Caffeine&Machine cultofmachine Essentials Mythology and machinery: Brett Breckon

Mythology and machinery: Brett Breckon

Illustrator Brett Breckon’s artwork has been a regular sight on the walls of the C&M Emporium for a while now. Where does the multi-talented artist take his inspiration from?

It takes a special kind of dedication to keep a vehicle of any kind in the house, what with all the associated fluids, grime, and general trip hazards they expose passers-by to. The gleaming black BSA Bantam that stands in illustrator Brett Breckon’s kitchen, sandwiched between a wall and the dining table, is a testament to his devotion to the mechanical

This theme continues through to his art, where vintage motorcycles, recreated with obsessive detail, are a running theme. Brett is careful, though, not to allow his work to be dominated by them and reduced to glorified technical drawings.

“I don’t just do a straight picture of a vehicle. I have to have a reason to do it, not for it just to be a photographic likeness.” This is why his work is a colourful melting pot of mythology, machinery and mid-century Americana, all rolled together in styles ranging from ethereal, monochrome line drawings to bold, comic book-inspired graphics.

Art has always been a calling for the English-born adoptive Welshman, who resides in a cosy cottage in the shadow of the imposing Roch Castle near the Pembrokeshire coast. “I have a really strong memory of infant school – everyone was doing matchstick men, and I gave mine a bit more of a solid body or something, and I just remember my teacher taking me aside and giving me my own little bit of table.”

This early talent led Brett to a graphic design course at the Newport College of Art, and from there a career as a freelance illustrator, initially as a commercial airbrush artist for ad agencies and graphic design firms, for whom the 1980s were fertile ground. His work has evolved over time – the rise of digital art steadily chipped away at the long-term feasibility of airbrush, and Brett moved away from the commercial world into publishing.

Machinery has been a constant theme throughout his work, though: “At art college, we had to do a thesis on an aspect of design… and I chose the design of 1950s cars, and called it ‘The Rise and Fall of the Great American Tailfin’”.

The love for two wheels came later, but has quickly come to help define his life outside of art. Besides the kitchen-dwelling BSA, Brett’s studio is also littered with bits of bike, including the fuel tanks of BMWs and Hondas that sit in various states of repair in his garage.

The garage itself is a tinkerer’s dream, the sort of place defined by the kind of ramshackle efficiency that characterises all the best home workshops. Unsurprisingly, the bikes dominate the space – a fully assembled BMW, a Honda frame, and countless other components spread around on worktops, walls and shelves.

But there’s also car parts, and meticulously hand-crafted kayaks – for it turns out that woodwork is another of Brett’s many, many talents; something that’s also apparent in his homemade mahogany kitchen worktops, reinterpreting the complex beauty of a previous whisky packaging commission.

His relationship with Caffeine&Machine began with his son, Billy, who had been following the business from day one and introduced us to Brett’s work. We were instant fans of his interpretations of some of our favourite retro machinery in his bold graphical style, and we’ve been proudly displaying his work ever since.

As for Brett himself, his output nowadays tends to be split equally between digital, paint and scraperboard work. His art permeates every aspect of his life, his home filled with both illustrations and home-made fittings and furnishings – in his words, “it’s become a bit of a museum.” He is self-described in his Instagram bio as an artist/illustrator/biker, which seems a succinct way of summing up his interconnected passions.

A selection of Brett’s work is available in the Caffeine&Machine Emporium.

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