Special feature: Truck artist Ian Campbell

By: Vivienne Haldane, Photography by: Ian Campbell

Truck artist Ian Campbell 5 Truck artist Ian Campbell 5
Truck artist Ian Campbell 6 Truck artist Ian Campbell 6
Truck artist Ian Campbell 7 Truck artist Ian Campbell 7

A Taranaki artist’s hobby of painting trucks keeps him busy in his spare time

Ian, who lives in Inglewood, works for a hospital bed manufacturer in New Plymouth. But whenever he gets a spare moment, he gets out his brushes and paints and spends hours at his easel. He’s been drawing all his life and painting for the last 20 years, with a focus on automobiles and aeroplanes. In the last seven years, Ian has also painted trucks. As he says, "basically, anything with an engine in it has always interested me."

Eye for detail

Ian Campbell

Ian says his father was an engineer, so that’s probably where the machinery interest began. When Ian left school, he wanted to be a draughtsman, but although his draughtsmanship was good, his math’s ability wasn’t good enough to secure a position. He ran a commercial screen-printing business at one time, so you can see what’s behind his ability to capture machinery accurately. As anybody who knows trucks would realise, you need a skilled eye to interpret its shape to make it look authentic.

He admits he’s a stickler for details and spends lots of time getting everything right.

"I’m fastidious. It stems from a painting I did when I began—a wheel wasn’t right, and the guy pointed it out. I never wanted it to happen again. A truck is quite a tricky thing to draw. There’s a lot to it: the lines, the chrome, the wheels—all those details. I like to get everything as good as possible."

Gaining popularity


Ian put the first painting of a truck that he did on a Facebook group page under the title Ian Campbell, Automotive Fine Art.

"The response was great; it went a bit crazy. A wife got it done for her husband, who was a logging contractor. After that, I decided to do more and have been busy ever since."

Ian works mainly from photos; the better the image, the easier it is for him to interpret in his drawing, he says. A truck painting is often a surprise gift from a wife or girlfriend, with the owner having no idea what’s coming.

"One order I had was a son giving it to his father as a present; his dad liked it so much he came back and asked for another."

Paint and canvas


Depending on the size and amount of detail required, it takes Ian around 20 to 30 hours to finish a painting. He works with acrylic paint because it dries quickly and gives a good result.

"I do layer on layer, building up the details as I go."

He paints on stretched, boxed canvas that doesn’t require framing. If the painting is being shipped overseas, he posts it as a rolled-up canvas.

I imagine chrome must be tricky to paint, but Ian tells me it’s not.

"I was terrified of doing it when I started, but now I find it easy. The bling is a vital feature."

Apart from trucks, Ian enjoys painting classic cars and hot rods. He admits the older cars are of more interest to him; he likes the history attached to them, and even rusty ones have a lot of character to them, he says. Sometimes clients are nostalgic for a former car they once had and want to preserve its memory.

"Often, it’s something they’ve sold and maybe regretted it."

Ian and Hayden Paddon with Ian’s painting

One of Ian’s standout moments was the painting he did of champion New Zealand rally driver Hayden Paddon’s car. And while he’s always been interested in Hayden’s career, Ian says he wanted to commemorate the rally driver’s achievement winning the 2016 Argentinian round of the World Rally Championship, making him the first New Zealander to do so.

"When I heard that Hayden was visiting New Plymouth as part of a series of national ‘meet the fans’ events, I messaged him beforehand and asked if he would sign the painting. He said, ‘Of course, no problem’, and we got together after the meeting. He was genuinely impressed with it, as were the other people there.

Ian understands the pride truck drivers take in their rigs, so he keeps that in mind when he begins a new artwork.

"Each truck brand is distinctive; I try and learn as much about a particular truck as possible. For the owners, it’s their business, and they want to put forward a good image to make a positive impression. It’s a good attitude to have."

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