lives hidden away in the beautiful Teme valley. Piers is a master of air brush painting and his commercial work is almost wholly focussed around painting helmets for motorsports drivers. I say “almost wholly” because he does dabble in other projects – but more of that later.
Piers has been painting crash helmets and motor bikes for more than 20 years and regular clients include historic motorsport racing driver Martin Stretton, Porsche Carrera Cup Champion Sam Tordoff and labour peer Lord Drayson.
Another big client of Piers is Nicky Grist, a former motorsports champion driver who’s now the chief importer of Stilo helmets. And Nicky refers his buyers to Piers.
On the day I turned up to his workshop, Piers greeted me looking like a sinister nuclear waste collector in white overalls and gas mask. It’s the attire he dons when creating his art.
This time of year Piers works almost round the clock, as his clients prepare for the new motorsports season. That day he confirmed an order for 20 crash helmets for one client. As most helmets take about 12 hours to paint and Piers produces 4-5 finished items each week, a client like that can mean a month’s worth of work.
Elsewhere, along with his helmet work Piers has painted motorbikes for clients as high profile as the Beckhams, and a premiership footballer who plays for Aston Villa.
Apart from the helmets and motorbikes, a favourite item in Piers’ workshop is his Pink Floyd guitar, with the signatures of all four members of the band. The story behind the Pink Floyd guitar is probably best narrated by Piers himself:
“Pink Floyd has been an ongoing project I started about 5 years ago.
“I wanted to do some high end airbrushing, customising, and I thought I’d do a Pink Floyd guitar. Rather ambitiously, I also thought I could possibly get the band members to sign it. If I could achieve this, I would put it up for auction for charity.
“I got the first signatures early on in 2008. Nick Mason kicked it off and another early signatory was Rick Wright. In fact, this was the last thing he signed for charity before he died.
“It took another 4 years to get David Gilmore’s signature. He signed it this year. Roger Waters was also very obliging. My wife picked it up from his house. So now it has been signed by everyone.”
With Gilmore’s signature, the guitar is now finished and will go for auction; all money will go to the Mission Motorsport charity, which rehabilitates soldiers from Afghanistan.
Now that’s a fitting testament to Piers as an artist.
Production stills using Profoto lighting. Video and blog coming soon…