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 Vic Carless  (1929 - 2011)

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Lived/Active: England      Known for: realist paintings of planes, automobiles and trains

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Ad Code: 4
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Following is the obituary of the artist published in the The Telegraph, London, September 4, 2011.

Vic Carless, who has died aged 83, was one of Britain’s foremost artists of planes, trains and automobiles.

He was best known, however, as a marine artist, and produced paintings of some of the world’s most lavish, some would say gaudy, superyachts, for owners such as the Sultan of Brunei, Donald Trump, Adnan Khashoggi or Steven Spielberg.

A keen sailor himself, though at a more modest level with the South Staffs Sailing Club, Carless was introduced to the rarefied world of the superyacht by the noted Australian yacht designer Jon Bannenberg.

He commissioned Carless to produce sketches from the earliest stages of each design, and as a result Carless was often involved in concept discussions before presenting finished artwork to influential clients.

His success in the field was in part due to his ability to work within a very rapid time frame, but also in his skill at reading both the technical drawings produced by boatyards and the sketches of designers themselves, translating their intentions into fluent depictions of finished vessels and their surrounding landscapes.

Vic Carless was born in Walsall on January 13 1928, the son of Wilfred Carless, a toolsetter, and Violet Madeline. Vic left school at 15, becoming an apprentice in a commercial art studio shortly after the war. There he specialized in car and aviation illustration before moving in the early 1950s to London, where he was greatly influenced by the Frank Wootton, renowned as the finest artist of the RAF.

Carless worked extensively for the car industry, producing posters and brochures for Hillman, Humber, Triumph, Sunbeam, MG, Austin and Morris, as well as for motorcycle manufacturers such as Royal Enfield and Norton. He also created posters for the aircraft-maker Hawker Siddeley.

He returned to the Midlands in 1956, initially working for Osman Webb and then setting up his own studio on the edge of Birmingham’s industrial jewellery quarter in the 1960s. He remained in demand for transport illustration, and worked in the Middle East for Metro-Cammell trains. In 1966 he was commissioned for a series of aviation paintings for the Pakistan Air force and travelled to Peshawar and to the Khyber Pass to produce them.
In the 1970s, however, commercial illustration increasingly came to be replaced by colour photography, and Carless focused more on graphic design and layout. From this time he became interested in typography, and was strongly influenced by the Swiss school of International Typography, with its emphasis on legibility or readability.

In 1973 he won the Letraset International Typeface competition for designing the font Shatter, which is an adaptation of the Helvetica font. Carless’s idea was to create a sense of action and movement (a legacy from his earlier depiction of transport), but to retain the clarity of the Helvetica design, with each individual character easily identifiable. It remains popular to this day.

During the building boom of the 1980s Carless switched his attention to architectural perspective illustration, and two of his paintings were exhibited in the 1988 Royal Academy Summer show in the Architecture gallery – one commissioned by Michael Horden and the other by Foster Associates.

Carless remained a very modest and self-possessed artist, and continued to take on high profile commissions even into his eighties. Largely self-taught, he continued to look to artists like Wootton for “flicks of fluency” that animated his paintings; he never used computer technology.

Vic Carless, who died on August 28, is survived by his wife Hilda and three children.


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