Interview with Motorsport Artist Arthur Schening

Ferrari 312P by Arthur Schening

Podium Life got the chance to catch up with motorsport artist Arthur Schening, who’s work is inspired by the aesthetics of vintage racing.

How did you get into art?

As long as I can remember I have had some artistic ability – the only talent that I possess. But it was my fourth grade teacher that first acknowledged my talent, and told me that I should work on it. I did not know what I could do with this talent until high school, when I learned that you could make a living as a commercial artist. I could not now imagine doing anything else.

What was your connection to motorsports?

My only connection to motorsports is that for as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed watching and reading about the history of motor racing. I am not very mechanically inclined so I never got into working on, or restoring cars. And I certainly don’t have the money to get into actual racing.

What is your inspiration for your art?

I really like the aesthetics of vintage racing cars, and the variety of design between marks. I like that you could see the shape of the cars, because they were not completely covered by sponsors. Vintage racing cars also had fantastic liveries, like Ecurie Ecosse and Gulf Racing. Prototype racing cars in the 1960s and 70s were beautiful, and they were easy to distinguish from one another. I started working on this series of racing car illustrations over a decade ago, I never intended to illustrate more than a few cars that I wanted to hang on my walls at home. But with each illustration I complete, the list of cars that I covet grows.

The Talbot-Lago T26 GS driven by Pierre Levegh and Rene Marchand at the 1952 24 Hours of Le Mans.
At the 1952 24 Hours of Le Mans, French driver Pierre Levegh took the overall lead at 2am, and 12 hours later, was still in the lead having driven solo since the start (in the 1950s there was no rule on how long a driver could stay at the wheel). Levegh did have a co-driver, Rene Marchand, but Levegh believed that his best chance for victory was on his own. The previous year, he and Marchand finished fourth in a Talbot-Lago T26, a car that Levegh believed could be improved, and had a chance to win in 1952. But the Talbot factory refused to let Levegh tinker with their car, so he bought his own, and got to work modifying it to his liking. 

What is your favorite piece? And why?

It is usually my latest completed work, but if I were to pick one, I would say the Aston Martin DBR1 driven by Tony Brooks and Noel Cunningham-Reid at the 1957 Nürburgring 1000km. It is a beautiful car, and I was very pleased with how the illustration turned out. I was honored when the grandson of one of the drivers of the car, Noel Cunningham-Reid, contacted me about the artwork. I was happy to send him a Giclée print of the artwork.

The Aston Martin DBR1 driven by Tony Brooks and Noel Cunningham-Reid at the 1957 Nürburgring 1000 Kilometers. The 3-litre Aston Martin remarkably won the race over a field of much more powerful Maserati’s, Ferrari’s and Jaguar’s – driven by many of the greatest drivers of the era, Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Mike Hawthorn, and many others.

Do you have a favorite motorsports artist?
The English illustrator Guy Allen. Amazing work.

Favorite motorsports book?
Le Mans 24 Hours by Brian Laban. It is a terrific general history of the race (with great photographs). I use it for reference often, although it was published in 2001, so it is not up to date.

Favorite car, driver and track…go!
Favorite car: Porsche 911. I am not sure exactly why, but it has been my favorite car since I was a child. The Ferrari 250 GTO is probably the most beautiful race car ever. And the Ford GT40 Mk1 is the coolest race car.

Favorite Driver: Hans Herrmann. Because he won races driving so many of Porsche’s historic racing cars (i.e., Porsche 550, 718 RSK, 906, 907, 908 and 917K).

The Porsche 908/2 ‘Flunder’ driven by Rolf Stommelen and Hans Herrmann at the 1969 A.D.A.C. 1000 Kilometers at the Nürburgring. Stommelen and Herrmann finished in second place behind another Porsche 908/2 driven by Jo Siffert and Brian Redman – the race became known as the Porsche Race after the first five positions were taken by 908s.

Favorite Track: Circuit de la Sarthe (Le Mans), because of the incredible history and countless stories.

If you had to paint something modern in motorsports, what would you select and why?

Prototype racing cars today look very similar, and are difficult to distinguish from one another – and frankly they are not particularly attractive. They are impressive feats of engineering, but they no longer have the romance of classic racing cars. I do like contemporary GT racing cars, but my time is limited, and there are still many classic racing cars that I would like to illustrate. But if I were to illustrate a contemporary race car, it would be a Porsche 911 GT3 RS. The 911 has always been my favorite car.

If you would win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Indianapolis 500 or Monaco GP, what would it be and why?
The 24 Hours of Le Mans, because of the history, and because it is the most challenging of the three. Also, it is my favorite race, and if I had the money to buy a team, or car, it is still possible (i.e., the Whittington brothers).

The iconic finish of the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans – Ford crosses the finish line and takes the chequered flag. The number 2 Shelby American Ford GT40 Mk II driven by Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon, and the number 1 Shelby American GT40 driven by Ken Miles and Denis Hulme, driving side by side just ahead of the number 5 Holman & Moody GT40 driven by Ronnie Bucknum and Richard Hutcherson. Of the 8 Ford Mk II, and 5 Mk I’s that started the race, only the three podium finishers were still running at the end of the 24 hours. 

What do you have planned for the future?

I have been considering a series of watercolour portraits of historic racing drivers. I have spent much, or most of my free time working on the historic racing car project over the past decade, so maybe it is time to move on, but probably not just yet. Maybe my next big project will have nothing to do with racing cars.