Oxford teacher David Johnson has a racing start with his art, catching the eyes of his driving heroes Sir Stirling Moss and Sir Jackie Stewart
Even from a young age David has always had a fascination of Formula One. After initially watching the sport on television, David attended his first Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1997. What began as an interest evolved into a true passion.
As a child he was always found tinkering in the garage with his granddad, building and restoring all types of products. This hands-on approach built the foundations for an enjoyable journey under the umbrella of design and technology at school. St Augustine’s in Oxford provided many exciting opportunities for students to take part in D&T projects. Under the eyes of his teachers, Mr Rose and Mr Humphreys, David remained drawn to F1 and was encouraged to get closer to the sport. His fondest memory is of the Formula Schools club that saw a team of students design, build, and race a remote control car around a small track at Silverstone.
When leaving school, as a hobby, David started to create paintings depicting some of Formula One’s greats. His first was of Jim Clark racing at Silverstone. Curiously, David decided to sell the painting that gained much interest and realised he could be on to something. As time passed this hobby grew, as did his career. He was now a teacher at St Gregory the Great Catholic School. Always aiming to get closer to the sport, he ran many exciting extra-curricular trips and activities, including Formula Schools which gained much success and recognition. He also organised trips to Formula One events and even took a group of students to Sir Stirling Moss’s home to meet the legend himself.
Throughout this time he strived to apply more focus on artwork and developing his style. It was at this point he contacted Sir Stirling Moss.
Back in 2008 he had sent a letter to Sir Stirling Moss, explaining the desire to create a painting of one of Sir Stirling’s favourite cars, with the hope he would sign the prints. In just a matter of days he received an envelope through the post with the initials SM on the reverse! On the response Moss showed a keen interest having viewed David’s previous artwork, and was happy to discuss his favourite racing cars over the phone.
With the decision of which scene to paint made, David began working on the 1956 Monaco Grand Prix with Sir Stirling Moss leading the pack in his Maserati 250F, holding off Juan Manuel Fangio to secure his first victory at the Principality. In just over a month, he had completed this art piece and it was ready to print. It was then one of David’s proudest moments, as he had journeyed to the home of the personality he’d read about and admired as one of his favourite drivers. Sir Stirling Moss hand signed a number of limited-edition prints and posed for a photograph, and the sense of achievement was great.
From this point he was on the motor sport map. He was approached by motoring publications asking to display his work and exhibited at a number of shows. As he continued to still develop and perfect his skills he had worked with other racing greats along the way including John Surtees, Jody Scheckter and Sir Jackie Stewart, just to name a few. He found himself returning to see Sir Stirling Moss regularly for the breakfast signing slot. Sir Stirling could also see David’s talents grow and wrote to him encouraging him to always follow his passion.
David has started a clean chapter with a new challenge; the palette knife. He has swapped his fine grade brushes with great success and has applied a fresh new look, still with an eye for detail. This modern approach has drawn great interest through social media, and will see him attending the Grand Prix Ball and British Grand Prix where he will be exhibiting and live-painting.
Driver signings continue. In April of this year David proudly met once again Sir Jackie Stewart, this time with a palette knife painting for signing. This was unlike anything Sir Jackie had seen before on canvas as he was astonished by the artwork. The painting is now due to be auctioned in Monaco to raise funds for Race Against Dementia.
David continues to develop his skills with a focus on capturing the excitement and atmosphere of the race. Through his art he hopes to meet and work with many more drivers in the future and leave a lasting impact on the artwork within the motor sport sector.
Please visit David’s website to view more of his work at www.formulaart.co.uk