x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Scott Wade sees dirty cars as a blank canvas

With so much sand in the air, blown around constantly, all it takes is a few days of neglect to make a car look like it's been abandoned for years. Nobody likes a dirty car. Except one Texan artist.

Scott Wade begins with a dirty canvas and within the hour, he turns the dusty car window into works of art using intricate strokes and tools.
Scott Wade begins with a dirty canvas and within the hour, he turns the dusty car window into works of art using intricate strokes and tools.

Keeping a car clean in the UAE is a difficult job. With so much sand in the air, blown around constantly, all it takes is a few days of neglect to make a car look like it's been abandoned for years. Nobody likes a dirty car.

Except for Scott Wade, that is.

Primarily a graphic artist based in San Marcos, Texas, Wade would be a very busy man beautifying the UAE. He is a self-proclaimed "dirty car artist" and actually draws on cars professionally.

Wade started doodling on cars seven years ago when he lived in a rural area. "I lived on a long dirt road for a little over 20 years, where you can wash your car but the next day it's just filthy. The rear windows were always dirty because you drive down this road, which is just limestone gravel and a little bit of clay, and it just billows up in this big white cloud behind you and it settles on the car.

"It costs too much money to wash your car every day, and also we're trying to save a little water so I would just go out there and play. I'd get home from work having had a long day, and I'd go and draw funny faces," Wade recalls as he digs out his tools ahead of a demonstration of his art on our car. "I'd try to get shading with the pads of my fingers and I'd try my fingernails and gradually I started thinking of other things, like brushes and rubber paint shaper tools. I realised that you can do very detailed and shaded drawings - it's pretty cool."

What started as doodling turned into something of an obsession, and now Wade can spend hours at a time drawing the most intricate of artworks in dust. The quality is astonishing as well, with portraits of the Mona Lisa and Albert Einstein among his notable collection of works (or they would be if they hadn't been washed or blown away).

"A drawing can take anywhere from 15 minutes to six hours, depending on the complexity," says Wade. "When I do festivals I'll dirty up all the windows all the way round and sometimes I'll do the entire car or even multiple cars."

Today he is going to use the world close to his place outside Houston as inspiration for art on our Ford Fiesta's rear window.

"We're in Texas and I figured I'll do some longhorns [cows]," he explains as he starts scraping and smudging shapes from the dirt on the rear window. Having dirtied the car sufficiently with a special blend of thick dust stuck on with oil, the longhorn shape starts to emerge as Wade scratches the cow's outline with a whittled stick then fills in more detail with fine sable brushes.

Speed is important. Weather and pressure from audiences watching mean his art rarely takes more than an hour to complete.

"Because I do events and media things, I've had to learn how to do it quickly, so I use a little bit of oil on the window to make it stick and I blow the dust on and it just takes a few minutes to do. It's not very hard and it gives a pretty nice opaque coating just like you'd driven up and down the road."

Wade has been known to sketch art on naturally dirty cars he comes across. It's a bit like Banksy using a parked Ford for his canvas. His works cost a few hundred dollars instead of a few million though, even though they are not permanent.

"It starts around $500 (Dh1,800) and goes from there. It just depends on how much travel is involved, where I have to go and how complex the pieces are and how much time I spend but it can be anything."

For the future, he wants to get bigger and better. But that does not mean working on bigger cars. Wade has his sights set skywards.

"My biggest ambition is to do this style of artwork on a skyscraper sixty storeys high - to do a huge image, maybe a bucking bronco to advertise a rodeo or just some kind of great big beautiful scene on a giant skyscraper where you have to get up on window-washing scaffolding," he says.

Back on the Fiesta, just more than an hour after Wade started work, his session is over. Our car is adorned with the most intricate drawing of two Texas longhorn cattle, staring mournfully out at the world as if sitting in the back of the car.

Alas, just as Wade is finishing, the rain starts to fall, and by the time the drawing is complete it's pouring down. Upsetting? For us, hoping to drive his art to Dallas, four hours away, perhaps. But not for Wade.

"The impermanence of this art form is something that really turns me on," he says. "There's something liberating about it because you're free to just have fun with it. It's not going to last - nothing lasts. Even the greatest works of art are crumbling."

And with that, this latest work of art melts in the rain and trickles slowly away back to where it came from - the dirt. Talk about recycling.

 

See more of Wade's work at www.dirtycarart.com.