The name Mark Cur­ran will be fa­mil­iar to long-time read­ers of NZPC, be­ing that he spent eight years work­ing at the coal­face pro­duc­ing this very magazine, but, these days, you’ll find him run­ning Pixelsaurus, an on­line base-liv­ery de­sign and vec­tor-tem­plate stu­dio. His art­work has been em­bla­zoned on cars in nearly ev­ery arena of New Zealand mo­tor­sport — even at one time nearly half of the D1NZ field, and many driv­ers aboard, in­clud­ing in the Su­per­cars Cham­pi­onship. So, what makes this wizard of the Wacom pen tick? We sit down to find out what goes into a de­sign and sneak a few tips for those bud­ding de­sign­ers out there.

NZPC: Hi, Mark. First, can you in­tro­duce your­self to the read­ers?

I’m Mark Cur­ran. I run Pixelsaurus Lim­ited, a graphic, web and mo­tor­sport de­sign com­pany based here in Auck­land. I also spe­cialise in cre­at­ing and sell­ing ren­dered vec­tor tem­plates via my on­line store at pxl­srs.com

What are some of the teams you have worked with that read­ers might rec­og­nize your work for?

Prob­a­bly quite a few — the likes of Ben Wilkin­son, Brad Smith, TJM [Team Jenk­ins Mo­tor­sport]; and I’ve done quite a few for Gaz Whiter over the years. In 2012/’13, I had up­wards of 25 liv­er­ies in the D1NZ field, as well as [in] V8 Su­perTour­ers, GT cars, and [on] in­ter­na­tional drift cars as well.

How long have you been de­sign­ing go-fast art for?

Since about 2005. I’ve been work­ing full time as a graphic de­signer for 15 years, eight of those work­ing at Park­side / NZPer­for­manceCar … with the likes of your­self [ed. Mar­cus], Peter Kelly, Brad [Lord; for­mer NZPC ed.], and Gray [Lynskey; for­mer news ed­i­tor].

Where did your in­ter­est in and pas­sion for mo­tor­sport come from?

I grew up around speed­way, and both my brother and I raced karts. I also got out to race­tracks to watch rac­ing all the time.

In those younger years, was that pas­sion just about the rac­ing or was the in­ter­est in liv­er­ies a part of it, even back then?

It sort of came af­ter­wards, but I do re­mem­ber play­ing with Mi­crosoft Paint and tak­ing photos of cars and play­ing around chang­ing colours, etc. But, dur­ing uni and the first few years of work­ing, it be­gan with a few mates of mates — ‘Hey, I have a race car, and you draw cars, can you draw me a liv­ery?’ My first big break was An­gus Fogg’s LG liv­ery for his NZ V8 [car], when one of his team mem­bers worked with me at the time. It’s al­ways been friends of friends; ob­vi­ously, I now have the Face­book page and In­sta­gram [ac­count], which helps the in­ter­na­tional side of things, but word of mouth has al­ways been key.

So, what do you think of that LG liv­ery, look­ing back on it now?

Look­ing back at it, I def­i­nitely wouldn’t do it the same way [now]. It was heav­ily brand dic­tated, and it did suit the style of the car, but if I was to do it now, it would be much dif­fer­ent.

How dif­fer­ent are the pro­grammes you were us­ing then com­pared with now?

It’s es­sen­tially the same process as it was 12 years ago, just much more re­fined. I wouldn’t say [that] it’s any eas­ier. It’s ac­tu­ally very hard to not end up do­ing the same thing over and over again and … [pro­duc­ing] that cookie-cut­ter look that you see so of­ten — [I’m] just try­ing to do some­thing unique, some­thing that suits the car and that suits the brands.

Where are you pulling your in­spi­ra­tion and ideas for liv­er­ies from?

A lot of it is what I like to call the ‘Ken Block ef­fect’ — ev­ery time [that] he comes out with a new gymkhana car or video, it seems to dic­tate what peo­ple want for the next 12 months, which is a mas­sive pain, be­cause you don’t want to copy what has al­ready been done, but you cer­tainly do take styling cues from those re­ally big guys. [You have to] … look back at retro liv­er­ies, Nascar, V8 Su­per­cars, and just [try] … to com­bine el­e­ments and come up with some­thing com­pletely unique.

Who are some of the big names in the liv­ery game that you look up to?

Guys like Nick Moss and Peter Hughes over in Aus­tralia, who do a lot of the V8 Su­per­cars de­signs, Andy Black­more in the US and Berz­erk De­sign from Ger­many. Also the likes of Clint Bridger and Granger De­sign over here, who have been do­ing New Zealand’s iconic liv­er­ies for some time, at the same time hav­ing a lot of re­spect for An­drew at AWS Graph­ics and Richard at RA Graph­ics, guys who are your ‘com­peti­tors’ but you work with and chat to most weeks.

Is there a race se­ries that you re­ally hope to see one of your pieces in that you haven’t yet — per­haps For­mula 1 (F1)?

Not so much F1, be­cause those are very man­u­fac­turer-based things, but you get some, like the Re­nault F1, which is a re­ally good-look­ing car, as it so far away from the brand, un­like the likes of Fer­raris and Mercedes, which … are a red car or a sil­ver car and just an evo­lu­tion from the pre­vi­ous year. I have had cars in V8 Su­per­cars al­ready, and in all top forms here, but get­ting one into Nascar would be a dream.

When you go to the race­track now as both a race fan but also liv­ery de­signer, are you able to sep­a­rate the two and sim­ply en­joy the rac­ing without cri­tiquing all the art­work?

You learn to live with it. In those early years, when I was do­ing so many D1 liv­er­ies, … [there] was quite a bit of anonymity, as ev­ery­thing was over email and over the phone. But it was great to go to the track and ac­tu­ally see your work in real life.

When you’re de­sign­ing a new liv­ery, are you a pen-to-paper type of guy, or is ev­ery­thing straight into the vec­tor tem­plate?

Most of the teams I work with al­ready have a main spon­sor and a fair idea of what the brand is go­ing to be on the car, so I usu­ally just start straight on one of my tem­plates that I build.

Can you walk us through the process when some­one com­mis­sions a new liv­ery?

First ques­tions I ask are, who are your spon­sors, and what colour scheme do you have in mind? Most peo­ple al­ready know, or they have a favourite colour [that] they have al­ways raced with. Then I try and judge what sort of liv­ery they are af­ter based on a few ques­tions about the styles they like, and build in it from there.

How many hours would you say go into a typ­i­cal liv­ery, from con­cept to de­liv­er­ing the files to the sign­writer?

Most are pretty quick these days. It would prob­a­bly be three to four hours, if I don’t have to cre­ate the tem­plate first. At the mo­ment, that’s the part that takes the most time, es­pe­cially if they don’t have photos [that] you can use to draw the car [from].

So, is that where the tem­plate side of Pixelsaurus comes from?

Sort of; I have al­ways done it. When I first started out, I had a few re­quests to draw peo­ple’s cars,

which I have al­ways done grow­ing up, and it just grew from there. We were sit­ting down at work one day, and some­one sent me an email say­ing, ‘Hey I saw your liv­ery — I do liv­er­ies my­self, can I buy the tem­plate?’ Yes, you can. Pedey [Peter Kelly] turned around and sug­gested [that] I start sell­ing these things on­line. So, about two days later, I had half a dozen vans I had been work­ing on loaded into the store.

So, it just grew from that?

Yeah. To­day, I’m sit­ting at 175 tem­plates, rang­ing from com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles to race cars, mo­tor­bikes, and speed­way cars, stuff like that.

It must be a great buzz to see your tem­plates pop­ping up on the in­ter­net be­ing used by big names.

Yeah, I get a mas­sive buzz when I see some big names us­ing them. I have a few sign­writ­ers in Amer­ica who buy my speed­way tem­plates to use for Nascar driver Kyle Lar­son’s sprint cars.

Are there other peo­ple do­ing the same sort of tem­plates, or are yours unique?

It is a lit­tle unique in that I’m the only one that does fully ren­dered vec­tor tem­plates. There are a few peo­ple that do Pho­to­shop tem­plates, where they are tak­ing photos of cars and drop­ping high­lights and shad­ows on. The only is­sue with that is, be­ing photos, they are not very good for sign­writ­ers to work with, as they like to work within the vec­tor space.

How have ad­vance­ments in mod­ern vinyls and dig­i­tal print­ing changed what you can ac­tu­ally achieve with a liv­ery?

I spent three years work­ing as a sign­writer. When we first started, we were us­ing cast vinyls, which are de­signed to go on the flat side of a build­ing. When the first con­form­able vinyls with air re­lease came out from 3M, they made it so much eas­ier and sped up the process, so you could do a full wrap in a night. But there [was] … still a lot of cut­ting and lay­er­ing [of] vinyls, but now, with printed vinyls and the wrap in­dus­try, it’s now mak­ing it much eas­ier. Nowa­days in mo­tor­sport, you’ll see liv­er­ies com­pletely printed, with all the mi­nor spon­sors, etc. al­ready printed on the side in one piece.

You must have de­signed some liv­er­ies over the years that never ac­tu­ally made it onto the race car for what­ever rea­son — does any one of those stand out in your mind?

Prob­a­bly not one that in­stantly comes to mind, but it does hap­pen more than you’d think in top-tier mo­tor­sport — like Su­perTour­ers, where their whole goal lead­ing up to the sea­son is se­cur­ing the sup­port needed for that sea­son, so a team might go through 20 liv­er­ies be­fore they set­tle on one. But then you also get dif­fer­ent clients pitch­ing to the same brand. For some of the big brands like, say, Repco, you might end up do­ing five pitch liv­er­ies for five dif­fer­ent teams in one off sea­son.

Do you treat the de­signs dif­fer­ently for dif­fer­ent mo­tor­sports?

In the likes of go-karts, speed­way, and drag rac­ing, etc., where the public can get up close and per­sonal with the cars in the pits, you want to build a lit­tle more de­tail into the liv­ery so [that] they can see all the lit­tle things. Whereas, with the cars like the en­duros that are ham­mer­ing down the back straight at 250kph, you just don’t see that de­tail. You also have to keep in mind [that] for TV, things like white on white will just blow out, and you’ll never see it.

Is there a type of mo­tor­sport that you en­joy do­ing liv­er­ies for more than oth­ers?

Not re­ally. I just take each job as it comes, but I do love speed­way, be­cause

it’s just a lot of re­ally bold and bright colours. While they are sim­ple, you can in­clude sim­ple lit­tle de­sign el­e­ments to make them re­ally cool. Be­cause the cars are so ag­gres­sive and they have that wedgie, fast shape al­ready, the car does a lot of that work for you. But [if] you take some­thing like a Nis­san Sen­tra, it’s hard to make it look fast, so that’s when you’d go retro or softer, as it will com­pli­ment it bet­ter rather than some­thing su­per ag­gres­sive.

You touched on it a bit be­fore, but is there some sci­ence in­volved in the de­signs to help them work with cam­eras, etc. that peo­ple prob­a­bly don’t even think about?

Ab­so­lutely. You take some­thing like drift­ing or speed­way, where the cars are shift­ing di­rec­tions and they are chang­ing the way [that] they move through the cor­ner. Mak­ing the liv­ery act like a bar­code for the cam­era helps with the cam­era’s abil­ity to fo­cus. If you have some­thing that is re­ally re­ally con­fus­ing for the cam­era or, say, has a lot of blank space, the cam­era will strug­gle. An­other con­sid­er­a­tion is con­trast­ing. If you have a white car with light grey laid over it, sit­ting un­der the sun, you just won’t see it.

And, fi­nally, put­ting you on the spot a lit­tle now, do you have a few pieces of ad­vice for bud­ding liv­ery de­sign­ers out there?

1. Keep it clean and keep it sim­ple. The worst thing I have seen peo­ple do is place lo­gos over a su­per busy back­ground, so you end up los­ing the lo­gos. At the end of the day, those spon­sors are the ones sup­port­ing you, so en­sur­ing [that] their logo stands out should be a top pri­or­ity. 2. Also, un­der­stand­ing what sort of for­mat the sign­writer who will be car­ry­ing out the work wants [is im­por­tant] — if they are happy for straight PSD [Pho­to­shop file for­mat], which are su­per com­pli­cated, that they can play around with, [that] is cool. But a lot of sign­writ­ers still use pro­grammes like CorelDraw and Flex­iSign, which are 15-year-old pro­grammes run­ning on 20-year-old com­put­ers that can’t han­dle the de­sign heavy and overly com­pli­cated files. 3. When you’re do­ing your tem­plates, try to re­move as much dis­tor­tion as pos­si­ble. You might take a re­ally cool photo of the car where you’re ly­ing down and look­ing up to it, but what that will do is pinch the top of the car in, so your liv­ery will be dis­torted and will never fit the ac­tual car. 4. Draw in­spi­ra­tion from oth­ers. There are so many peo­ple out there who do it ex­tremely well, and there is a bit of a for­mula to get­ting a liv­ery to look good on a car. Have a look over­seas where they get crazy, es­pe­cially in South Amer­ica — if you ever need in­spi­ra­tion, just look at how wild they can get.

Thanks for your time, Mark. Catch you around the pits this sum­mer.

‘Fanga’ Dan Wool­house com­mis­sioned a cus­tom tem­plate of his VF Com­modore, which the boys at Franken­signz then de­signed the liv­ery on

Mark’s tem­plate wear­ing a liv­ery fromGranger De­sign

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