Artist paints detailed picture of automotive history

David Snyder isn’t just an artist, he’s a storyteller. And his stories include some awfully colorful language (that’s a compliment).

From “(GM) Motorama 1953” to his latest completed project, “Feeding the Herd,” Snyder paints a detailed and entertaining picture — pun intended — of car life in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

“For me, it’s not just about the cars but the entire car scene,” Snyder said. “It’s the gas stations, the auto-show sets, the people. It’s a snapshot of the day, as opposed to cars sitting in a field somewhere.”

From automobiles to railroads to aviation, Snyder has always had an interest in transportation, and from an early age his creations reflected that.

“I can remember sitting on the floor at 6 years old, drawing pictures of cars,” said the Cincinnati native. “I spent a lot of time drawing instead of studying. I always wanted to be an artist.”

Snyder followed his dream, eventually studying graphic design and working 22 years as an advertising artist and art director. He also did freelance illustration work on the side, and when a client asked him to begin illustrating automobiles in the early 1990s, the seed was planted for A few years later, it became a reality.

“And I’ve never looked back,” he said.

Deciding which cars and scenes are featured in his paintings is “more market driven than anything else,” Snyder said. And more often than not they include American muscle cars from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, which is just fine with him.

“Those were the hot cars when I was in high school, so I enjoy painting those,” Snyder said. “But I also enjoy everything else that goes into it, like the signage, the architecture of the service stations and what’s going on in the scene — people in conversation, kids on their bicycles, a mechanic working in the garage. I want people to look at it and hear the ‘ding-ding’ when a car pulls in for gas.”

Integrating those kinds of details takes time. A lot of it. That’s why Snyder only generates six paintings a year.

“I want everything in the scene to be as accurate and true to life as the cars,” Snyder said. “So I do a lot of research. I have old photos and books; my library grows almost every day. I put 300 to 450 hours into every painting.”

Of the 100 or more automobile-focused paintings that Snyder has created, his favorite is still his first: “Motorama 1953,” which features a full line of colorful GM cars from that model year. Of course, it tells a story, appearing to take place before the auto show doors have been opened to the public. A television reporter and cameraman have the floor practically to themselves as they prepare for a broadcast.

“That one has a lot of cars and is very involved,” Snyder said. “Those are the most exciting to create.”

Snyder’s “stories” certainly seem to strike a chord.

“I’ll be at a show and someone will walk by and see a print, and they’ll start telling me their memories,” Snyder said. “It’s great to hear their stories and suggestions for other paintings. I’m happy that people like what I do.”

To see more of Snyder’s artwork, visit

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