An idea came to me the other day: what if I came up with a design showing legendary inventor Nikola Tesla, a luminary in the realm of electricity, driving a Tesla? Now how cool would that be-Tesla, driving a Tesla!
For those who don’t know, Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was a renowned inventor, electrical engineer, and futurist. He is best known for his groundbreaking contributions to the development of alternating current (AC) power systems, which revolutionized electricity transmission and distribution.
Even if you’re not familiar with Nikola Tesla, you’ve probably heard of the car company, Tesla, which shares a name with the inventor. Elon Musk named his company as an homage to Tesla.
When coming up with this design, I carefully considered which Tesla model to use, and ultimately chose the Model S, the premium all-electric sedan that combines impressive performance, long-range capabilities, and advanced technology. There are several videos demonstrating the tremendous acceleration of the Model S.
Once I had the essential elements of the piece down, I had to consider how I’d draw it. Would I attempt a realistic style or something more cartoony? I felt that this design naturally fit the cartoon Roth monster style. I’m a big fan of Ed Roth, and I’ve always found myself attached to his art style and the way in which he marketed himself.
Drawing The Car
Starting with the car, what makes this design more than just Tesla driving a Tesla is the Ed-Roth, monster-car spin on the piece. If you look back, those monster car designs were all drawn with big engines, fire coming from the headers, and big back tires, but the Tesla is all electric. That means no large engine sticking out of the hood or fire coming from the side pipes; I wanted to mimic the Ed Roth style while also acknowledging the differences in an electric car. In addition, the Model S has all-wheel drive, which then adds another dynamic-the tires had to stay on the ground.
Drawing Nikola Tesla
After I had the car down, the next step was drawing Nikola Tesla himself. The first sketch kind made him look like a monster with bulging eyes, but that didn’t look right. So, I instead tried sketching him less as a monster and more as a person with a really excited expression. He is excited because of the Model S’s super acceleration. What really made it come together was adding his mustache, putting the part in his hair, and keeping his period clothes.
After the face, I needed to figure out what to do with his hands. In the Ed Roth style, most of the monsters will have one hand on the steering wheel and another on a tall stick shift with their pinky finger in the air, but, once again, the Tesla car design wouldn’t allow for that. They do not have a shifter, so instead, I thought about giving him something to hold: a stop watch, like he was timing himself.
So then it was TIME to find a stopwatch, but not just any stopwatch. I wanted to find one to fit the time period for the age at which I was drawing Tesla. So, assuming he was around 40 when this reference photo was taken, I figured I could add those years to the year he was born, 1856, and come up with 1896. Through a little research, I found an image of an antique Leon Breitling 1890s stopwatch and used that. For the hands on the watch, a Tesla Model S can accelerate 0-60 around 2 seconds, so I set the hand on one second leaving him a second to go.
To help balance the design, I added the Tesla Tower in the background.
Tesla Tower, also known as the Wardenclyffe Tower, was an early experimental wireless power transmission station designed by Nikola Tesla on Long Island in 1901-1902. The idea was to be able to send electricity through the atmosphere, which anyone with the right equipment could tap into.
The final touch was adding large dramatic lightning bolts coming from the tower all across the background.
After getting all the line work to where I wanted it, I then had to focus on color. Originally, I thought of doing this as a one-color design but decided to go with a brownish, kind of sepia, tone. I think that makes it look more like the vintage Roth monster stickers.
I ended up doing two versions of the design: one with Nikola driving the latest version of the Model S, which is the 3rd generation (2021 to 2023), and then the one with him driving the 2nd generation (2017 to 2020).
As challenging as this project was–from combining a person of the past with a car from today, to drawing it all in a style from the late 60’s–I am very happy with how it all turned out.
And if you like it too, I have these designs available on shirts, posters, and stickers!
Here are links to each at my Etsy store:
- 2021-2023 Model S Version – Shirts, Posters, Stickers
- 2017-2020 Model S Version – Shirts, Posters, Stickers