5 Minutes With Ed Tillrock
Ed Tillrock is a car enthusiast turned architectural illustrator turned automotive artist. His medium of choice is the pencil, which he’s been working with since he was just a toddler before his focus turned to drawing cars during school lessons. His doodles and drawings were just a hobby as he followed a career as an architectural illustrator…until 2008 when the recession put a serious squeeze on the building industry.
At that point, Ed turned to what he loved, drawing and cars. After attending the Detroit Autorama, where he got to display and sell some of his art, he realized that he might be able to make a living drawing and painting cars. Several other shows followed with different opportunities coming along the way, including doing artwork for the Specialty Equipment Market Association, best known as SEMA. He still attends several shows a year and continues playing with, and drawing, cool cars.
Check him out at www.edtillrock.com.
Goodguys: You’ve illustrated many well-known cars – both historic rods and customs and modern creations. How do you decide what to draw?
Ed Tillrock: In my previous career (of 35ish years) as an architectural illustrator I did artwork for the architects and the developers. It was their design and what they wanted to see. When I switched to automotive artwork, I wanted it to be more from my head than someone else’s vision. Something I would want to keep and hang on my wall. I’ve been a car nut all my life and have an appreciation for almost all forms of cars – customs, hot rods, Indy cars, drag racing. Sometimes it’s hard to choose what to draw next. But it’s a good thing!
Tillrock: Usually the process is about a week for a painting. Sketches go pretty quickly, but fine art photorealistic pencil drawings can take a couple hundred hours.
GG: When did you first realize you could make a living in automotive art?
Tillrock: In 2008, I was losing my architectural business and home because the recession hit the building trade hard. I realized that I had to figure out a new career or go work at Home Depot. I thought I’d try my hand at doing pencil drawings, making them feel like oil paintings, but done in pencil/graphite. It was working and that got me into doing artwork for the SEMA Show, which really helped my artwork take off.
GG: In your architecture career, were you making and selling automotive art, too?
Tillrock: Yes, I was drawing and painting cars, but mainly for friends and family. I wasn’t selling them.
GG: Are there common design elements and theories that can be found in both architecture and automobiles?
Tillrock: Absolutely. Good design is key in both. Most architects I’ve dealt with had some sort of collectable car in their garage. Even the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright did some car design work, and he owned many customs.
GG: You’re active on social media. How has that helped your art career?
Tillrock: Social media hit just as I was starting this adventure, and it truly has been a godsend. I’ve had to learn to take good content photos and videos and navigate the ever-changing Instagram and Facebook algorithms. It changes constantly and I have to adjust.
GG: Do you think there was a “best era” for automotive design?
Tillrock: Yes, I really love the mid- to late-’30s Art Deco era. But with that said, good design is good design. I have friends that are Chrysler designers today that really rock!
Tillrock: I bought a ’65 VW from a teacher in 1969 for $125 with over 120K miles on it. It had been rolled once and every fender was damaged, the front axle bent! The same day I bought it, my dad bought a ’62 VW body for $25 and I used that for parts. I drove it for about three months and got T-boned by a ’65 Chevy wagon.
We have ’36 Chevy Coupe in the garage now. The car was painted in the ’40s. I drove it stock for a few years, but put a 396c.i. V8 in it and made it safe to drive with disc brakes, new suspension, wire wheels, etc. But it still feels like a ’36 Chevy.
GG: Any advice for younger artists?
Tillrock: Push yourself. Be critical of your own work. Don’t be afraid to start over or fix what’s wrong. Do what you like. Be creative. Work hard!
GG: You recently traveled with your son during the Sick Summer Drag and Drive event. How was that experience?
Tillrock: My son Ed III raced his ’68 Chevelle that he’s had for over 20 years. He just finished it the week before, putting in a turbo LS. He was working out the bugs all week and managed to finish Sick Summer. I got to hang out for two races – at Cordova and then at Great Lakes Dragaway in Union Grove, Wisconsin. That was the track I grew up going to and hadn’t been there in a long time. My son was worn out. It’s a brutally long week! One of the great things about Drag and Drives is the camaraderie. The people are awesome! I also love the fact that there are no two cars alike! Every car is different.