Combining his love for cars and racing with his passion for graphic design, Steven Dahlen creates some of the most iconic and original motorsport-inspired artwork we’ve seen. Recently, he designed a series of striking t-shirts for Motul USA.
You’ve designed some t-shirts for Motul USA. Can you tell us more about this project?
In 2019 I was at the Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta. I was introduced to someone at Motul and I had an opportunity to show some of the racing artwork I’d been producing. Afterwards, someone from Motul contacted me about designing some t-shirts for upcoming promotions.
What Motul promotions and events were the t-shirts for?
Some of them were to tie in with events. The one for Pfaff was for the partnership between Motul and Pfaff. And the Motul Nation t-shirt was part of a marketing project to expand its online presence through the hashtag #motulnation. I also did one for the V-Twin motorcycle oil. I think it was a combination of them liking the style of artwork as well as my involvement with motorsports.
Could you talk us through the process of creating these t-shirts?
They came to me with some initial concepts. For Motul Nation, it was very similar to a piece of art I’d done a few years earlier for Porsche. It was an overhead view that used graphic stripes to show speed. The idea of it was to cover as much of the different types of racing that Motul is involved in, everything from karts to Le Mans cars.
How long is your drawing process?
That’s hard to say for the Motul t-shirts, but for something like the caravan in Yosemite, that took three or four days. That one was a birthday present for my wife. She bought that trailer for herself and we took it on a camping trip.
Your style is very graphic and distinctive. Could you describe it?
I’ve been doing car and racing art for several years, sometimes for professional race teams and sometimes for commissions. I’m a graphic designer by training. My work is not like fine art. It doesn’t have a lot of detail. But it’s enough to discern your subject matter in a graphic style. It’s adaptable. Most of my art that you might see online are profile views, which are very graphic in nature. But some of it is more subtle.
Why cars and motorsports? Has this been a life-long passion?
Oh yeah. I’ve been into cars and motorsports my whole life. My dad was into cars, too. I started out racing in karts. I didn’t do a lot of racing myself, but I did get involved in showroom stock and Formula Ford. It’s always been an attraction for me. I’ve lost count of the number of races I’ve been to. My ambition was to be a driver, but it’s a tough nut to crack. I started taking an interest in art when I was seven, and then I went to the American Academy of Art after high school.