Monday, July 23, 2012

Royal Enfield Constellation in the shed is a work of art

A Royal Enfield Constellation is the subject of "In The Shed," by Ian Cater.
Artist Ian Cater paints portraits of motorcycles from the era of the cafe racers: Triumphs, BSA Gold Stars, Tritons, Nortons and even a Brough Superior, shown with their intrepid riders. His inspiration was a visit to the "Ace Cafe Reunion Brighton Burn Up," held every year on the sea front in Brighton.

You can see his stirring artwork at this website,  Motorcycle Art UK.

Oddly, Ian never finished his first painting of a motorcycle, a 1962 Royal Enfield Constellation he found battered and forgotten. He wrote to share the story of "The Painting I Never Finished":

"I'm a kind of illustrator working in advertising and about eight years ago I started painting pictures of '50s/'60s British motorcycles in my spare moments, mainly because I'm quite big on nostalgia and retro stuff and also because seeing these lovely machines preserved and still rumbling around the roads of Britain reminds me of my youth in the late '60s and early '70s

"I wasn't much of a biker myself but both my brothers were and a lot of their friends. As you know, British motorcycle manufacturers were having a hard time back then and as many riders swapped their old BSAs, Nortons and Triumphs for shiny new Hondas and Yamahas, you could pick up an oil-stained '50s machine for peanuts.

"My brother Andy had a liking for BSA A7 and A10 sidecar combinations, which he'd buy from old blokes who were moving over to driving cars after years of gauntlets, oilskins and the wife moaning about the cold.

"He'd get them for as little as £15, strip them down, tune them up, ditch the sidecar body and replace it with a massive, wooden, flying-coffin toolbox for ballast. They were great fun on the road.
Showing a BSA who's boss, back in the day.
"To add some flavor of the period I've attached a photo of my brother Andy carrying out a bit of essential maintenance on an ancient, defenseless BSA A7. Note the plentiful oil top-up supplies — no need to change the oil, it never stuck around long enough.

"My other brother David, however, had decided to invest quite a bit more cash in a vastly superior set-up. To our amazement, he came home from a local dealer riding a 1962 Royal Enfield Constellation connected to a very sporty, bullet-nosed Watsonian sidecar, all in beautiful nick.

"It didn't stay beautiful for long though as, not used to riding this kind of set up and being overly optimistic about the gap between a parked car and an oncoming bus, he wrote off the car, the sidecar and nearly himself.

"The Enfield survived though and got converted to a solo, but soon ended up neglected, destined for years of storage in various lock-ups, an unlucky machine.

"He's still got it today and its grizzled, caged remains became the subject of my first attempt at painting a motorcycle. I never really finished it though; I hadn't got the style right. Eventually I'm going to do the right thing and paint another Enfield.

"I work with acrylic paints, which have similar characteristics to oils when not thinned, although the colors aren't so strong and they don't offer the same degree of opacity. However they dry quickly and are water solvent which is a big advantage.

"Yes, I work from photographs and yes, I shoot my own pictures, the exceptions being the MotoGP stuff; you need professional accreditation to get anywhere near those guys. I often use 'found' images to check details from different angles, just to check that what I'm looking at really is a breather tube and not a mudguard stay.

"Not that I'm mad keen on perfectly rendering every nut and bolt. I like to keep it roughish and energetic. Up close it can look a bit of a mess, but step back a few paces and everything's there." Check out his motorcycle art and other illustrations.


  1. The best part was the comment abou the oil suplly " - no need to change the oil, it never stuck around long enough." hahahaha

  2. Good rendering....perfect man-cave stuff! Love how the art's Connie gas tank looks so much like the tank on that "adventure Himalayan bike" RE's been driving around India..hmmm.


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