At first glance, watching a gifted painter take any vehicle – be it a car, pickup truck or big rig – and turn it into a “mobile canvass” of sorts for displaying their unique artistic vision is nothing unusual in the commercial equipment world.
Yet a chance conversation with Jamaal Lamaaj at the 2017 Washington Auto Show – a painter who describes himself as a “visual artist” – revealed some interesting insight into why transforming motor vehicles into “mobile cavasses” can be an important endeavor for any painter.
“It’s not so much about the painting or the process,” he told me while inscribing image of The Joker and The Incredible Hulk upon the hood of a MINI Cooper compact car.
“It’s about using anything, any medium, to push your creativity farther,” Lamaaj said. “This is only the second year I’ve painted vehicles – the first I ever did it was at last year’s  auto show. Doing something like this helps broaden my range because it poses challenges to me that I must overcome.”
Those “challenges” include the “uneven” surfaces created by the rolling curves of a vehicle’s exterior surfaces (in main, curves used to improve aerodynamic performance), the often-constricted spaces on body panels and doors that are usually hard to reach (especially when painting by hand, which is Lamaaj’s specialty), as well as how to tie painting and vehicle together into a unified image.
In the case of the MINI Cooper, Lamaaj explained that the combined Joker/Hulk image came to him after ruminating on one of the car company’s slogans, “Drive big.”
He told me the image of The Hulk reflected the vehicle’s “big attitude” while The Joker served as a reminder that while many observers might feel such a vehicle’s claim to “bigness” might be farcical in many ways, it would be best not to dismiss it as “a joke” in any way.
“It’s a duality; an almost night and day image of expression,” Lamaaj noted.
And finding that type of artistic “connection” and then illustrating it though his painting – painting it all freehand, using only images of The Joker and The Hulk displayed on his cell phone as a visual guide – is what Lamaaj said he’s after in his work.
“I’d dangle hundreds of feet in the air to paint the side of a building; show me the challenge and I’ll take it,” Lamaaj told me, noting that he’s been an artist since age six, when he started coloring the walls and couch in his mother’s home.
“It’s about showing what’s possible with art.”