Benny Maxwell is a car designer with a difference. He’ll take a stock car and give it a render or livery that makes it look like nothing you’re likely to have seen before. The native Australian now lives in Japan where he runs Axesent, a custom design studio. We gave him a call to discover the stories behind his designs.
Benny, what can you tell us about Axesent?
Axesent is an auto art studio primarily. I specialise in project intent renders for cars and bikes, from basic modifications to complete custom builds or race liveries. Seeing your project on paper doesn’t usually turn out how you expected it would in your mind’s eye. So, it’s our job to listen to what you have to say and translate that into intent renders. Renders add a lot of interest to the project and keeps everyone motivated and focused. They’re also a strong promotional tool for seeking investors and sponsorship. Between jobs I mostly produce both fantasy and real motorsport art for our online shop. We render anything from boats and bicycles to trains and aircraft.
How did you get into custom design? Have you always been a car fan?
I grew up in Australia during the 80s and I’d spend a lot of time in my father’s workshop. My dad and brother were really into cars and I guess it rubbed off on me. There was never a shortage of custom car magazines around the house. My brother is older than me so there was always a car project in the works. From an early age, I’d always be drawing cars but becoming a custom car designer/auto artist came a while later, after I studied graphic design modules and mastered the needed software.
What’s your secret to creating a great custom design?
Attention to detail, keeping it clean and simple, and paying special attention to the aesthetics that the vehicle already has. I will generally render a base stock vehicle and mess with it for a few days. I can never envision the finished product in my head, but I can begin to picture the outcome as I create a basis for the render. I enjoy creating my own ideas, because there are no constraints, but transferring a client’s ideas into the render always means a lot of amendments to get it exactly how they envision it. That’s possibly the hardest part, but also the most fulfilling.
If you had to name just one project that stands out, what is it?
My favourite project so far was a livery design for XDrift industries in Australia. They were a brilliant client who really made me feel part of the team. Their vehicle is an Australian Ford XD Falcon that they compete with in the Australian Hi-Tec Drift All Stars PRO Series.
What’s your design process?
My process is usually rendering a base vehicle in side profile, then adding lines and marking points of interest that could be improved aesthetically and work well with the original shape. I’ll often do a lot of sketching before I start rendering. I need to see the car in a side profile before I render any other angle.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
My inspiration for race liveries is 100% 70s and 80s motorsport culture, with a bit of 90s. For custom design, the inspiration comes from all over. I love cars in general, so I will take bits and pieces from anything like low riders to Australian muscle cars, or JDM culture to the Euro scene. Not focusing on just one genre is always helpful. But I think there’s always a big percentage of Japanese style in all of my ideas.
Who are your customers?
I have clients all over the world. From custom car and bike shops to private commissions: lots of people want renders done of cars they used to own. It’s great to be able to produce an artwork to immortalise their vehicle. We often work with ThrottleWorks in Idaho, USA, and we’re now currently working with Workhorse Speed Shop in Belgium. We also render cars for Monze skateboards in Australia, among others.
Tell us about your renders with Motul liveries
In my spare time I love rendering my own ideas, especially quirky cars that don’t necessarily spring to mind when you hear "custom car". Motul always springs to mind because it’s an oil that I’ve used often in motorcycles and cars over the years, so it often finds its way onto my own personal livery designs. The JTCC Motul Civic is not my own design, but it’s a perfect classic livery from the 80s.
What’s in your garage?
A garage is something I wish I had! They aren’t so common in Japan, but at the moment I drive a 03 VW Lupo GTI. I love all cars, but I’m very much a VW fan.