Why I Paint the Things I Do
By Lance Russwurm
In 1988, after fifteen years of doing various other forms of commercial illustration, it was time for a change. I decided to seriously take up painting in acrylics and watercolors.
My love of old machinery, especially aircraft and automobiles, and my fascination with the elegance of the past immediately became central to my work.
There is a romance to be found in old vehicles that has all but vanished today. In the early years of this century the line between the arts and technology was much less defined. Machines were designed by gentleman engineers who believed that style was just as important as function - yet their machines functioned superbly. The Spitfire of World War II fame, for example was one of the most beautiful aircraft ever made while also being one of the era's deadliest fighters. Decadently luxurious, multi-ton Duesenbergs were built like jewelry, yet could out-accelerate many of today's cars. The likes of Bentleys, Bugattis, Alphas and Jaguars campaigned at Le Mans painted in the colors of their countries of origin for national pride - a far cry from the current crop of advertising-covered racers.
These machines bore the indelible stamp of the men who made them. They were alive in a way that modern committee-designed products can never be. They were shaped by taste rather than market research, by people rather than by computer programs.
Their users, too, were somehow more colourful. Travel was an "Event" in those days, to be undertaken with as much style as possible. People dressed for the occasion. Aircraft were flown by feel, not by wire. Test pilots found out what a new machine could do in the air, rather than on a computer screen. True, today's modes of transport are safer, faster and more reliable, but we've forever lost a certain grace in favor of modern efficiency.
I was born in Kitchener, Ontario, in 1953 and I admit that, perhaps, the views of my generation were shaped more than a little by Hollywood. But that's all right. Romance (In the true sense of the word) seems to be healthier than ever these days, and this is precisely what I am most interested in trying to capture in my paintings. I use an almost photo-realistic style to lend reality and immediacy to events that happened long ago - or may never have happened at all. My attention to research and detail, I am told, borders on fanaticism, but my main objectives will always remain storytelling and mood.
The shades of the past still exist.
If, through my works, I can communicate my passion for these things to others and possibly spark someone's interest, I will feel that I have been successful.