Reverend Adam Gompertz

Automotive Artists: Reverend Adam Gompertz

Today is Christmas Day, and while the festive season is a time to kick back and enjoy the company of family and friends whilst unwrapping gifts, it’s also important to remember the religious significance of this day. And so we bring you the work of Adam Gompertz, who traded in a career in transportation design to become a minister for the Church of England…

Adam Gompertz graduated from Coventry University’s transportation design program and immediately went to work for MG Rover as an exterior designer. Unfortunately that role didn’t last too long — the company shut its doors in 2004 and was later sold to Chinese bidders — so he joined Design Storz just 10 months later.

Over the course of his decade long career, Gompertz worked as an automotive and yacht designer, passing through Dubois Naval Architects and later lecturing at Coventry University while working various freelance roles. He even did a stint at Rolls-Royce’s Bespoke Design department.

But those days are over.

In 2011 he decided to become a Church of England minister and began training to become a vicar. He is now curate in Lichfield diocese, but his love of cars and design has never waned…

“I am a lover of many things automotive and of a creator God, who delights in creation and beauty,” Gompertz says as he explains the reasons for creating his new Facebook page to showcase his automotive artwork. “This page is a way of combining the two, giving thanks to my creator and enjoying the process of creation.”

We had a chat with Reverend Gompertz to find out a bit more about him and his work.

Where are you from?
I am from the UK and grew up in Northampton. I have lived in quite a lot of places, both during my time as a designer and during the course of training for being a priest. My wife and I say we probably have one more move in us then it would actually be nice to settle down somewhere.

When did you know you wanted to be a designer?
I think I wanted to be car designer from when I first had recognition of just how cool cars were, so probably at about four or five years old. There have been people in my life that were helpful in making it more concrete. A close family friend managed an Aston Martin dealership, and he certainly made a big impact on me. I worked for an Aston Martin Restoration Specialist (as a glorified tea boy really) and that was an incredible experience. My wife too, graciously supported me in my fairly late entry in to car design education.

When did you start to draw?
Since I was a small child, first aeroplanes then cars. My parents are both lovers of drawing and painting and I think they got concerned that the only thing I drew were cars. My passion for drawing and cars went together really. And I always wanted to design cars.

Did you study vehicle/transportation design directly?
No, my route to college design education was quite long and torturous. I trained originally as a psychiatric nurse, then after that I worked for this guy who restored old Astons. After some degree of soul searching, praying and generally trying to build up a portfolio of stuff, I applied to Coventry University and became a car design student at the age of 27.

Thinking about it, I am struck again by the other people who helped make it all happen really. There were many who, in large or small ways, kept my interest stirred, encouraged me to apply, supported me when I finally did apply, those who were good enough to offer feedback on my work and those who prayed with me. It’s been a journey.

Did Coventry help you get the job offer at MG?
In some ways yes, because I first got experience at MG Rover through a university placement there back in 2003. It was a place I had wanted to go to for a long time. I was a fan of British cars and of Rover, my Dad owned one and I have owned three.

[They’re] perhaps not the most obvious cars that car designers love, but the old P5b coupe and the SD1 Vitesse were cars I loved as a kid. I really liked Richard Woolley’s work on the 600 and 75 as well. So as a student I had a great placement and when a job came up during my graduation year I applied and was fortunate enough to get it.

Why did you leave MG? Was it because the company shut its doors in 2004 and was later sold to Chinese bidders?

That’s exactly it. It had been a really difficult time for the whole design team, working hard to show the potential Chinese partners what we could do. As design teams go, it was a very small one, but a very talented one.

When I was there as a student I was really fortunate to be involved in live projects. I had a great mentor and I got to see that there was a real passion to make something of the brand by all involved in the design. It was a sad week in 2005 as we watched it all come to an end. So much talent and hard work seemingly wasted. Yet it’s good to see some of that team still together and doing good stuff under the new MG banner.

How did you start working at Design Storz?

I had been offered a job there at the time I started at MG Rover and I chose Rover. Rather cheekily I went back to Achim Storz when Rover closed and he was good enough to offer me the job again even though it was a year later. And my wife was good enough to agree to pack up and move to Austria, even though she was five months pregnant with our second child.

I enjoyed a lot of the work there because of the variety of projects we had, from cars to tractors. Indeed a tractor was the first project I worked on that went into production. Not what I expected when I started at design college, but it was a great project. They were a good team as well. It opened my eyes to a much wider world.

What led you to make the switch into yacht design with Dubois Naval Architects?
As a family we came to the decision to move back to the UK after three years in Austria, but there were no car design jobs going at the time. So I decided to look at yacht design as a possible alternative.

Ed Dubois and his team took me on after a couple of interviews, which was a brave decision for them, because I had never even set foot on a large sailing boat. They were a team who used computer programs such as AutoCad and suddenly there was a designer with strange smelling marker pens and sketchpads putting sketches up all over the walls. The marker pens were particularly testing for them, they used to have to open the windows a lot to get fresh air.

I enjoyed working there, even though it was a short time, and it’s one of my saddest moments of my career having to be let go from there because of the recession. However, it did lead to time spent as a visiting lecturer at Coventry University, and then to a job at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, so some good came out of it.

What compels you to create your vehicle-based artwork? Where do you find your inspiration?

As a Christian I believe in a God, who creates and loves beauty, so that’s my primary inspiration, it’s what drives me. Then other people have also been a source of inspiration. As a design student, I would be forever looking at the sketches of design professionals, hoping to learn something of their talent and skill. That’s a really good thing to do, spend time looking at sketches and then sketching under their inspiration.

I always think that learning things like Photoshop is great, but sketching on paper is still the primary skill, it’s still the real skill to master. So I would spend free time sketching, sketching and sketching. I still do, even when in church meetings, or planning services and sermons. There is always a sketchpad close by. It’s a great way of taking a break.

I get inspired by all the usual designer things — planes, architecture, Sci-Fi, watches, bikes, films. But nature too is a great inspiration. Again, being a Christian, I have a sense of an ultimate designer being the source of natural design, so it forms part of my inspiration.

And as I look back, it’s the people who I have been fortunate enough to meet who have also been an inspiration, people at Coventry University, MG Rover, Design Storz, Dubois, Rolls-Royce. So much design appears to be about competing against others, but I have found that the people I worked with were often the thing that inspired me a lot.

There are so many unsung heroes of the design world, people who don’t get their names in the car magazines, but have all the talent, skill, and dedication. Learning from people like them was a great inspiration. There are so many of them.

What are you hoping to accomplish through your Facebook page?

Ideally, long term it would be great to sell work, and one day have a tent at somewhere like the Goodwood Festival of Speed selling work. It also combines with my calling as a priest, being able to be a blessing and serve people.

I love the idea of communities; so being alongside other car lovers is great. Each one has their own story of why they love cars, and that’s always very interesting. Part of being a priest is sharing in people’s stories, and having my own story to tell, which just happens to include cars and yachts and Jesus.

Visit Reverend Gompertz’s Facebook page, Revs-Art, to see more of his work.

Merry Christmas!


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