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Canadian automotive artists take top Pebble Beach Honours

Jay Koka won the prestigious Peter Helck Award was this 1929 Cord shown in an historic part of Savannah, Georgia. - Contributed
Jay Koka won the prestigious Peter Helck Award was this 1929 Cord shown in an historic part of Savannah, Georgia.
— image credit: Contributed

Two Canadian automotive artists have won the top awards at the recent Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California.

The awards were presented during a by-invitation-only reception staged by the Automotive Fine Arts Society (AFAS) and sponsored by automaker Lincoln on the world famous 18th fairway of the Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Over the 16 years Lincoln has been the sponsor, this has become a popular destination to mix with celebrities and industry leaders while perusing the latest pieces by AFAS artists.

In order to display at Pebble Beach each invited artist must created three new, never previously displayed works.

Jay Koka, (www.jaykokastudio.com) who lives in Kitchener, won the prestigious Peter Helck Award which is seen by many as the ‘Oscar’ of automotive art. He won for a painting of an L29 Cord in an historic part of Savannah, Georgia.

Koka was also selected to create the official poster artwork for the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Ken Dallison, (www. kendallison.com) who lives in Mississauga, won the coveted Lincoln Award which is presented by fellow A-list artists as the ‘most elegant’ work on display. It was of a 2002 Ferrari Zagato 575 GTZ.

Dallison was also commissioned to draw the official invitation-only artwork for Lincoln/AFAS gala with the original work being raffled off at the event to one lucky show attendee.

Koka said, “The Peter Helck Award is chosen by the AFAS member artists themselves unlike the other awards which are selected by the judging panel.

“It is awarded to the work that best represents ‘what automotive fine art should be’ in the view of the members. It is a peer award and I believe that’s what makes it special.”

Dallison said he was thrilled to have been selected for the Lincoln Award because of who judged his work to be worthy.

“It’s really something when people of that calibre look at your work and think it is worthy of such recognition,” he said.

Koka described the creation of the official poster as one of the greatest challenges of his career in that the Pebble Beach Company picks the car and the backdrop; in this case a 1936 Hispano-Suiza J12 with the body by Saoutchik in a classic pose in front of The Lodge at Pebble Beach.

“The car was undergoing major restoration and was literally in pieces when I started working on the painting,” said Koka.

“I had to consult restorer Brian Hoyt and owner Chip Conner to understand the changes that the Hispano-Suiza would undergo. In a sense, the painting existed before the car was complete.”

“One of the most challenging aspects of the painting was the colour of the car. The fenders are black with an extremely dark cherry body. It’s so dark in fact that under most conditions it looks black.

“The challenge was to make the body different enough from the fenders so that one could visually understand that it is different,” added Koka. “The subject and style embodies the classic elegance of this famous event.”

Dallison said inspiration comes from many quarters.

“I remember as a kid, maybe 10 years of age, being fascinated by machinery and how it looked,” he said.

“Later when I was in art school we would go down to the American PX, this was just after the war, and look at all those American cars with their fins and all that chrome.

“It was like an awakening to me who was used to cars in Britain only coming in two colours, blue and black.”

Over some 57 years as an automotive artist Dallison has drawn just about every important car there is and remains in high demand by car owners who want their prize immortalized in the Dallison style.

All his works are meticulously researched before he lifts a brush. Dallison has files of tens of thousands of photographs and images he has collected over the decades - each in itself a piece of irreplaceable history.

He says that when he is working on a piece, “I try to draw what I see. It’s what I call hand-eye.”

But Dallison is also known for the way he combines the car and setting with people, all of which give his works a human touch.

Koka said many times it is a setting or place where the inspiration for a piece begins and such is the case with one of the three works he exhibited at Pebble Beach this year.

“A lot of the time it doesn’t start with the car but the background,” he said noting that one of the works named One Lane Road Ahead depicting a red, 599 Ferrari rounding a turn at speed came from a ride down the Pacific Coast Highway south of Carmel, California.

“As I was riding along, I noticed how we would go from areas of total sunshine and then be in a forested area—and it was how we came in and out of the shade.”

“If you look at the painting you’ll see the Ferrari in full sun, but the background is in shadow.”

Koka said he has already started planning the three works he will enter next year.

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