December 2, 2014
You were featured in “The Museum,” which screened at the second annual MFF. What was the origin of that film and how did it come to be?
The National Motorcycle Museum in the UK asked me to take part in an exhibition of motorcycle based art to celebrate their 30th anniversary. I wanted to do something special for the museum as it does a huge amount of work keeping a lot of historical bikes running. I had produced a large studio piece for The Bike Shed Event 3 earlier in the year and wanted to produce a large piece for the museum. However, I also wanted to sketch at the museum, as I do when travelling to various motoring events. In order to do this I made a scrolling sketchbook that enables me to sketch on long rolls of paper. “The Museum” piece ended up about 3.5m long. I thought it would be great to document this approach to show people how I work and help explain what I do as an automotive artist; a lot of automotive work is studio based, working exclusively from photos.
How did you or Tom Rochester, the film’s director, hear about the MFF?
I heard about the film festival in 2013, and when I knew the film was going to happen the MFF sprung to mind. Luckily we had finished it just in time to get it submitted.
You and your family have a history, shall we say obsession, with motor vehicles. However, you worked in video games for a while. Can you tell us how you got into that and how you made your way to automotive illustration?
I’ve always like cars and bikes since childhood, especially custom cars and VW Beetles. When I met my wife Rowena I would go to her father’s house on the weekend, which was a real eye opener. Nick is fanatical about Morgan 3 Wheelers and British bikes among other machines, and it wasn’t uncommon to have engines on the kitchen table or even in the fireplace! I used to paw through his magazines and books, and my love for old machinery was revived. We went to events and race meetings, but my artwork at that time was not automotive at all.
I gained a degree in Fine Art specializing in painting, and my work was totally abstract based on satellite photography, but illustration, comics and graffiti have been constant influences. Upon graduation I wasn’t taken with the idea of a fine artist career, so I looked for other ways to make a living. A friend gave me a 3D program, and I soon worked out that if I could use it I could possibly work in the computer games industry. I locked myself away for six months, taught myself the program, and created a portfolio of 2D and 3D work. I got a job as an artist for about nine years, but towards the end I had become a lead artist and wasn’t really doing artwork any more.
This is where the automotive work started. I loved old black and white photos of racing scenes and started recreating them using India ink. Nick encouraged me to show them at a Morgan 3 Wheeler meet. After a really positive response I started showing at vintage motor shows where I would paint in oil or acrylic recreating a period photograph. This was fun, but at an event in France I saw Jean-Marie Guivarc’h, now good friend, sit in front of a Nick Morgan Aero and sketch it there and then. That’s when I had a rethink, “I could be sketching the real thing!” At the shows there are so many machines; now I mostly go around sketching with a portfolio of my work.
Your mobile studio, if we can call it that, is quite ingenious for your format. Can you tell us a little about your process?
Yeah, this is a work in progress. I have a fishing stool that doubles as a backpack that fits an A4 sketchbook and materials—it’s perfect. At shows I go round the whole event and pick one machine that interests me to sketch. Sometimes people ask me to sketch their machines, and this is a great way to deepen my knowledge as I have direct contact with the owner who can tell me more about their machine. Sometimes people will stop and talk to me about the machine I’m sketching too. I love the whole social aspect of the motoring scene and I see the way that I work as an extension of that.
Much of your work is pencil, ink and watercolors. What about these media do you like?
My roots are in painting, but the ink came out of the necessity to do something quickly. At events it takes me 1 to 2 hours to sketch a machine. I used to do just ink sketches using technical pens, but I wasn’t getting the marks that I wanted. I found flex nib fountain pens that give a wide range of line widths based on varying the pressure; it’s like a small brush. I also use a brush pen for larger black areas. After the show, in the studio I put washes of watercolour or ink on the sketches. This is all I can put over the ink sketch without destroying the work. I used to be scared of watercolour as you have to think about the white of the paper as your light, and layer up the paint to achieve shadows. But having used them for a while I’m getting fairly comfortable with them.
Much of the automotive world tends toward photography and industrial design illustrations, but much of the classic scene is about hand built works. Your drawings, which appear in the British monthly Classic Bike Guide, definitely show your hand and a process. Do you find a split in automotive illustration, and where else do your works appear or do you show them?
I never thought of my work tending towards photography, I guess in a way I’m a cheap and slow camera. I can see the relation to industrial design illustrations, as I try to capture as much of the technical detail as possible. However, I try to keep a fine balance between being technically correct and the work existing as fine art. Jean-Marie Guivarc’h, Stefan Majoram and Jeremy Lacy are the only people I know who sketch in the same way, live on sight. I think sketching out and about is really a fine art practice, and the work tends toward that style because of the process. The artist has to be fairly fast and thoughtful about the marks; in a studio environment the work is even more considered and the work reflects that. Automotive illustration is in a strange place as it hasn’t been used extensively in publishing since the ’80s, although some magazines now use illustrations more as something to punctuate the photography. Automotive work has a select audience as it really appeals only to the motoring community, and that’s where it’s relevant. With my larger work I’m trying to push the automotive subject in more of a fine art direction; whether this will reach a wider audience, we will have to see.
You came to New York for the Film Festival, but you also did a bit of work by going to Sixth Street Specials and Paul Cox Industries to do some drawings. Tell us about your expectations before you went to their shops and what you came to find and to do.
My main aim was to use the scrolling sketchbook to produce 360-degree sketches of the workshops, but I was open to change if the workshop needed to be portrayed differently. I looked up both shops so I had an idea of what to expect, but I knew that it would all change as soon as I got there. At Sixth Street the main workshop was perfect for the 360-degree sketch as it was just one room. I sat in the middle of the workshop and sketched away as the guys carried on with their work. I really enjoyed experiencing the comings and goings of the workshop. Paul’s place was different than Hugh’s as it’s a large space with lots of different areas. I worked around the space producing a 360-degree sketch made up of the different sections. I spent 2 days at each workshop and within those 2 days I had roughed out the entire workshop and inked as much as I could. I took photos as reference so I could finish the pieces in the studio. I would have loved to do the whole thing on location but time did not allow. One thing that I didn’t know before I went to the workshops was that Paul used to work out of Hugh’s place when he started with his leather work. I was really happy that the two shops were associated it was a perfect connection.
What are you working on now and what do you have in your sites next?
I’m considering a series of portraits based on world firsts, such as one I did of Yuri Gagarin, but I will see where that goes. I’m currently finishing off the Sixth Street scroll and working out how that will be displayed. Then I’ll finish the Paul Cox scroll. I’m producing these larger pieces for a solo show in the near future. I’m looking for a relevant place to do this so if anyone is interested please get in touch. I’m continuing with commission work and sketching at the last few events of the year. Over the winter I hope to get a chance to do more studio work combining my sketching with painting—a new direction again. Also Tom and I are planning on doing some more filming, so hopefully we have something to submit for next year’s festival.
For more information and more of Martin’s work check out:
His Blog: martinsquiresautomotiveillustration.blogspot.co.uk
His illustrations and coverage of the 2nd annual MFF in NY: HERE
October 15, 2014
The 2nd Annual MFF: Recap!
We can’t believe it’s over! During the many months of planning and preparation it seemed like the 2nd Annual Motorcycle Film Festival would never arrive, and just like that, it’s a wrap! We are so happy to report that the event blew away our expectations, and we sincerely hope that all in attendance would agree. Here’s a recap of the event, along with pictures if you weren’t able to take part in the action:
Wednesday afternoon saw our tireless MFF Pit Crew Volunteers get to work setting up for the evening’s opening Pre Party Art Show, hosted at Genuine Motorworks, curated by judge Stacie B. London. A chance for VIPs, Judges, and Staff to meet and mingle before the first screening of the week, we had exhibits and pieces on display from the MFF family, including Paul Cox, Paul d’Orleans, Ultan Guilfoyle, JP, Chris Logsdon, Lorenzo Eroticolor, Amos Poe, Buz Ras, and our very own founder Corinna Mantlo.
After perusing the excellent works and enjoying tasty libations from our friends at Sailor Jerry & PBR, the party shifted venues right across the street to The Gutter, where the week’s screenings and after parties would be held.
Screened in front of a sold out, standing room only audience (a theme that would run through the weekend), Take it to the Limit (1981) officially kicked off the the films, with director Peter Starr on hand to answer questions and regale us with stories.
Thursday afternoon found the founders and Judges brunching at Park Luncheonette (a much loved MFF tradition after working so closely together for months by phone). Meanwhile, attendees from all over the world enjoyed the beautiful weather and local surroundings.
Thursday’s Screenings began at 6:00pm and were once again shown to full house audiences! Thursday featured the Best of Festival winner in Daniel Rintz’s Somewhere Else Tomorrow.
Friday began with a fun brunch for all our VIPs hosted by Bar Matchless, allowing another opportunity for the judges, filmmakers, staff, friends, and family to get to know each other a little better. With visitors from Italy and South America, and Australia, as well as a couple who rode their Honda Trail 90s from Oregon (you really DO meet the nicest people on a Honda…follow their travels HERE, and Anna Grechishkina who found out about the MFF just that morning from a friend in Chicago, while on her travels all the way from the Ukraine on a KTM (check out her story HERE), not to mention the dozens of filmmakers who traveled from all over the world to be here with us. brunch was a great way to spread the motorcycle love!
Screenings began at 2:30 and closed with the North American Premiere of On Any Sunday, The Next Chapter.
The lights came up for a brief set-change, then back down for the after party, featuring DJ Nosebleed, followed by the seductive and flirtatious music of vintage Triumph riding Julia Haltigan and the musically eclectic Dr. Sick. We highly recommend checking them all out!
Saturday was an beautiful day on N14st. The Ride & Repeat was set to get your very own bike portrait taken by Ryan Handt Photography, and the delicious pizza from Park Luncheonette never stopped. The entire block was lined with bikes and it was a blast. It was also our heaviest day for screenings, the first block including Drue Pennella’s The Badger: Made in Trenton, winner of this year’s People’s Choice Award and then the Judge’s Pick for Feature Narrative for Shooter & Whitley by Laura Stewart.
The early evening screening block of Shorts featured two more winners: Django by Jim Demuth and Posy Dixon took the win for Experimental Pick and Vincent Black Lighting, a delightful animation in the shadow puppet style by Cat Bruce won for Short Narrative.
Our final screening block of the weekend was to feature two more Judge’s Picks in the short No Ordinary Passenger by Cabell Hopkins for Short Documentary followed by Todd Huffman’s Penton: The John Penton Story for Feature Documentary.
Riding the tide of excitement following our final screening, we segued directly into our Awards Ceremony. Speeches, applause, and tears were doled out, as were the trophies (made this year by our own co-founder Corinna Mantlo of Via Meccanica, and Buz Ras of Seattle Speedometers) and beers for everyone else!
Saturday night’s after party featured the musical stylings of DJ Sommer Santoro, the soulful, heavy, psychedelic boogie band The Golden Grass, and roots and blues rock high-energy Daddy Long Legs.
The screenings a wrap, Sunday marked the final day of the event and the Closing Party hosted by Lady Jay’s. Beverages, BBQ, handshakes, stories and swapped contact information was in abundance as the weekend winded down.
To perfectly cap the weekend, Kate Morris provided a live reading from her script for the upcoming Michael Schmidt film Going to Fugle, in which she shares her own journey as a young female journalist riding cross country with an outlaw MC. It should be noted that Kate went from a self proclaimed “20 mile a day rider” to piloting a Harley Davidson 48 with some hard-core fellows from LA to XXX. The reading from her script perfectly describes the freedom of the road, and all the emotions that can go along with it. We can’t wait to see more from this project!
And just like that, it was over. New friends and family from as close as the next block to as far as over oceans shook hands, exchanged hugs and went their separate ways. We hope to keep in touch and see you all again. Spread the word and watch this space, because we have more in store, as NY is only the first stop for the MFF this year. Keep those wheels and cameras rolling.
We want to extend our heartfelt thanks to our sponsors, especially Honda Powersports, for their support. Without Honda and our other sponsors, this would not have been possible.
And finally, we want to thank all of you. It is only because of the films made and submitted by you, watched by you, and loved by you that there is an MFF at all. You are the MFF. Thank you.
-Matt ‘Howl On Wheels’ Howell and The MFF Crew
August 12, 2014
follow the event on the facebook page THE BORN FREE RIDE
Part of MFF’s grand plan has always been to bust through borders and boundaries to reach motoheads around the world – and we’ve wasted no time doing it. First stop – India, where event partner EVENTZ 360º will screen the best of the 1st annual MFF ’13 at the Freedom Ride, to be held in the city of Pune on Friday the 15th of August to commemorate India’s Independence Day. With over 750 riders expected to roll in on the day, MFF’s India debut is assured a massive audience of like-minded moto-crazies for the screenings of the four award winning films, The Build (Best Short Film), White Knuckle: The Motorcycle Cannonball (Peoples Choice), The Best Bar in America (Best Feature Narrative) and Why We Ride (Best Feature Documentary & Best In Fest). So if you happen to be in or around Pune this week, what are you waiting for? Take the ride.
March 31, 2014
The Born Free Ride in the DNA India EPAPER
The Miss-Fires as photographed by Todd Heisler for the NY Times
Our own MFF founder Corinna Mantlo was featured in the New York Times today, in an article about her all women motorcycle club, The Miss-Fires. The club prides itself on supporting and promoting women riders of all levels of experience, and Corinna swears they don’t hug that damn much. Read about The Miss-Fires and keep your eye out for them on the streets of Brooklyn and beyond.
Read the article here: Motorcycle Crew Has One Requirement, and It Isn’t a License
Corinna’s weekly motorcycle film night as mentioned in the article is the long running series, Cine Meccanica. Corinna was also recently featured discussing the 1971 Yamaha At1 125 dirtbike mentioned in the NY Times article in a short film by director James Jones. Film below.
MY BIKE! from myfavoritethingy on Vimeo.
January 21, 2014
The Motorcycle Film Festival is proud to declare the 2014 film submission period open!
We are now accepting films for The 2nd Annual Motorcycle Film Festival 2014!
If you’ve ever thought about making a motorcycle movie, here’s your excuse. The Motorcycle Film Festival is THE place to showcase your filmmaking chops and get your movie in front of the people who care the most, so get those movies in!
For more info, head over to our submissions page.
January 17, 2014
Hello and happy new year to all the friends of the Motorcycle Film Festival! 2014 is going to be huge and while the rest of the world was out drinking and partying over the holidays, we’ve been nose to the grindstone to bring you an amazing year.
First, you may notice that things look a little different around here. Well you’re damn right they do! It’s with great pride and pleasure that we present to you the new MFF Website! Along with our good friend and fantastic artist Adam Nickel, we started over from scratch to make your visit to the site a little better, smoother, and more pleasant. Take a look around and let us know what you think! We’re always open to suggestions and ready to fix bugs.
In other huge news, FILM SUBMISSIONS FOR THE 2014 MFF OPEN ON MONDAY! The 2014 submissions period will be open from this Monday, Jan 20th – June 1st, 2014. Head over to the submissions page for all the important info and forms. We can’t wait to see all the fantastic films you guys have been working on since the 1st festival, and PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! re-submit your films for 2014 if you missed the deadline for the first festival!
We look forward to an amazing year of bikes, films, and friends and can’t wait to see this years submissions!