Windows to the Past

Believe it or not, this is a painting. Artist Lance Lowther painted it for Mike Gully of Gully Transportation who commissioned it as a gift for his father.

Every trucking company has a story to tell, and Lance Lowther can tell it without saying a single word.

The 62-year-old from Ontario, Canada, uses a paintbrush to convey the history of trucking companies on 24-by-30-inch canvases.

“I find the same story over and over,” Lowther says. “Most started with a rusted old truck and no money.”

A lot of companies had difficult times starting out but don’t have a visual record of their progress, he says, and they want art as clear as a photograph to recapture some of their past.
“They have a real passion to see their life captured on a canvas,” he says.

Lowther weaves history and locations from the company’s past into a single canvas. When a painting is contracted, he and his wife Esther travel to visit the owner and spend hours listening to stories of how he started his company – from the first truck to every minor detail that would help capture a moment in time.

“I listen to the mechanical elements,” Lowther says. “She listens to the human elements.”
After the visit, Lowther and his wife talk about the direction they both think the painting should go and the elements it should include.

“I can’t really get enthused until I actually see the location and feel the atmosphere,” Lowther says.

He takes photographs and even builds models if the requested location no longer exists to ensure complete accuracy in his paintings.

The owners initially have a mental wall up, Lowther says, but after his visit they realize what he can do. “When these fellows see themselves in a painting, they just go bonkers,” he says. “It touches a lot of emotions.”

Lowther’s talent with a brush started early and came naturally. At age 2, his mother caught him drawing cars while in his high chair. Both his grandmother and mother were artists, and his mother taught him to paint. By the time he was 8, his mother had worked him into oil paintings.

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“Trains, cars, trucks – anything with a motor in it – is what I loved,” Lowther says.
He learned about composition and perspective from a home course through the Minneapolis School of Art, then found work painting signs and lettering trucks. He painted trains on the side for fun.

“I lettered trucks to keep food on the table,” Lowther says. “Before the computer came out, everything had to be done by hand.”

He was discovered in 1987 when the owner of Southwestern Express saw some of his railway work and commissioned a painting of his new Kenworth.

Then, while attending a 1992 convention of fleet owners in Ontario to display his work, he was surrounded by owners that wanted him to paint their story.

“Sometimes I had 50 men around me wanting me to take their card,” Lowther says. “People want to see their vehicles.”

His reputation spread from there. “There are a lot of people with the passion and need someone to capture it,” says Lowther.

Lowther paints approximately five paintings a year. With research and careful detailing, he spends two to three months completing each painting, working in his small studio from 7 a.m. until suppertime.

When a painting is complete, he delivers the $10,000 work of art in person because he likes to be there when it is unveiled to see the look on the owner’s face, he says.

Prints of Lowther’s work have been made into collector plates, mini-prints and magnets, and a calendar of his truck paintings is in the works.

He had to track down his first three paintings to get pictures of them, and now he says, “I don’t let a painting out of my sight without getting a picture of it.”

In his Gully Transportation painting, commissioned by Michael Gully for his father Bill, each road sign was painted to specific detail.

“I cut masking tape into hairs under a microscope to mask it off to get perfectly straight writing in miniature,” Lowther says. Gully called him to say that he couldn’t believe the detail.

In this painting, Bill Gully is driving his son through an intersection. The big rig is even passing a blue Chevrolet half-ton that is an exact replica of Bill’s first truck.

“It’s not just any intersection,” Lowther says. “It means a lot to him. You never know what people want. I put all the elements together and make them harmonize.”

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