Automotive Artists > Yoshihiro Inomoto
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From childhood I have marveled at the automotive cutaways created by men like Yoshihiro Inomoto. As a young man I had a poster of a silver 1937 Mercedes-Benz W125 Grand Prix cutaway from Automotive Quarterly (below) and I remember spending hours studying every detail in that image, and marveling at how anyone "human" could produce something so technically detailed and perfect. That poster was the artwork of famed Japanese artist Yoshihiro Inomoto. It was one of the seeds planted deep in my psyche that said: this is the career path that I must take.
I am sure that Mr. Inomoto's work had the same effect on many a young car enthusiast and admirer, so profound was the emotional pull of seeing such beautiful machinery displayed in such a flattering manner. Readers of Automotive Quarterly will certainly be familiar with Yoshihiro's artwork
Yoshihiro Inomoto was born in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan on April 29th, 1932. As a young man, Yoshihiro developed an interest in the aesthetics of automobiles, inspired by the illustration work of Herbert Schlenzig, Walter Gotschke, Max Miller, and Peter Helck.
1937 Mercedes Benz W125 Grand Prix Racer (Zoom)
This led to a fascination with the mechanical workings and technological development of automobiles. Yoshihiro left school during his third year of Junior High and began teaching himself to draw as well as taking a variety of correspondence courses in illustration and design.
1986/1987 Williams FW11B Formula One (Zoom)
With little formal training, Yoshihiro's automotive career began in 1952 at the Toyo Kogyo Co. Ltd (aka Mazda) working in the new-car Designing Division. In 1957 he moved to Nissan's Corporate Advertising Division. After contributing several illustrations to Automobile Quarterly as a sideline, Yoshihiro left Nissan in 1976 to began his freelance illustration career.
1981 Datsun Silhouette Formula IMSA-GTU (Zoom)
Yoshihiro Inomoto is internationally recognized as one of the most renowned automotive illustrators and artists of all time. His automotive illustration career has spanned several decades, and he has amassed an enormous body of work. His images have appeared in every important automotive publication, and he has been a regular contributing artist in Road & Track and Automobile Quarterly. In 1997 Road & Track magazine dubbed him "The Cutaway King".
Yoshihiro was one of the major pioneers in three-dimensional "cutaway" style automotive drawings and illustrations in both pen-and-ink and airbrush style. In 1999, Yoshihiro mounted an extensive exhibition of his original works sponsored by Lexus. These exhibitions debuted at the Hillsborough Concours in Northern California, the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in Monterey, California and at Concours Auto Shows throughout Europe.
1992 Honda RA122 F-1 McLaren Formula One V12 Engine (Zoom)
Yoshihiro was an Honorary Judge at the 49th and 50th annual Hillsborough Concours d'Elegance in 2005 and 2006. Yoshihiro has had several retrospective articles in Car Styling magazine (The Essence of Yoshihiro Inomoto Technical Art) and has published several books - mostly in Japanese. Unfortunately, all of his books are out of print and have now become collector's items.
Bobby Rahal's 1995 Penske PC22 Indy Car (Zoom)
In March of 2007 I had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Inomoto in Tokyo, Japan. Thanks to the generous help of renowned illustrator Yukio Miyamoto, and his friend Mitsuhiko Wakai who acted as our interpreter, I was able to conduct this interview, and gain some unique insight into how Inomoto creates his artwork.
Yoshihiro was self-taught, and as such his illustration techniques are both inventive and unconventional. During our lunch, Yoshihiro gave me a glimpse into his methodology, which is equally infused with his technical know-how, and his very 'Japanese' philosophy on life.
Working on paper, Yoshihiro starts out with a loose freehand sketch of the car's exterior body and gradually tightens it up as he progresses. To familiarize himself with the construction and layout of a particular vehicle, Yoshihiro will draw a set of scale plans to determine the correct size and positioning of each component.
Many of the vintage cars that Yoshihiro has drawn cannot be disassembled in order to create the illustration. Additionally, due to the secretive nature of Formula 1 racing teams, certain proprietary engine or chassis details may be withheld - even when the artist is hired by the factory team. When it is not possible to visibly observe certain chassis, engine and transmission components, or obtain photographic reference for their internal workings, Yoshihiro will rely on his vast knowledge of automotive mechanics to literally 'create' those parts.
Since Yoshihiro starts with only his imagination and his loose freehand sketches, the illustration is not necessarily and exact "copy" of the original subject, but more an 'impression' of what the car is or should be. He will also take liberties to enhance the visual appeal of the illustration: "If I feel the car is powerful, the engine may be a little larger than reality, or if the brakes are very good, I will draw them a fraction bigger or exaggerate their appearance. Consequently, my drawings always contain the feeling I have for the car"
Rough freehand pencil studies are done for the chassis, interior, and various details of the car. All of these individual detail drawings are re-drawn to increasingly exacting standards. Using registration marks as a guide, Yoshihiro then transfers each individual sketch into a final line construction drawing on paper, which is then mounted onto illustration board to be painted.
Ferrari 1948 V12 Pencil Studies (Line Construction)
Duesenberg Engine Pencil Studies (Zoom: Line Construction)
Painting the Final Art
I was amazed to learn that Yoshihiro does not use an airbrush to pain his final art. Using a paintbrush and acrylic paints, he meticulously creates all of the fine gradations, including the exterior sheet-metal. The end results transcend the world of commercial art, becoming fine artworks that are indicative of the machine-age era. With all of his talent, Yoshihiro has remained humble, describing himself as an "amateur," something with which I am sure we can all disagree.
1992 Porsche 956 (Zoom)
1931 Alfa Romeo 8C-2300 Monza (Zoom)
1978 Datsun 280ZX (Zoom)
Bugatti EB110S Poster Art (Zoom)
Today, Yoshihiro lives in Chiba, Japan where he continues to works at the craft that he helped to create several decades ago. Yoshihiro has adapted to digital illustration, using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to create some amazing cutaway art, but he prefers to work in the traditional manner to maintain his unique style. He also teaches, lectures, and writes poetry.
Digital Illustration of Honda Motorcycle
Surprisingly, Yoshihiro does not own a car, but does ride his two motorcycles, a 1970s Harley Davidson Sportster, and 1980s BMW R65, which he works on himself. Although he is well into his 70s, he still enjoys long-distance solo rides, sometimes covering 800 kilometers in a single day.
If at all possible, try to find a copy of one of Yoshihiro Inomoto's books. Due to the inherent limitations of web graphics, the images I have presented on this page do not do his beautiful work justice. Every now and then, his books do become available on Ebay or at car shows. If you are a fan of automotive cutaways, Yoshihiro's books are a "must have." Unfortunately, his books are out of print at this time, but they do occasionally appear on Ebay.
This article was created with the generous help of Yukio Miyamoto who met with Mr. Inomoto and gathered most of the images and information contained herein.
Inomoto Technical Art, 1999 Exhibition Retrospective
Automotive Illustration (Japanese Version)
Yoshihiro Inomoto Book - Automobile Illustration
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