Get Your Motor Running

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Using the master medium of watercolor, local artist Dana Forrester, creates revved up conversations from his one-of-kind paintings.

Story by Ann Butenas   |   Cover image: “Little GTO”

Renowned local artist, Dana Forrester was all of 11 or 12 years old when he first fell in love, and he recalls that auspicious moment with extreme lucidity.

“I was sitting in the back seat of my Dad’s Chevy when it hit me,” he reminisced, referring to the butterflies in his stomach as he first laid eyes on the beauty: a 1966 red Corvette, which left him weak in the knees yet inspired to one day own such a collectible. Fast forward to 1987, and Forrester was finally behind the wheel of that first love.

“Katz on the Corner”

“I got the exact model I wanted,” he reflected, referring to how many times over the years whenever it was his birthday, he would tell his parents he wanted that car. That wish, however, always seemed to land upon deaf ears. Besides, it was financially out of reach at the time. Even though it took nearly a quarter of a century for him to embrace his dream, it was well worth the wait. Since that first acquisition of his dream car, Forrester has purchased a few more of the years and currently owns two of them and is actively involved with various Corvette Clubs.

Around the time he purchased his first Corvette is when the magic really happened. What some might refer to as a stroke of luck, was literally a stroke of genius, as he successfully married his passion for cars with his love of painting to forge a second career for himself. This Independence, Missouri resident spent the early part of his career as an art teacher at Fort Osage High School for 15 years. When it was time to leave the classroom, though, retirement was out of the question.

“The Silver Bullet”

“Why should I retire?” mused the Truman State University graduate with a degree in Art Education and additional graduate studies from the Kansas City Art Institute. “I’m an artist!”

Taking a cue from his brick wall series of watercolor paintings that he inspired in the mid-seventies and for which he has won numerous Regional and National Awards for their unique weathered and layered advertising signs painted on brick walls, Forrester decided to translate his passion into a second career.

“I left teaching in 1987, when I bought my first Corvette,” he recalled. “At the time, my art was in the form of advertisements on brick walls. Several people encouraged me to put the two together. So, I painted one and then it just kind of took off from there.”

Several automobile catalogues picked up his series and began showcasing them, which led to a broader stage that included several wholesale accounts with catalogues and museums, as well as a host of commissioned work. He continued to highlight his theme of brick buildings and advertising while using the collector Corvette cars as the primary subject matter of his art.

“Lucky on Top”

“I do a lot of commission work, which comprises about 40%-60% of my business,” Forrester noted.

Forrester can work from painting of a customer’s car and place it in a meaningful location, such as the original sales dealership, a favorite drive-in or diner, or even in front of one’s home or business. As an award-winning and highly acclaimed watercolor artist, Forrester has painted countless custom watercolor paintings for a cornucopia of car enthusiasts. His list of major collectors is as long as it is wide and includes The Hallmark Cards Collection, The Yellow Freight Collection, The National Corvette Museum, Wichita Art Museum, retired NBA player Scott Wedman, former race car driver Bob Johnson and an appreciable amount of his work even hangs in places half-way around the world.

Forrester will admit he did have a few naysayers in the beginning, but his confidence in his unique craft was enough to drown out those negative voices. After the release of his inaugural painting all those years ago, his career went into full throttle and Forrester finds himself painting with unwavering enthusiasm every single day from his in-home studio.

“Some people told me I couldn’t do this, but I knew I wanted to be different –– not better, just different than a traditional watercolor artist,” he emphasized. “It’s the subject that makes the difference, as well as the attention to detail I put into them.”

“The Old Reliable” 

For example, every brick Forrester paints in, each piece is painted at least two times individually to build up the texture and allow for that weathered paint effect, almost giving it a photograph-like essence. It is definitely born of painstaking effort, but Forrester wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s definitely a challenge, and one original painting can take up to 150 hours of work, but I don’t see it as a job. This is what motivates me. When I get a painting to a certain level and all of the elements work, then it begins to pop and my adrenalin begins to flow. I can’t stop at that point,” he smiled.

In addition to selling original works of art, Forrester also offers print versions. While in the past he sold his prints in off-set lithograph form, he now provides them using Giclée Printing, a high-quality ink jet printing process and can easily print them on demand. In addition to his car series, Forrester also paints various architectural scenes and has begun a wine series.

So, is retirement ever on the horizon, or will we continue to see exciting new masterpieces at the hands of this visionary artist?

“I will paint until I no longer can,” he said. “I like to be challenged every day.”


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