Trucking Good Art

In A good read, Mack, September 20216 MinutesBy Gavin MyersOctober 17, 2021

By the time you read this, the votes will be in and counted to determine the winner of the Top Truck of the Year 2020-2021. As has become Top Truck tradition, the winner will receive a bespoke painting of their truck by Rochelle Thomas – the talented artist behind Auto Art by Rochelle.

Rochelle is well recognised to readers of New Zealand Trucking for supplying the monthly Little Truckers’ Club content and, of course, for her outstanding custom artworks. In the past five years, since Auto Art by Rochelle became a full-time venture, Rochelle has become well known within the New Zealand trucking scene for her custom truck painting commissions.

“I painted my first picture 10 years ago and very quickly was asked to do commissions. Although the majority of my work is truck-related, I do anything automotive, including motorcycles, cars, airplanes, army tanks, tractors and machinery,” says Rochelle.

A keen interest in cars meant they were the natural start as subject matter. “I was invited to do my first display at the Masterton Drag Complex Grand Opening and, from there, I was invited to more events, including the Whangamata Beach Hop. At that stage, my art was still a hobby,” explains Rochelle.

“One day, a friend asked me to paint his truck, and another lady messaged asking me to do one for her partner. These paintings generated a huge interest, and Deals on Wheels approached me about doing an article, which got me six orders.

“It was around this time that I decided to leave my job and become self-employed.”

All of Rochelle’s paintings are completed to order and handpainted on block canvas using acrylic paints. As she’s selftaught, Rochelle says that part of the fun is figuring out new techniques and the satisfaction in getting it right. Since she started painting, Rochelle has completed a diploma in art and creativity. She hopes to continue studying and do a postgraduate course in teaching to eventually become an art teacher.

“That is on hold at this stage as my work is keeping me very busy,” she adds.

And it’s easy to understand why. Between 20 and 40 hours go into each painting, depending on size and detail. Rochelle estimates she’s completed more than 500 paintings in the past five years (with her 400th truck painting on the horizon) and the flow of orders isn’t slowing. Not only does she receive orders from throughout New Zealand, but she’s also sent paintings to Australia and a couple to Britain and the United States. “That’s pretty cool!”

Naturally, each commission is different. Some are straightforward, simply copying a supplied photo and giving it the personal touch of being an original artwork. The levels of complexity go up from there.

“Other customers may ask me to change the background. These I might do freestyle, or they may provide another picture or tell me what they want. For these paintings, I need to get the perspective right, ensure that everything is in proportion, and this can be challenging at times,” says Rochelle.

“Also, I can be sent multiple photos of various vehicles and be asked to put them all together on one canvas. I discuss options with my customer, such as the truck line-up or creating a scene. These definitely require my thinking cap.”

While she may have started off painting car portraits, Rochelle says she prefers painting truck portraits.

“They’re awesome, and I enjoy the detail and variety. There is so much to a truck; wheels, lights, pinstripes, stickers, chrome. Then there are the different kinds of trucks and makes. They are something I will never get bored of painting. It is always so satisfying completing a truck portrait.”

Follow Auto Art by Rochelle on Facebook and Instagram to view more of her work. Contact her at


What’s the best thing about what you do?

The joy my art brings to people. It feels so good when I hear the excitement from my customers or someone who has received one of my paintings. I have been told a few times that they have brought tears to eyes; there is so much sentiment to my work. I love my job.

If you weren’t painting, what would you be doing?

I honestly don’t know. I live and breathe my art and feel lost if I’m away from my brushes too long. But I would love to have a café/diner one day (roll on Lotto). I will still paint, though.

What’s your favourite truck and car?

Kenworth K104 and Ford Falcon XYGT.

What other subject matter do you like painting?

I’ve been commissioned to paint pets, which are always adorable, and I like old buildings, barns, woolsheds, and abandoned houses. I am planning a collection of paintings based on photos I have been taking around the country in my spare time.