Tom Fritz is one of my favorite automotive artists. His ability to capture light, speed and emotion is simply unparalleled and, with this, he manages to tell wonderful stories. Working with oil, Fritz paints honest, beautiful and evocative images that dance off the stretched canvas and into the viewer’s eyes. I could look at them for hours, and I have.
Fritz is a mainstay at the Automotive Fine Art Society (AFAS)’s annual exhibition at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where I’ve seen him display his artwork for the last decade (which is as long as I’ve been going; he’s been there longer). Passing by his stand in the AFAS tent is always a highlight, not just to see the brilliant pieces he’s created for the show (AFAS requires at least three new pieces from each artist every year) but also to catch up and have a chat with him. He’s a very amicable guy.
Every year he’s awarded some kind of award for his vast contribution to the automotive art world. This year he was the recipient of the esteemed Athena Award of Excellence for his “No Scaredy Cat” painting. It’s the seventh time he’s won the award.
Born and raised in San Fernando, California, Fritz’s vivid childhood recollections of the motorcycle and automotive cultures that were prevalent in Southern California during the 60s and 70s are a part of the power that has established him as a prominent automotive and motorcycle artist.
His use of vibrant colors smacks of impressionism, conveying the movement of the cars he presents in two-dimensions. He paints hot rods, muscle cars, motorcycles and planes; he also paints people into the scene, which really makes the era come alive. As if the imagery wasn’t enough, he documents the painting’s narrative through the titles he gives them — “A Little Ahead of Schedule”, “Fertilizer Salesmen”, “Punctuating The Sound Track”, “Showin’ Em What’s What”, “What D’Ya Reckon She’ll Do”, “Incident at Twenty Mile” and “Quick Sombish”, just to name a few…
“When I was young, the thing that really kicked me in the zipper about the whole wang dang doodle was simply this: metal making noise. To this day, it remains the prime visceral element that I respond to and the main thing I try to accomplish in my work,” says Fritz. “I’m presenting a time capsule that contains the same raw, core experience I remember and digested as a kid. I think this is still the thing that sucks us all through the turnstile.”
Fritz studied art at California State University Northridge and now works out of his studio in Ventura County. His work can be found in many private and corporate collections around the world, including in the corporate offices of General Motors and the Ford Motor Company. He’s spent more than two decades creating client work for Harley-Davidson, the US Postal Service, the US Army and Air Force, Red Bull, private defense firms and the Petersen Publishing Company, the former owners of Hot Rod magazine.
“The point for me is to find a middle ground between form, content and storytelling that I feel comfortable with,” he says. “I’m trying to put on canvas something intangible, invisible, and something that exercises my observational sensitivities and aesthetic taste. And I want to create an exciting image no one has ever seen before — an image with a point-of-view no trackside photographer could have snapped.”
The body of Fritz’s work has been acclaimed for taking the subject matter beyond the traditional limitations of the genre on many occasions. He’s won the prestigious Peter Helck Award (Best in Show) an unprecedented seven times and the Art Fitzpatrick Award twice (for the best entire body of work displayed) at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. He’s also been awarded several Awards of Excellence, the Stanley Wanlass and Spirit of the Automobilist awards at the Meadow Brook Concours.
Tom Fritz’s paintings are a unique interpretation of the power, emotion and beauty he sees in cars and car culture. They’re a celebration of the memories he has and observations he’s made since his childhood. And they’re absolutely brilliant.
If you like automotive art and have a free wall in your house or studio, I strongly recommend you visit his new website.