Blending Fine Art and Automotive Ingenuity
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // JJ Kaplan
A 9-year-old Gary Dausch was introduced to the automotive world and racing by his grandmother who shared a family photo album containing the image of a truck that was covered in lettering. The truck had belonged to Dausch’s “Great-Uncle Cannonball.” Erwin “Cannonball” Baker won the very first race held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909. From this introduction, Dausch’s passion for automobiles and the art of creating them was conceived.
“I remember it [the picture book] well,” Dausch recalled. “There was a photo of the ‘Golden Submarine’ with Barney Oldfield. That was the piece that I was painting last year at the Hoosier Salon during last year’s Carmel Artomobilia. I just had to recreate some of that history, and it was such an interesting car.”
Before launching his career as a fine art automotive artist, Dausch received his degree in education and taught art for a couple years before deciding that wasn’t where he really wanted to be. He took a job with a $60 million corporation starting out as an artist on a drawing board, and when he left, he had worked his way up to director of corporate communications.
“I was building race cars in my spare time and had started my own company fabricating race car parts for other people, having the molds built for them,” Dausch said. “I was doing this part-time and was doing freelance work as well while I worked full-time for the corporation and was running all over the world. It was crazy.”
Thirteen years later, Dausch went on to do some industrial design work with a local company but was fervently looking for an opportunity to work for a racing team.
“I always thought that I needed to be working with a race team, mainly because I love the cars and the design, but I had been studying what was going on in Europe with Formula One (F1) regarding sponsorships and F1 teams. I wondered why IndyCars weren’t doing this. I saw an ad that Derrick Walker, Walker Racing, had for a marketing person. At the time, he was in Pennsylvania, and I didn’t want to move there, but I sent the application anyway to see what would happen. A couple of months went by, and suddenly, I get this phone call from Derrick. He says, ‘Are you still interested? Do you want to talk?’ and I said, ‘Well, yes.’ He told me he was moving his whole race operation to Indianapolis, and then that door opened.”
As marketing director for Walker Racing, Dausch designed everything from sales materials and uniforms to race cars and business partnerships between car sponsors.
“It was a very rare position for an IndyCar team to have a full-time artist on staff,” he explained. “I was very blessed to be able to do that.”
In 2008, Dausch went into an early retirement after working with Walker Racing for 15 years. “I immediately began working on restoring three race cars, which kept me busy,” he said. “While I was with the [race] team, I had started doing the car art, just to commemorate some of the things that we had done. The guys thought the pieces were cool, so I started doing prints. When I left the team, I had enjoyed it, so I continued doing what I could never find the time to do before. That’s when I kind of rebuilt myself. I began doing automotive fine art, keeping a focus on what I really like, which are the portraits of the people and their cars. As part of that process, I invented my own way of doing things, and some of it is pulling on my experience of actually having built cars and then applying it to my paintings.”
Dausch’s paintings will take an average of 100 hours as he applies a rigorous attention to detail in each of his paintings, aiming for accuracy down to very last fitting, rivet and screw.
“I tend to put lots of detail into my paintings,” he admitted. “The process is a lot like restoring a car for me, but they [the paintings] take up a whole lot less room.”
Limited edition prints are also available in Dausch’s work though limited to only 50 as a way to keep some rarity to his work.
“I try to create motion and the feeling that you are going to get run over by the car,” Dausch said. “I put you in places that you can’t typically go, like standing in front of a moving race car. That’s kind of the fun of what I do. Some of the fastest-looking cars I actually photographed in the garage areas. I take them and put them on the track with their proper driver.”
Another notable relative of Dausch’s, his cousin Rosemary Browne-Beck had exhibited in the Hoosier Salon Exhibit for a number of years when she was actively painting. She was well known for her portrait work and still lives.
“I wanted to be part of that exhibit, and I became involved with Hoosier Salon as an organization after meeting Jim May, executive director at Hoosier Salon in Carmel, primarily so I could compete. I had not shown for years and did not have the time prior as I was doing other things. I got into the exhibit with a race car of all things. The exhibit is mostly portraits, still lives and landscapes and now one bright red Ferrari. That was great progress for me even to be accepted with those artists with the narrow niche that I run in. I’m already working on things for this next year’s exhibit.”
Dausch has also recently completed a remarkable tribute piece depicting Dan Gurney’s 1963 Lotus 29 Ford with Jimmy Clark standing beside Team Lotus owner and founder of Lotus Cars, Colin Chapman, and both are looking down at Gurney seated in the race car. This piece brings back to life a fabulous piece of auto racing history.
At some point, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway purchased Gurney’s Lotus with plans to restore it to look like it does in Dausch’s painting. “I look back at all of this, and I know that I’ve been blessed with this talent of a certain level,” Dausch said. “I keep trying to improve as it is something that God has given me, and it’s amazing how He opens doors in my life.”
If you’re interested in meeting and speaking with Gary Dausch about his career and his artwork, he is planning to attend this year’s Carmel Artomobilia in August and will likely be hanging out at the Hoosier Salon, eager to share his remarkable stories.
Visit Gary Dausch’s gallery at gdausch.com.