Harry Gravett – Automotive Artist

Porsche 911 GT3 RS
Porsche 911 GT3 RS

From a very early age, Harry Gravett dreamt of becoming a car designer. Now 24 years old, his dream has become a reality as he currently works in the design studio at Drive – Automotive Design Consultancy in Surrey, who provide quality design development services to major OEMs like Rolls-Royce and Tata Motors as well as more niche car manufacturers such as Zenos Cars, Williams Advanced Engineering and Prodrive Motorsport.

I first met Harry last November at the Art of Motoring Exhibition organised and curated by Andrew Marriott of Pitlane Productions and Rupert Whyte of Historic Car Art in association with the Royal Automobile Club, which was held at the recently opened Iconic Images Gallery in Waterloo Place in London, and the perfect location to showcase the artistic talents of 24 well-known and up and coming motoring artists and sculptors.

The youngest artist to have ever exhibited their work at the exhibition, Harry was in good company, with the likes of former Swedish Formula One and Le Mans winner Stefan Johansson and artists Tim Layzell, Roy Putt, Martin Tomlinson, Richard Wheatland and John Ketchell, who have been exhibiting their artwork every single year since the exhibition first started nine years ago.

Gordon Murray T.50
Gordon Murray T.50

I was so impressed with Harry’s drawings he had on display that we got to talking about our shared passion for cars and thought that it would be really interesting to understand what kindled the passion to start drawing and how that has led to a career in automotive design.

I asked Harry at what age and where his passion for cars came from?

“I’ve always been fascinated by cars, for as long as I can remember. I’d walk through car parks at the age of four and name every car to my family. When I was around seven or eight years old, my father took me to a car show in Atherstone, Warwickshire – I have vivid memories of the cobbled market square flooded with classic cars and the most wonderful atmosphere. I’d go to events like this clutching a book called ‘Sticker Spot It Cars’ in which I’d tick off different types of cars as I saw them; Atherstone was where I ticked off ‘Ford GT40’ for the first time – I’ll never forget the noise! I also spent a lot of my childhood reading Classic & Sportscar or Evo magazine or watching endless re-repeats of Top Gear on Dave. I guess all of that has a lot to answer for!”

You only have to look at social media and in particular Instagram to see where a whole new generation of people get their interest in cars. The positive side to social media is that artists get the opportunity to showcase their artwork to a much wider audience outside the more traditional galleries. So, I was keen to find out how Harry got started with drawing cars.

“I was an incredibly creative child; I suppose drawing cars was a way I was able to express my appreciation for them. I do remember going to a book fair and buying a book called ‘Design It Yourself – Supercars’ which came with a set of ellipse guides and French curves. It had tutorials on drawing a bunch of cars including the McLaren F1, Ferrari Testarossa and Aston Martin DB7. Beyond that, I would draw cars from pictures in magazines I had; I still have a Classic & Sportscar ‘MagBook’ from 2006 which was an Italian car special. I’d spend hours tracing the numerous Ferraris and Lamborghinis out of the pages and colouring them in. I never had access to these cars, so drawing them was the closest I could get to ownership!”

Lamborghini Miura automotive drawing
Lamborghini Miura

I was really interested to learn how Harry came about getting his job at Drive as a CAD Designer and discovered that it was actually during the Coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns that he learnt to use CAD software as he was missing being able to go to car events in person. Therefore, CAD provided an outlet for Harry’s passions, where he was able to create all the cars he loved and play with 3D models of them.

After graduating from a 4-year program at Coventry University where he earned a BA in Automotive & Transport Design, Harry was approached by Drive and offered a job, having seen a lot of his drawings on social media. And so the dream became a reality and Harry could now do his hobby in the real world of automotive design. His role at Drive is essentially making models of car designs created by other people but is able to influence the development of the design during the building process and how the car actually looks. Working in a small team of dedicated, highly talented people, this is just the kind of environment Harry always wanted to work in and considers himself extremely lucky to be where he is today.

Turning to Harry’s drawings, I was intrigued to discover that they are actually put together rather unconventionally with marker pens, and so I asked Harry how he creates one of his pictures from start to finish.

Ferrari Daytona SP3
Ferrari Daytona SP3

Essentially, he works from an image reference as there is only so much improvisation he can do, so he starts by finding or photoshopping the image he wants to use. He then lightly sketches the outline with a pencil before starting the marker pen work, where he lays down the tones by using just grey. In fact, he uses 11 shades of grey, ranging from see-through right through to black. This process creates a greyscale picture of the car, which he then colours in with the appropriate colour of marker pen for the bodywork. This process normally takes a few hours depending on how complicated the picture is. Then, once all of the marker work is done, he adds all the fine details such as reflections, highlights and shadows using pencil crayons and a white pen. This stage of the drawing also takes a few hours to complete.

I naturally wanted to know what type of cars Harry enjoys drawing the most and was not surprised by his response.

“Classic sportscars and supercars are always a joy to do, in particular the late 90’s and early 2000’s supercars which are really nostalgic to me. I’m a Ferrari fanatic so they’re always a favourite, especially in Rosso red!”

While he has drawn some wonderful and exotic sports cars, I was keen to find out what would be Harry’s dream car in an ideal world?

“That’s always such a difficult question for a petrolhead to answer, the truth is that there’s about 50 cars I dream of owning! The ideal car for me would be the Ferrari F355 GTS or 360 Spider. In my eyes, the most perfect cars ever made – a balance between class, beauty and useable performance. Not to mention the V8 soundtrack… perfection!”

Aston Martin Vantage automotive drawing
Aston Martin Vantage

This then led me onto my next question, as I wanted to know whether Harry preferred classic and more traditional cars or is he into the new high-tech electric cars we are now seeing on the roads today?

“I wholeheartedly prefer classic and more traditional cars. I’ve recently learned, through my own experience of commuting hundreds of miles a week in a fairly impractical BMW Z4, that I would like some tech and comfort for A to B. However, I love cars for the driving experience, so unnecessary tech just doesn’t appeal to me. I also prefer older design language; styling has become too fussy and over the top nowadays.”

It was very reassuring to hear that from a young car enthusiast, which just goes to show that conventional and classic cars still very much have their place in society today and not everyone is into tech. But I wanted to know what Harry thought the automotive industry might look like in the future and asked him whether he thinks EVs will take over or does he think internal combustion engine cars will continue to have a place on our roads in the foreseeable future?

McLaren 720S by Harry Gravett
McLaren 720S

“There’s no denying that EVs have risen hugely in relevance and popularity in recent times, does that mean they’re going to take over? I don’t think so and that’s not just because I’m a hopeful petrolhead. Electric cars make total sense in some cases: a small electric city car for pottering around London in for example. However, I don’t feel we’re being given enough of this. The focus for a lot of emerging electric cars seems to be constant pushing for the biggest, fastest and most luxurious and that’s illogical in my opinion. I recently drove a Tesla Model 3, it felt nice to drive but after half an hour of exhausting the seat whoopee cushion and light show functions I was bored and ready to get back into something a bit more serious. There are recent big developments in synthetic fuels which sound promising; I think a perfect future would involve both types of power being used where they make the most sense.”

As well as drawing for his own pleasure, Harry also offers a commission service which is a big part of what he currently does. And whilst it is always nice to draw pictures for himself, drawing a bespoke car for somebody else gives him a reason to do it. This is particularly so during the cold, dark winter days and evenings when he spends the majority of his free time doing commissions for people.

McLaren F1 automotive drawing
McLaren F1

I therefore asked Harry where he sees his artistic talents taking him in the future and what his aspirations are.

“Professionally, I’m currently working in the car design industry. The artwork I produce is entirely a hobby which I dedicate the majority of my free time to. I’d love for this to eventually become what I do full time. It’s a lovely thought to have a studio in which I can spend all my time making the artwork I love; if I can make enough from that to live, travel and enjoy some nice cars then I think I’ll have found peace in my life. In the short term, I aim to exhibit at more events to get my work seen by people. I’m also exploring other luxury subjects such as watches, which make for really cool artworks. I’m fascinated by luxury products, so to get my artwork into some high-end places in somewhere like London would be an absolute dream.”

I was interested to learn that Harry got some of his inspiration and guidance from Paul Howse, whose artwork I particularly like. And whilst Paul’s work is very different to Harry’s, Paul started as a designer at McLaren and now produces his art as a business. Harry says he would be only too delighted if one day he is as successful as Paul.

If you would like to find out more about Harry’s automotive artwork or would like to commission a drawing of your classic or beloved car, please visit: www.hgravettdesign.co.uk.

Author Bio:

Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a member of The Guild of Motoring Writers, professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.

Photographs courtesy of Harry Gravett

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