MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of Ken Dallison
Published 8.17.2022   

    

Automotive artist Ken DallisonAutomotive artist Ken Dallison

For many years, I used to wonder about who the great automotive illustrator always featured in Car and Driver magazine was. Today, I now know that the artist I admired is Ken Dallison.

Dallison is a great artist, and he illustrates automotive history with pen and ink in a way that many people enjoy. He started out in 1966, with a rendering of the “Pan American World Airways Clipper Cargo Freight Terminal.” Later, he would create train, bus and automobile illustrations.

Early Bentley illustration by Ken Dallison 2Early Bentley illustration by Ken Dallison

Of course, Dallison’s work includes great illustrations of many American classic automobiles, like the 1968 Pontiac GTO by General Motors. His resume includes teaching at the prestigious Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, and he has lectured at the San Francisco Academy of Art and the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum, education and research organization in America; it presents many great American history exhibitions, including the history of the automobile.

1969 Oldsmobile 442 Hurst by Ken Dallison 31969 Oldsmobile 442 Hurst by Ken Dallison

Dallison is also a member of the New York-based “Society of Illustrators.” It was a great honor for him to illustrate the 1995 Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance poster, which was admired by people worldwide.

Over the years, Dallison has received many prestigious awards for his works of art, including a gold medal in 1970 from the Society of Illustrators; a Cleo from the “Art Directors Club New York;” a Canadian Association lifetime achievement award in 1994; the Athena award of excellence in 1990, 1995, 2001 and 2003; and two gold medals from the “Detroit Art Directors Club.”

1968 Pontiac GTO Ken Dallison 41968 Pontiac GTO by Ken Dallison

Throughout his career, Dallison’s automotive paintings have been displayed in many prestigious museums and private collections all over the world. His clients have included publishing and automotive icons like Esquire magazine, National Geographic, Sports illustrated, Car and Driver, General Motors, Mercedes Benz and IBM.

1994 Meadow Brook Concours dElegance poster by Ken Dallison 51994 Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance poster by Ken Dallison

Another great example of Dallison’s artwork was an illustration of the Chevrolet Corvette competing at Le Mans, which has been used by Chevrolet Motor Sports as both a poster and limited-edition Corvette print.

Ferrari Art at the Breakers 1990 by Ken Dallison 6Ferrari Art at the Breakers, 1990, by Ken Dallison

Dallison’s artistry also extends to portraits. In 1967, he created a portrait of the late Ettore Bugati, which became a popular magazine illustration. He captures heritage and realism in his portraits, almost like a photo to painting on canvas. Many of his portraits are used for automotive magazine illustrations.

1930 Duesenberg illustration by Ken Dallison 71930 Duesenberg illustration by Ken Dallison

Dallison said this about his illustration entitled “Motorsport Memories”: “This was the biggest project, and the most demanding one I have ever done, but the result is what I wanted.”

Corvette Motorsport Memories poster by Ken Dallison CROPPED RESIZED 8Corvette Motorsport Memories poster by Ken Dallison

In conclusion, Dallison is still selling his great works of art to the public. His automotive illustrations will always be a part of our car culture and will be admired for many generations to come.

Bibliography 

Biographies - “Ken Dallison” Know for Illustrators - Auto, Portrait, Figure - by Ask Art.

Roberts, Jim. “Automotive Artist Ken Dallison’s Canadian Legacy.” Wheels. CA News. July 17, 2014.