Even from a young age David Johnson was fascinated by Formula 1. After initially watching the races on television, he attended his first Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1997. That was the moment his interest evolved into a true passion.
After leaving school David started to create works of art depicting some of Formula 1’s greats. His first painting, Jim Clark racing at Silverstone, fired that passion and he set about adding to his repertoire. While developing his craft was a key focus, his specific palette knife style was informed by a personal need to infuse the same excitement he felt for motor racing into his art.
Despite his painting being just a hobby at the time, design and technology teacher David was determined to find ways to incorporate motorsport into his lessons via clubs, displays and trips. This included many outings to Silverstone and to F1 teams’ bases. On one occasion he took 60 pupils to Sir Stirling’s house!
Although much of David’s current work involves contemporary Formula 1 drivers and machinery – Lewis Hamilton, George Russell, Lando Norris, etc., his paintings depict significant moments stretching back to the 1950s and include such legends as Hawthorn (pictured below), Andretti, Moss, Stewart, both Hills (Graham and Damon), Mansell, Button and many others.
He has exhibited at a range of venues and events including the British Grand Prix, MotoGP, Grand Prix Ball, BRDC and Royal Automobile Club. His art has featured on the cover of F1 magazine and in several publications such as Motor Sport magazine. David has worked with Sir Jackie Stewart, Lando Norris, John Surtees, Nigel Mansell, Kimi Raikkonen and more.
Above: Lando seems pleased with how David (far right) has captured this 2019 McLaren moment.
‘Incredible! The details, the colour, the image it creates is amazing. My favourite paintings, by far, hanging on my wall.’ Lando Norris
Above: Three-time World Champion, Sir Jackie Stewart, poses with artist David.
‘David is a very talented and unique artist. I much enjoyed viewing his work and we are grateful for his support to Race Against Dementia through his creations.’ Sir Jackie Stewart OBE
In his own words, David describes the creation process…
'Once the artwork’s subject has been selected for a palette knife painting, it is then that the background is explored. This focuses on the colours and shapes associated with the driver and team to aid overall composition. This is key to capturing the overall intensity and emotion within a scene. Sometimes if an image is very powerful it’s better to keep this centre stage, without any background. Quick sketches can be used to test each method.
'A canvas is prepared with a thick layer of acrylic paint in the selected colour. The background design is marked out and (if needed) masked off, making sure not to build up too much texture where later layers are to be applied.
'Once marked out, the fun begins. Layers are built up from the image’s background through to the foreground. This can be a lengthy process as the base layer must be fully dry, allowing freshly applied paint to be pressed and shaped into position without causing damage – essential when detail is key. A scalpel, very useful throughout the process, is used to clean or cut rough edges. In some cases, this is also used to apply paint to a high tolerance and reproduce the delicate detail.
'Over the years, I have introduced relief to an image through the splatter of colours used to build the painting. This adds energy and the element of movement, whist retaining definition.'