“Hot Rods are my passion, but the graphic arts are my craft,” says Utah painter Gene Chambers, whose current work is inspired by the custom car culture of the 1950s and 60s. Chambers paints hot rods and roadsters with a smooth and illustrative feel, a style that evolved from his background in graphic design, advertising and sign painting. His cleanly structured and hyper realistic paintings reveal rusted Chevys, reflective Corvettes and close-up views of old car parts or used tools. “I can see joy in the junk, especially if its car junk,” says Chambers of his subject matter. “That old rusty oil can, a well-worn toolbox, or a door panel from a 1932 Ford – there’s magic in that metal!”
Gene Chambers studied graphic design at Weber State University in Ogden, where he also worked for a sign company painting billboards. His preferred medium is still the oil-based sign enamel he used on the job to achieve clean lines and lettering. In the 1970s, Chambers worked as a painter and designer at Lagoon Amusement Park, where many of his murals in the Pioneer Village are still intact. He eventually shifted his career to advertising, graphics and marketing, wining several Addy Awards for his efforts.
About ten years ago, Chambers decided it was time to return to his original passion for painting; he began working in the evenings and on weekends until eventually shifting full time to the life of an artist – or more specifically, a hot rod artist. When he first decided to pursue painting again, he took several trips to Jackson Hole perusing galleries and feeling inspired by the southwest-style paintings and their cowboy motif. He started painting landscapes and sketching horses, but was unimpassioned. “I finally realized, I don’t know anything about horse or cowboys – so why am I thinking I’m going to be a Western painter?” So he shifted to something he was passionate about – hot rods.
Gene Chambers has been drawn to car culture since he was a kid, building hundreds of model cars and mimicking the illustrations of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth – an artist, car designer and key figure of Southern California’s car culture in the 50s and 60s. Roth, who passed away in 2001, was Chambers’ biggest inspiration when he started painting as a boy and continues to influence him today. Chambers is a regular attendee of the Rat Fink Reunion, named after Roth’s infamous anti-Mickey Mouse cartoon, which is an annual event with over 70 artists who gather to celebrate Roth’s life and legacy. Chambers has even contributed to the evolution of the late artist’s product line and is licensed as an “Official Rat Fink Artist,” a surreal realization of his young-artist aspirations.
Now, Chambers travels around Utah and throughout the west to sell his work at custom car shows and fairs, including the Grand National Roadster Show in California. He looks forward to using his Monarch studio as a place to connect with his Ogden art community, expose his work to more local clients and gain inspiration from the building’s creative atmosphere.
Monarch creatives are moving into their studios this month and will open their doors to the community for the first time during the Ogden’s First Friday Art Stroll on October 4th. Meet Gene Chambers along with over 20 other artists and makers, witness their creative process and purchase original art! Learn more about this event here and connect with Gene Chambers from the links below.