Cars x Hype Exclusive Interview with Xander Walker

Today we have have a very special feature to bring you, it is our exclusive interview with artist Xander Walker. Walker works with the medium of stencils and spray paint. Sound familiar? It’s as if Banksy painted legendary cars. But Xander Walker is no Banksy biter, he has a true passion for motorsports and has his own story to tell. Please continue reading to learn more about Xander and his exceptional work.

How old are you and where are you from?

I am 24 from Washington, DC and Maryland for most of my life.

What is the history of your involvement in motorsports?
My first experience with motorsport was at the 2007 24 hours of Le Mans. I have a lot of relatives in France and spent many summers there when I was younger. That particular summer I was in Paris for my Aunt’s 50th birthday which doubled as a family reunion. I knew I was going to be in the country during the 24 hours of Le Mans and I decided to I couldnt pass up the opportunity to check it out. I took a train from Paris to Le Mans by myself the day before the race (Friday) and spent three days there taking it all in. Slept in the grandstands on Friday night and on the side of the track by Indianapolis and Arnage on Saturday night. It was an incredible lifetime experience that had a lasting impact on me. It is intoxicating even without the flowing Kronenbourg. One gets drunk on the noise alone. I vowed to go back as many times as I could for the rest of my life. Sadly, I have not yet been back, but I’m sure I will soon. If you want to read a really poetic piece about the 24 Hours of Le Mans, check out Peter Orosz’s writing about his experience at the 2007 race.

Almost exactly a year ago, I was lucky enough to attend the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa with my brother. We spent two days and one night in the freezing, wet mountains that surround the track. It was an equally if not more impressive spectacle than the 24 hour race, but a very different experience. Seeing the cars at Eau Rouge is like nothing else on earth. Only an air show with F18′s etc can produce the same visual and auditory assaults.

In the spring of this year I drove from DC to Florida to attend the 12 hours of Sebring, something I had wanted to do since going to Le Mans. I was there from Wednesday through Sunday and loved every minute of it. Unlike Le Mans and Belgium, I was able to attend the whole weekend including practice sessions and qualifying. I hope to return to Sebring next year and many years after. You can see some pictures and more of my experience at Sebring HERE

I did one weekend of Marhaling/Flagging at an SCCA event and I plan to try it again next weekend.

I’ll be at the Baltimore Grand Prix, and I am trying to go to the Petit Le Mans for the first time this year.

What attracted you to the automotive scene?
Growing up, I liked cars as much as any other male child. I liked to get little matchbox cars and bring them everywhere I went, sometimes putting them under car tires to see them get crushed. I loved the Octan lego sets and making different lego cars. As I mentioned earlier, I spent a lot of summers in France growing up and I would love to watch motorcycle racing and different motor sports on Eurosport. They showed things that were just never on television in the states (Dakar, rally, Moto GP, Le Mans prototypes, Motorcross). I knew nothing of the sports at the time but, I was fascinated by them. At that age, I liked cars but I was not yet truly drawn into them in the way I would be later. It was a casual interest and not much more. It was not until I started to learn how to drive that I truly dove into the world of automobiles. I started reading car magazines like EVO and scouring the internet for content. I got into Top Gear (back when Tiff Needell was still on the show) and World Rally Championship and participated in some message boards. Without the internet and the ability to download hours of Top Gear, Best Motoring, and motorsports, and the ability to talk about cars with people who share the passion, I may have never really gotten into it in the same way. I suppose that’s a lot of how and not a lot of why. In recent years, I have tried to reflect on why it is that I am so drawn to these things. Why do I have a passion for this that is so much more all consuming than my other interests? I have some answers for myself, but I dont think I am ready for them to be published on the internet. Its nothing sinister or weird, but its maybe not so easily articulated in 10,000 words or less. In short, its about the art and beauty of machines, the movement through time and space, the romance of mobility, and the superhuman powers cars can give us.

When did you begin with your automotive art?
I occasionally fooled around with some digital work in college: but I did not make my first painting until the Fall of 2010.

What inspired you to start creating automotive art?
It came to me in a vision.

What inspired you to work with stencil and spray paint?
Maybe six or seven years ago, I started following some street art blogs and really liked the style of some of the more prominent artists like Banksy and Shep Fairey. I followed the new work, the controversy, and the inevitable haters. I was lucky enough to see fresh, unharmed Bansky work in New Orleans when I was in school there. I drove all over the city with my friend who is a true street artist and saw almost all of the pieces. Here is a cell phone picture I took of one of them: . Surprisingly it is one of the few pictures on the internet of this piece taken before it was defaced. I had always wanted to work with the medium but didnt have the right subject material. I wasnt really interested in painting a Che Guevara head on a dumpster, (more because it had been done before than anything else). After leaving New Orleans, I continued to follow the street art scene through blogs and then the film: Exit Through the Gift Shop. It was around this time, maybe a few months after seeing the movie when it dawned on me that many cars would look incredible in this medium. That night I created my first stencil and painted it the next day:

It was exciting for me to make these first stencils. It was thrilling to see how well the cars worked with the medium. The cars already have amazing design and great liveries which translate into really striking stencils. I also love how the medium brings out a rawness and attitude in the cars. It is a perfect expression of how I feel about many cars particularly racing cars.

How do you go about creating your pieces, how do you decide which cars to create?
There is a very long list of cars that I want to paint. It is important to me that the car have a story. There are endless possibilities so I have to prioritize them based on what is inspiring me at the moment. I paint cars that I love and there is no real reason why a car inspires someone. All it takes is the right picture, the right video or the right encounter with a car. When I find a car I want to paint I spend a few days looking at hundreds and hundreds of pictures. I manipulate things with the computer then work with pencil and eraser to achieve the desired effect. At this point I see where I want it to go and I start cutting. I then paint a number of test prints trying out different color variations to see what works best. I take the one I like and put it on flickr.

What inspired you to create “Anatomy of a Car Crash”?
“Anatomy of a Car Crash” is based on Allan McNish’s crash in the first hour of the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans this summer. First of all, thank goodness Allan was unharmed. We are lucky to live in a time when motorsport safety is taken seriously. I don’t think I could really be a fan of motor racing if people were regularly killed in races. My grandfather on my mother’s side was at the 1955 24 hours of Le Mans and witnessed the worst motor racing accident in history which killed 83 spectators. He never attended a race again.
The 2011 crash was one of the most spectacular incidents ever witnessed at Le Mans or anywhere. It was analyzed in great detail by commentators, fans, and millions who would have otherwise not seen any coverage from the 79th 24 hours of Le Mans. The crash was a result of the increasingly competitive battles between Peugeot and Audi over the past decade. The level of competition has turned Le Mans into a 24 hour sprint, and Allan must have felt the need to go big in the first hour to get an edge. The race, after 24 hours was decided by 13 seconds.
The incident, for me, also highlights the concept of the potential immortality of machines and automobiles. If the car had gone on to win the race, it would have lived in a museum for ‘eternity’, pampered and maintained to perfection. New Parts being crafted when necessary. Automobiles in museums like the Porsche museum in Stuttgart or the cars in Ralph Lauren’s collection are ‘immortal’. Their value guarantees that they will always be maintained and in running order. There is no reason for them to stop existing. In this piece, we see the final moments of the #3 Audi R18, a car that could have existed for ‘eternity’.

Who are you some of your influences (artists and racecar drivers)?
There are many great historical figures who inspire me but Ill keep this list brief and limited to drivers and artists: Aytron Senna, Banksy, Sterling Moss, Allan McNish, Mark Webber, Roy Lichtenstein, Keiichi Tsuchiya, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, Henri Pescarolo, Jochen Rindt, Horatio Pagani… plenty more.

What do you like to do for fun?
The only thing that rivals the excitement of motor racing for me is live music, particularly funk music from New Orleans. I could spend eternity at either Circuit La Sarthe or the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans. would like to thank Xander Walker for this interview. He is a very talented artist and we can see a very brigh future for him. Please support him by:

Liking his work on Facebook HERE

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