A great idea can crop up out of boredom — or at least from the need to unwind. When off the job, Colorado-based architect Adam Ambro channels his energy into striking color sketches of his favorite adventure-mobiles. Ambro grabs the local paper when inspiration strikes, creating multilayered head-on car portraits that cleverly weave visual and textual media.
Ambro, 42, started making watercolor trucks and off-roaders in 1999 while he was in graduate school. By 2001 he had refined the process to drawing thick layers of line and color on newspaper. “Sometimes it can be really hard to get motivated, so newspaper and markers made sense because I usually have that stuff just lying around and within arm’s reach.”
As a kid, Ambro caught the car bug from his father, who constantly bought and sold cars. It’s no surprise, then, what section he turned to first for his impromptu canvas. “I would start on the background of the classified section, which I thought added a cool extra dimension to the ads.”
Later he explored other sections of the paper, with an eye for the big headlines and colorful photos in The Denver Post. The Post’s printed images and lines of text serve as their own background elements, adding depth of field and layered meaning to a two-dimensional page. Words like “upstream” and “surfing,” as well as the Colorado weather forecast, imbue Ambro’s “Westfalia” with sparse bits of context. The fun part is filling those gaps with your own dreams of adventure.
Ambro largely sticks to trucks, SUVs, and camper vans because that’s what he sees around his home in Golden, but these are conscious artistic choices as well. “I like doing these head-on portraits. The face and personality of those types of vehicles, with their bumpers, accessories, headlights — those bits take on all kinds of meanings.”
While he’s still pursuing bread-and-butter themes, such as his upcoming Land Rover Defender, he hopes to start a new series. Older European sports cars have lately caught the artist’s attention, kicked off with a classic Ferrari piece. American muscle is another possible avenue. As true classifieds become more and more rare, Ambro’s work is a colorful reminder of a time before Craigslist.
For more of Ambro’s art and a web shop of his prints for purchase, visit www.adamambro.com.