Andrew Stewart failed his high school art.
His tutors warned him; if all he could do was draw cars he would never amount to anything.
But Stewart just loved drawing cars – his high school English and maths books were full of them.
"I was told to stop," Stewart said.
"One of my university tutors warned me I'd never make any money drawing cars."
But in January, the Hamilton-based graphic designer beat hundreds of entries to win an international competition to design a new look for the car belonging to a top international pro-drift competitor.
Run by California-based Falken Tyres, the competition asked the artists to create Falken and Discount Tyre designs for Dai Yoshihara's heavily modified Chevrolet V8-powered Subaru BRZ.
Voting for the designs was worldwide and Stewart's work was the winner from six finalists.
"They gave us a blank of Dai's Subaru," Stewart said.
"Because of the experience I had with working with sponsors I was able to read between the lines and understand what they wanted to produce the winning design.
"The original prize was to have the design on Dai's car in the United States which is massive. It has opened up a big market. I'm already getting calls from Formula Drift people in the US."
The competition organisers had offered to pay him, but it was the international exposure which was far more important, Stewart said.
He grew up in Whanganui where he took a Waikato University paper in graphic design.
"I'd always been into motorsport. I love making things look great.
"As part of my degree I undertook a project to brand a race car and that meant working with sponsors."
He established AWS Graphics four years ago and since then has moved to create livery in a wide range of motorsports into almost every field from speedway, drag cars and drift to NZV8s and even jet sprints and hydroplanes. It also sponsors drift and sprint cars.
The business has expanded nationally and internationally.
Stewart is now doing the digital graphics for Spain's No 1 drifter and has a significant client base in the United States and Sweden.
Stewart's graphic designs are sent as digital files to River City Signs in Frankton, which can make up the livery in "old school" vinyl or graphics which can be printed as a whole-car design or layered.
Stewart works by himself but might consider expanding.
The 2014 Formula Drift season starts on April 4 on the streets of Long Beach, California, – the seven-round calendar coming to a close at Irwindale Speedway in October.
New Zealand television coverage of the category this year is expected to be picked up by either TV3 or Sommet Sports.
- Hamilton Press