By Wallace Wyss
Born in 1961 in Kiev, Ukraine, Yuri Shevchuk attended the Kiev Art School and later the prestigious Kiev Architectural Academy. He is a man of many passions: architecture and cityscapes, historical cars and playing jazz, all have become the focus of his paintings. Since 1993 he has made his home in Prague, a beautiful city depicted in many of his works. He has been described as an accomplished master, full of artistic and intellectual energy. Before cars he was known for his sketches of musicians in action. Once in the world of cars, he tries to convey the same emotional intensity.
He has fans in both camps: sophisticated car collectors and music lovers. He is not only drawn to the shape of a car but often depicts racing cars in their original racing career.
Shevchuk switches media according to the subject and the mood he is trying to strike, going from watercolor to oil to acrylic, or even pastels. He will mix oil and acrylic on the same canvas. With watercolors, he is a bit of a traditionalists, building up lots of layers and he doesn’t use white: “my white is the paper,” he says. With crayons he is selective: “I only use crayons to paint the contour for my watercolors or oil paintings.”
Setting or no setting? Some like a classic car placed in a setting. But he doesn’t always do that. For example, his Tatra T87 paiinting has no historical buildings or setting. He explains: "The Tatra T87 was a commissioned work and I painted several different options of background for the client to choose from. Some clients prefer an abstract background with no buildings. I use real historical photographs for a lot of my works. But I try not to copy completely, but rather find an idea to depict the essence while adding or removing some details of my own. I often combine several photos, group different cars together, add or remove details of the background, and/or people.
I just look for what makes the car stand out more, what’s better for the composition. If it’s a black and white photo, I study different historical sources to see what colors were historically accurate."
Living and working in Eastern Europe one could expect he will depict cars that were famous there. His painting of a 1934 car winning a race in Czechoslovakia prompted the question whether he often depicts a car with a local hero or car. Shevchuk proudly answers: “The Czech Republic is one of birthplaces of the car industry. Some of the most famous manufacturers are based here: Skoda, Tatra, Laurin & Klement, Walter, Vikov, Z, etc. In fact, Ferdinand Porsche was born here in Vratislavice nad Nisou. I also collaborate with local Auto Clubs (Auto Veteran Club, Auto Club CZ, Porsche Auto Club CZ, Rolls Royce Club CZ among others) and Magazines (Motor Journal CZ) and Grand Prix Carraciola (DE). I also make graphic designs for the Veteran Auto Club’s sport events.”
His style isn't “photorealistic” throughout. On some works he employs atmospheric effects. His painting of a ’37 Aero coupe has the cars in the back back fading out. He explaines: “When painting an auto sport event, it’s not only the details of the car that I’m trying to depict. It’s more about the atmosphere, the light, the dynamics of the scene.” Thus the background, if there is one, might be subordinated, least it detracts from the car which is the main subject.
Composition is something that is often predictable in car paintings: the car centered and so forth. But we noticed on his painting of a GT40 from above, the car is off center, he explains: “With my automotive works I try to get away from traditional composition and angles. I move the subject off center, I do bird’s eye or worm’s eye views, etc. My road is not just a grey mass, it is like a mirror almost, it reflects all of the colors around it. I never draw grey asphalt.”
Shevchuk has also completed paintings featuring famous drivers. On his portrait of Stirling Moss and his co-driver, we note that it was done in black and white. “It was deliberately drawn that way to resemble an old photograph. It’s actually not black and white but sepia with a red plate on the car."
His titling of paintings is very exact. He explains, “Most of my works depict a specific historical sports event or a specific car or driver and so the captions (titles) are also accurate and specific."
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is a regular contributor specializing in automotive art topics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org