Grigory Bars

Automotive Artists: Grigory Bars

Grigory Butin (aka Grigory Bars) is one of the most gifted automotive artists I’ve seen whilst perusing the Internet. Proportions, color, stance; nearly every piece he creates is amazing. Born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, he was bitten by the creative bug early on. We find out about how he got his start.

Why did you change your name?
My actual name is Grigory Butin, but Grigory Bars is an old nickname that I was given in high school. I don’t exactly remember how I got it, but I still use it. Sometimes I find that my nickname is more known than my real name, and often this creates funny situations ☺

When did you start to draw?
As far as I can remember I’ve always liked to draw. My parents are both architects, so I lived in a very creative atmosphere and they tried to instill creative flair. I showed a craving for music from an early age too and went to private music piano lessons for seven or eight years. For a long time, I thought I would be a musician. However, after I turned 15, I went to art school and this changed everything. There I received academic drawing skills and developed a love for art that helped me a lot later, in university. I remember that time with great warmth.

When did your passion for the automobile start?
From the time I was three years old maybe. As far as I can remember I stared at cars on the streets and from a very young age I knew every marque and every model that I could find in the city. I also read all the car magazines — hundreds of them — and cut out pictures of cars and pasted them into my sketchbooks. I still have several large notebooks as a memory of those old times; I felt a great love for cars, especially old, vintage cars.

When did you know you wanted to become a car designer?
For a long time, I wanted to become an engineer because of my love for different kinds of machines. Later, in the second year of university, I found the portal and was very surprised that many young car designers, like me, increased their own skill level on the forums, because of active feedback and a great desire to design cars. Many of them were taking courses to become automotive designers in the universities of Moscow. So I thought that I should try too. I bought Wacom Intuos 4L that I use to this day! I like to say that this purchase was the most successful and changed everything in my life.

I made friends with many interesting people through that one way or another showed me new sides of this profession. It’s great to see how people cross paths, how they get to achieve their goals in the same or different ways. I very much like to analyze these things, especially in such a small private club of transportation designers, it helps to set priorities and develop your skills.

Where did you study vehicle/transportation design?
I’m an industrial designer by education. It is believed that an industrial designer cannot be a good car designer because of different education and design philosophy. I think it is not true. If you have a feeling of proportions and shape nothing is impossible.

St. Petersburg has no universities that train car designers and going to Moscow was not possible for me, because it was very expensive. So I had a few choices: go to Art and Industry Academy, where they taught industrial design, but with a big artistic inclination, or go to Polytechnical University with an engineering direction of study. I chose the second, because in school I went for a year to preparatory courses in Art and Industry Academy, and there I understood that the academic art component would put a lot of pressure on me. However, since 2014 they now have a transportation design course.

In summer 2014 I finished Saint-Petersburg Polytechnical University with a Bachelor degree in industrial design. But our teachers allowed me to use transport as a theme for the final thesis project. I am grateful that the university helped me to decide who I really wanted to be.

In my third year of university I received an invitation for two-month internship in Art Lebedev Studio in Moscow – it’s one of the most famous and largest design studios in the former CIS. It was a great experience to work in a professional industrial design team. Many of those who work there came from automotive design. I can say that this laid a good foundation for understanding what the design process is and how it really works. Despite this, university almost expelled me for non-attendance ☺

I’m also looking into ways of applying to transportation design course in Germany to receive the master of transportation design certificate. I think it would be very helpful for gaining new skills and knowledge.

What are you doing now?
Right now, I am working for Volkswagen as a designer of commercial vehicles, in Wolfsburg. I’m really happy to finally be here and be a part of a big and interesting design process. I also draw cars and a few personal design projects for a new portfolio. I’m laying the groundwork for the future and connecting with different people that work in the transportation industry. I have a few plans for a further perspective.

Tell me a little about your designs. It seems you prefer exterior design. Why?
I like both – exterior and interior design. They cannot be considered separately if we are talking about a complete car design project. I cannot describe why I chose [to focus on] exterior design. Maybe because I like to see cars outside, admire them. I hope that in the future I’ll have a chance to make an interior design project. Right now almost all interiors of concept cars are awesome. They contain a lot of inspiration.

How do you create your designs? What medium do you enjoy the most?
I mostly use a graphic tablet because it allows a lot of freedom of expression without being tied to a piece of paper. But most of all I use the classic instruments of a designer. I like black pen and markers (Copic or Chartpack).

What do you look at for inspiration when creating your designs?
Usually, it’s classic cars from the 70s and 80s – I think this is the golden age of car design. They outlined the basic philosophy of form, shapes, and proportions. Moreover, it’s the end of the 60s and muscle cars.

Is not a secret to say that iconic people such as Zaha Hadid, Dieter Rams, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Karim Rashid, Giorgetto Giugiaro, Marcello Gandini and Sergio Pininfarina are an inspiration for all designers and car designers in the world, and I am not an exception to this rule.

In architecture, inspiration for me is the Sydney Opera House by Jørn Utzon and Turning Torso Skyscraper by Santiago Calatrava.

From modern designers I can mention Ken Okuyama, Daniel Simon, Chris Bangle and Marc Newson – their work was something special, something that pushed ordinary people, like me, to start doing design. I hope I have the chance to shake hands with some of them.

I was always interested in CG-industry; I have a few friends in game development companies and this direction of creativity and perspective will always be in demand, so I get inspiration and follow news from there too. I always have a few tabs in my browser open to these pages.

I’ve seen a watch and a phone that you’ve designed — what else have you designed?
I’ve done several projects related to industrial design as well as transport. One of them, a luxury-class yacht, is a project I made for myself. Still, it was very interesting. In university, I also made a course project – fast intercity transport that represents an ‘aero train’ concept. By general terms, it is a monorail, with turbines or propellers and two wagons, which can go in both directions like a train. In concept, it could be the best solution for transportation between nearby cities, because it’s cheaper and faster than planes or trains.

On the first and second year of studying in university, I made design projects of office trashcans and a pizza oven. I later worked on small industrial design projects such as heat meter and e-book.

Do you have a favorite car type?
Like every car designer, I love sports cars because there’s a lot of room for creativity and to turn ideas into shape.

Do you have a favorite car?
Yes, but not just one. It’s really difficult to choose one thing because so many beautiful cars were made in the past and I love all of them equally. I’ll just list them: Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTA, Audi Sport Quattro from ‘84, Ferrari 250 GT, BMW 507, Buick Riviera ‘66-‘67, Jaguar E-Type – the first generation of course.

As for old concept cars, it’s the Lancia Stratos Zero, Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale and Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic. However, the Ford GT40 MkII has a special place in my heart. Its shapes, simplicity and design were ahead of its time by 10 years – it’s still beautiful. In university, I even made a big, three-part presentation about the Le Mans history of this car.

What’s in your garage?
I have no driver license 🙂 It costs a lot of money to get it and here, in Braunshweig and Wolfsburg, it’s easier to use public transport. It’s very comfortable and stable, and costs less overall.

Where do you want to work in your career?
I think Germany is creating the main trends for car design in the world right now. It would be interesting to work in Chinese company some time. It’s a really interesting market that no doubt in the future will take an important role in the global automotive industry. This is an interesting country with fresh brands and ideas. Actually, I’ve already had several invitations to work in China, but after the VW interview, I decided that I needed to gain some work experience in transportation design right now.

Do you have a favorite car company?
I don’t think so. Many companies have their own good and bad models and I cannot single out one company. But a few companies I like more than others – Kia, BMW, Audi and Renault.

What is your ultimate goal?
To do something I can be proud of.


Founded in 2012, Form Trends tirelessly covers the automotive design industry in all corners of the globe to bring you exclusive content about cars, design, and the people behind the products.