Harold Cleworth – Automotive Artist

Harold Cleworth Automotive Artist

Harold Cleworth began his career in London working for Decca Records. Remember Decca Records in the Sixties? They were the famed recording company for the first albums by the Rolling Stones and The Who. He was the graphic designer for the early album covers.

How cool is that? Not cool enough for young Harold, who wanted to be the show, not drawing folks into the show. Friends beckoned him to come to America and be a part of California’s percolating art community.

The man wanted to paint.

He landed in Haight-Ashbury in 1972. Cleworth fell deeply in love with the warm weather, sunny streets, and dazzling automobiles. He began painting them.

“Pink Fin” is a close-up of the rear quarter of a 1959 Cadillac, and it got encouraging reviews and a quick sale. He didn’t know it, but he found his calling. Growing up in Lancashire, England, he was surround by the machinery of the 1940s and ’50s: factories, steam-engine trains and drab blocky vehicles. His father was a bus driver, who hoped by showing young Harold how engine parts worked together, he would become a brilliant mechanic.

“What happened was he unwittingly introduced me to the aesthetics of machinery,” said Cleworth. “I went to school on a steam train, and I loved watching the wheels turn and all the bars that turned the wheels.”

Despite the exquisite realism of his paintings, he eschews air-brush and relies entirely on canvas and brush. In fact, his paintings are more a journey than a depiction of what already exists in his imagination.

“I’ll often start with the car, yet not really know what the background is going to be like. Occasionally I’ll start with the background, and as the painting goes on, I’ll figure out what I want to do with it.”

Cleworth enjoys his art more than ever!

Before Cleworth shows a painting at a concours or gallery, it gets a public showing at a bar. Now a denizen of Venice, California, he loves the local pub. The common man has his ear. “Maybe a bus driver or a postal worker will show me things I might have missed.”

Whatever grabs his interest at any moment could wind up on the next canvas, he admits. Sometimes even an absurd idea can lead to elegance … or capture an art buyer’s heart.

Quotes are from the book A Celebration of Automotive Art by Gerry Durnell – published by Automobile Quarterly in 2005.  For more, read the excellent article on Harold Cleworth by Mark J. McCourt from Hemmings.