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Catching Up With Automotive Artist Chris Nielsen

automotive art by Chris Nielsen

Southern California is well-known for its car culture, and where there’s a strong car culture, great art is sure to follow. Case in point: the fine art and illustration of Chris Nielsen. Chris uses digital media to create a kind of visual art that he calls “stylized photorealism”.

His work combines a photographic level of realism with the type of depth and contrast that creates what the artist calls a “new reality” within the image. Not too long ago, we asked Chris to share a little bit about his art with us.

AutoandArt: What got you into doing automotive art?

Chris Nielsen: I created my first automotive illustration when my Dad bought a 1946 Ford sedan and he wanted a portrait done of it. Cars were certainly not my favorite subject to work on, but it was my Dad, so how could I not do it? Then, after that portrait, I started hanging out with my Dad at the local car shows, and I just started taking more and more reference photos of the cars that caught my eye. New portraits came from those new reference shots.


A&A: Who is a favorite automotive artist of yours?

CN: Too many to name, honestly. I like the stylistic variations in all the automotive art that I see, so there is really no single artist that stands out... There is something that I can admire and learn from in everyone's work that I see.

 automotive art by Chris Nielsen

A&A: What inspires you to create automotive art?

CN: Here is an interesting story… One day I came across a Custom Chopper at a local car show and the guy who built it was really cool about everything and he was very approachable. So, I decided to try doing a detailed portrait of his Chopper in Adobe Illustrator. All my Car Portraits were done in Photoshop, so I wanted a new way to approach the subject matter of automotive art. The Chopper Portrait came out way more detailed than anything I ever did with a Car, so I gravitated toward the Motorcycles and I never turned back!


A&A: What are you doing when you're not creating? What (other) hobbies do you have?

CN: I am a Computer Graphics Instructor at 4 local Colleges here in southern California. A lot of my time is spent teaching others how to do what it is that I am doing with my illustration work.

 automotive art by Chris Nielsen

A&A: Do you have any tips for aspiring automotive artists?

CN: Study the works of others. What is it that you find attractive in their work? Learn from that, but don't just copy it. That other artist has already done it and they are probably doing it better than you are, because they have been practicing their craft longer than you. Be creative in your approach to your photography, your compositions and your methods of describing surfaces, textures and details in your own work! If you truly show people that you love what you do, as seen in your own work, they will be attracted to that too.


You can find his gallery at Don’t hesitate to let him know if you see something you like.

-AutoandArt staff