ROB TAYLOR: Drawing through the Pain

ROB TAYLOR: Drawing through the Pain


Drawing through the Pain

Recently while enjoying a tour of Steam Whistle brewery, along with a couple of brews, of course, at the historic Roundhouse in downtown Toronto, I noticed that they had a number of really interesting drawings of their unusual fleet of vehicles. In talking with Sybil Taylor, Steam Whistle’s Communications Director she told me of Canadian artist Rob Taylor (no relative) and his art. Sybil had a compelling story of Rob’s art and the difficulties that he has faced.


We tracked Canadian automotive artist Rob Taylor down (pictured with Richard "the King" Petty) and here is his story.


Rob Taylor: Automotive Artist Beginnings

Rob has been drawing as long as he can remember; by the age of 8, he was going to art school, where he learned the basics. However their focus was on still life, nature and people drawings, not what Rob wanted to do. He wanted to do hot rods, motorcycles, and airplanes, anything with wheels. Best of all when he drew a car, people who saw it were excited, this encouragement made him try harder. By age 11 his Dad had bought him an airbrush and introduced him to the van craze. Trial and error became his learning curve. In his teens, he was drawing cars for the kids at school, plus stuff for rock bands.

Drawing Ontario Race Cars

A trip to Merritville Speedway, Southern Ontario’s third-mile banked clay track turned him on to Dirt Modifieds. He was soon drawing them and came to the attention of Pete Bicknell. Soon he was the tire scraper and gopher on the team along with drawing the cars he saw. This led to program and T-shirt artwork. Things were great for a young man infatuated with cars and racing.

His first big job came at age 15. At this early age he created a poster for Stroh’s Old Milwaukee Beer, then Benson and Hedges called for some work in a sports car series they were involved with. By now in the offseason, he was designing paint schemes for race cars. In those days there were no computers, just a camera, lots of old car magazines and imagination.

Left Handed Sign Painter?

Next up was a sign writer he knew offering to teach him how to hand letter with 1 Shot. That came to a grinding halt when the sign writer discovered Rob was left handed. “There is no such thing as a left-handed sign painter; your hand will always go over your work.” “When I told my Dad he went out and bought some brushes and a can of 1 Shot lettering paint and told me to go into the garage and practice on my 51 Ford (my first car)” Rob practiced till he mastered painting backwards and things were good, in fact about 97-98 he ran into that same sign writer who wanted to know if he could help Rob get all his work done. Funny how things work out!

The Rise of Vinyl & Health Troubles

Things began to slow; Computers and vinyl plotters were taking away the hand lettering jobs. To keep paying the mortgage Rob turned to paint prices on dealership windshields, but vinyl soon replaced that too, so he started designing night clubs, rock bars etc. Anything to keep the money flowing.

In 2004 everything ground to a halt, he was tired all the time, couldn’t walk straight and his balance was off. For the next five years, no Doctor could pinpoint the problem. They thought he was epileptic and had him on 14 different meds. They took his drivers license and during this battle to regain his health he dropped from 240lbs to 155. Finally, one Doctor pegged his problems as stage one Parkinson’s and osteoarthritis. Meds went from 14 to 3, rigidity and spasms declined to tremors and after this long period of concern and boredom, Rob returned to his art. To accomplish this one of his friends would tape the pencil or airbrush to his hand to prevent him from dropping it when a tremor came.

NASCAR & the Steam Whistle Fleet

With the new meds, long drawing sessions became possible, some days 14 hours straight. He began drawing NASCAR cars, then getting the owners or drivers to sign his drawings. Today he has a large collection of signed drawings. One day he sent a drawing to Norm Benning one of the last NASCAR Camping World Truck Series independent Racers, owner-driver of the #6 Truck. Norm liked the drawing so much he invited Rob to come and hang out with them at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park when they raced in Canada. This led to Rob becoming a spotter for Norm at the last truck race in Canada.

One day Rob saw Steam Whistle Brewery’s Steam Machine Van, He loved it and had to draw it. Once completed he emailed a copy to Greg at Steam Whistle. Well, Greg loved it and had to have it. The rest is history. Steam Whistle commissioned him to draw all of their specialty fleets and today these paintings hang proudly on the walls of the brewery for all those who take a tour to see. The exposure for Rob has been gratifying almost every day he hears something about his art, thanks to the folks at Steam Whistle.

Canadian Automotive Artist Rob Taylor 

Healthwise Rob is still going through more specialists, plus he has begun power-walking, working up to 7 km a day when possible. The walk helps clear his mind and reminds him of the road he is travelling towards improved health. “It puts a smile on my face and if my art puts a smile on someone else’s it's worth it.”

Did looking at Rob's artwork give you an urge to try it yourself. Not sure if you want to start off drawing cars? You can also check interesting still life drawing ideas here: 9mousai

If you would like a drawing of your car, email Rob Taylor at he promises to draw anything with wheels. Airbrushing murals on garages and man caves also available. Say Hi to Rob on Twitter:


Originally published in Vol15No3 of Performance in Motion Magazine.




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