Vintage Cars Meet Pool Floaties in This Artist’s Kooky Midcentury Landscape
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Vintage Cars Meet Pool Floaties in This Artist’s Kooky Midcentury Landscape

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By Lucy Wang
We chat with Chris Labrooy about “The Future Ain’t The Same as it Used to Be,” a short film in which the artist mashes up classic cars with pool floaties—and sets them loose in a Palm Springs playground.

In Chris Labrooy’s super-saturated world of digital art, nothing is as it seems. The self-taught artist, based in Scotland, delights in subverting expectations of familiar objects to create landscapes that are at once surreal and hyperreal. Labrooy’s masterful 3D illustrations have landed him major clients around the world and include the likes of Apple, Porsche, Nike, Jaguar, British Airways, and more. Yet, it’s in his personal projects where we think he has the most fun.

In his latest short film, The Future Ain’t the Same as it Used to Be, Labrooy merges classic cars from around the world with giant pool floaties into comically personified mash-ups that frolic around a midcentury home in Palm Springs. We asked the 3D artist about his inflatable creations in his newest work, as well as the tools he uses to bring his designs to life.

"The irreverent meets the sublime in this animated short film that follows an all-star automotive cast from around the world," Labrooy says of his newest work, The Future Ain't the Same as it Used to Be. "Elegant British classics mix with inflatable German autos and chopped up American metal."

"The irreverent meets the sublime in this animated short film that follows an all-star automotive cast from around the world," Labrooy says of his newest work, The Future Ain't the Same as it Used to Be. "Elegant British classics mix with inflatable German autos and chopped up American metal."

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How would you describe your style?

I like to mix the old and the new and try to offer a new perspective on things. I will take a very familiar object to us like a Porsche 911 and give it a humorous or abstract twist and then throw in some old school architecture. It should never take itself too seriously.  

In this concoction, Labrooy merged the Mercedes Pagoda with a flamingo floatie.

In this concoction, Labrooy merged the Mercedes Pagoda with a flamingo floatie.

Can you explain the meaning behind the title The Future Ain’t the Same as it Used to Be?

The title captures how I wanted the film to feel. I wanted a lot of the design elements to feel 20th century but with a futuristic spin on things like the e-type Jaguar, which hovers in front of an old Case Study house. Post-war American visions of the future are very inspiring to me, and I hope the film reflects that old and new…and unexpected vibe.

A 1968 Pontiac Bonneville mysteriously sinks into a drained midcentury swimming pool.

A 1968 Pontiac Bonneville mysteriously sinks into a drained midcentury swimming pool.

Although Labrooy is based in Scotland, he makes frequent trips to California, where his wife is from. The midcentury modern architecture of Palm Springs, California, is a major source of inspiration for his art.

Although Labrooy is based in Scotland, he makes frequent trips to California, where his wife is from. The midcentury modern architecture of Palm Springs, California, is a major source of inspiration for his art.

How long did it take to produce The Future Ain’t the Same as it Used to Be?

I would say it took about six weeks to make which was spread over a six month period. I would work on it in and around my client work.

What were the inspirations behind the project, and can you walk us through its evolution?

For this project I had developed the inflatable cars first and then started to think about and design the environments and buildings for all of the action to take place. The design work is part intuition from memory combined with research from photographers like Julius Schulman. In fact, the swan scene in the film is a direct nod to one of his photographs.

There are numerous tools I use, but the cornerstone is a CGI program called Cinema 4D, which I used in conjunction with Corona Render to get the look. Adobe Creative Suite is always used too.

Labrooy draws inspiration from the works of American architectural photographer Julius Schulman for his digitally rendered midcentury landscapes.

Labrooy draws inspiration from the works of American architectural photographer Julius Schulman for his digitally rendered midcentury landscapes.

What informed your car choices? 

I always try to match the right cars with the context. The Porsche 911 and Mercedes Pagoda are perfect fits with the romantic California vibe I was going for. If the film were set in the UK or Asia, then the car choice would be very different.

The troublemaking inflatable duck Porsche 911 is seen bouncing around on the telephone wires.

The troublemaking inflatable duck Porsche 911 is seen bouncing around on the telephone wires.

Why did you decide to choose a backdrop of midcentury modern architecture in California?

I am extremely fond of midcentury American architecture, and it has been cultivated over a number of years. My wife is from Marin County and there are many fine examples of the period from architects like Joseph Eichler there. I like it because it is less high-brow than European modernism and feels much more relaxed and accessible. It almost feels a like cheap modernism in a good way.   

His Labrooy's 911 series, four pink Porsche 911 Carrera RS float as if weightless near a Palm Springs midcentury home.

His Labrooy's 911 series, four pink Porsche 911 Carrera RS float as if weightless near a Palm Springs midcentury home.

Labrooy's 911 series also includes a shot of a dozen Porsche 911 Carrera RS cooling off in a Palm Springs pool.

Labrooy's 911 series also includes a shot of a dozen Porsche 911 Carrera RS cooling off in a Palm Springs pool.

What cars do you drive/own currently? Any dream cars on the horizon?

At the moment I drive a Porsche Cayenne Hybrid, and there are definitely no dream cars on the horizon as I am about to begin construction on a new house.

How much time do you devote to personal projects, like this one, versus client work?

I always like to have some personal projects on the go because it is what helps define your voice as an artist although scheduling time is never an exact science. Sometimes I can go three to four months solid with client work with no time for personal work. Then there are other times when I can spend a month on personal projects. The client work dictates when I can and can’t do things.

Labrooy also digitally remixes other objects, including the Eames Shell Chair, in his Garden of Eames project.

Labrooy also digitally remixes other objects, including the Eames Shell Chair, in his Garden of Eames project.

What other projects are you working on now?

I am working on a project called Garden of Eames, which is a fun take on the iconic shell chairs. I have been remixing them and making sculptural forms out of them. There is no deadline for this one and I just keep adding to my website when I have new ideas. I will also start a new automotive project soon. 

You can watch The Future Ain't the Same As It Used to Be on Vimeo.

Related Reading: At Her Hudson Valley Studio, Paula Hayes Explores the Intersection of Art and Nature