Tom Fritz Part 1. Out Quicker than a Hiccup

Automotive Artist Tom Fritz Part 1. Why does Tom pay so much attention to the physics on the human body? From Classics to Hot Rods to So Much More.........

Automotive Art by Tom Fritz

Ferocious Gravel Shredding - Automotive Art by Tom Fritz

Tom, first of all congratulations on your latest award wins, the best of show at Pebble Beach. You received this Peter Helck Award for the artwork “Out Quicker Than A Hiccup” showing a team of horses pulling a car out of the mud. Is this the first time you were doing animals on your paintings?

I’ve done animals before; I mean I do subject matter that most of the people in the automotive world aren’t aware of. I paint animals, and of course landscapes. A horse has been shown in one of my Harley Davidson artworks before, a painting called Quite a Horse You Got There. There’s a kid sitting on his JD talking to a, you know, another kid with his horse behind him…
The thing is, the way I look at it is, if you can draw, you can draw anything. If you can paint, you can paint anything. So what I paint, the subject matter that I paint, basically is just light wrapping around a form.
The reason I paint the motorcycles and the hot rods, automobiles, transportation, is because I really dig metal making noise. It can be an old steam locomotive, it can be a hot rod boat, it can be a chainsaw. It’s just…any time that you have an engine making noise like that, it just sparks an emotion in me to paint.
Automotive Art by Tom Fritz

Automotive Art by Tom Fritz

When did that start? Are you a mechanic yourself?
When I was a little kid, my dad always had me in the garage with him. Even my earliest memory; I was small enough to be picked up in his arms, and we were in the garage, and he was adjusting the valves on a six-cylinder Chevy engine, the old 235 Chevy six...the hood is open, the engine’s running, and he picked me up and I remember looking at the valve train, and then he’d reach over on the carburetor and he would flip the throttle, and you could watch the valves. In one second you could see each one moving independently. And when you hit the throttle, it just went into a blur, all the valves went into a blur and I remember that to this day.
I remember the smells of the garage, grease, oil, gasoline and the cleaning solvent. I love smells like that. When I was a kid, we’d pull into a gas station, and the car would roll over the black tube and it would ring the bell, and my dad would get out and start pumping the gas into the car and I’d roll down the window so I could get the fumes. Man, I just love the smell of exhaust coming out of the pipe. I love looking at hot metal and the way the air current moves off it. How the automobile or a machine affects the environment it’s in. I love that stuff.
Automotive Car Art by Tom Fritz

Automotive Car Art by Tom Fritz

“Ready … On Three”
And then of course the sounds. There’s so much stuff about machinery that is so evocative, and it stirs that emotion in me, and that’s what I paint.
The smells and the sounds are great sources of inspiration, do you also often visit shows for inspiration?
What I draw upon is my lifetime experience around vehicles. As a small kid I worked with my dad in the garage. When I was 14, I built an engine by myself, a 283 Chevy, it was out of a Corvette, and I still have that engine out in an engine stand in the garage. I still have the first vehicle I owned, when I was in high school, I rebuilt a 1956 GMC half-ton truck, I still have that. Friends come over that I knew in high school, and they just want to sit in the truck with me, because of the memories for them.
Automotive Art by Tom Fritz

Shaving The Devils Beard - Automotive Art by Tom Fritz

There are not many out there that still have their first car…
I’m goofy in that way. You know, it’s my truck, and I just love the bejeepers out of it, and no one’s going to tear it out of my hands until the day I want it to go. When I look at it, it just stirs emotions in me… I guess Marcel, I’m just a really emotional cat. I was very visually driven when I was a kid. We would go to races, and I noticed, we’d sit in the stands and watch the races whether they’d be stock cars or drag racing, at the time, but we’d be on our way home and all my friends would be in the cars and we’d be talking about what we saw, and what was happening that night, and their primary interest was the recollection of names, numbers, elapsed times, you know, speed, and my…I never had an interest in that.
My recollections were always based on the stuff I saw. Like a car going down the backstretch and it blows a radiator hose, and the steam coming out of the engine bay and filling the cockpit and how it flows off the back of the car and gets caught up in the vectors of the atmosphere behind, and how it’s reacting in there.
Or the light effects…you know, burnouts, when a car is going into the turn one after coming into a straightaway? And it’s slowing down for that first turn, you take your foot off the gas and you retard the engine, and you start blowing gas directly into the exhaust pipe, which starts that explosion, so you get the blue flames coming out the exhaust pipe.
No one really ever paid attention to that, but I always did and now, today, when I paint my paintings, you see it in the dragster pieces especially. I try to get that really aggressive violence that is happening in the machine at that time. Whether a car is torqueing over, you know due to the engine torque, or what’s happening to the tires as they’re grabbing…they’re laying over in a corner. That’s all stuff that I remembered, I stored it away in my head, and now today I can paint it.
Automotive Art by Tom Fritz

Like Bats Outta Hell - Automotive Art by Tom Fritz

Automotive Art by Tom Fritz

Automotive Art by Tom Fritz

Does it mean that when you start painting, most of it is just from how you memorize situations and how you visualize it in your head?
When you look at my work, when you look at my motorcycle paintings, there are things that I put in there that you can tell I’ve ridden for my whole life. I mean there are things that people do with their heads when you go into a corner, you know the way that your head is counteracting the g-force. In motocross paintings, when you’re doing the cross up or the rear tire’s getting kind of goofy on you, there’s ways…it’s called Body English, but I try to put that in the painting.When you turn a corner in a car at speed, your head does something different.
I pay attention to the physics on the human body. You look at the quiet paintings that I have, where there’s usually a vehicle and there’s a group of guys standing around there. That’s based on my own experience. I mean, the cars were different but we were doing the same thing in high school, same thing in college, you know you get together with a bunch of guys, you’re just sitting around bullshittin’, you know, having a beer, having a smoke, whatever, and that moment, whether it happened in the sixties or the seventies, that could have happened eighty years ago. It could have happened a hundred and thirty years ago. We’re all human beings, and that sort of socializing, the way we relax, the way we lean, that hasn’t changed over time.
Automotive Art by Tom Fritz

He Said He Wouldn't Be Back Till Three - Automotive Art by Tom Fritz

Automotive Art by Tom Fritz

What Do You Reckon She’ll Do? - Automotive Art by Tom Fritz

Like the three guys hanging out, talking about the car on your artwork “ What Do You Reckon She’ll Do?
Yeah, it’s my observation, like I said, I’m a visual guy, I understand that now, I’ve been it since I was a kid, and my whole life has been spent observing stuff, and I will still build paintings based on a recollection that happened forty years ago. A lot of guys, when they see my paintings, will have forgotten that they did something similar, until I bring it out to show them.
Your artworks all have a unique title which is kind of giving the artwork an extra dimension. How do you come up with the title?
Well, sometimes it’s an entry into the artwork. Especially if the artwork is a narrative, if the artwork looks like it tells a story. When I start my paintings, I don’t know what I’m going to call them, I don’t know what the title’s going to be. And that usually happens, most of the time, when I’m painting. Either when I’m getting down to the final licks or after I’ve completed the painting, then I can start looking at it.
And as I’m painting I’m telling myself kind of what the story is I’m trying to paint. And that’s where the title comes from. Very rarely do I start a painting with the title in my head, although that has happened.
Automotive Art by Tom Fritz

Johnny Callaway - Automotive Art by Tom Fritz

Sometimes the titles are an entryway into the painting. The group of guys, standing there in What Do You Reckon She’ll Do?, they could be talking about their girlfriends, they could be talking about how hot it’s going to be later on in the day on the dry lakes, they could be talking about a lot of different things, but I, when I’m looking at the painting, I want to give you the entry into the painting that they’re talking about the car. So you look at the car and it’s got a fixed manifold on it, it’s got some polished Canadian heads on it, so they’re probably trying to figure out if the thing’s going to do a hundred and twenty, or what.
That’s what they’re talking about; they’re not talking about ditching science class next week.

In my next automotive art blog Tom Fritz will share with us his techniques and how he creates his art. READ PART TWO OF HIS INTERVIEW.

You can find more information on this great automotive artist at his website

Marcel Haan

Marcel Haan

Founder and Owner of CarArtSpot, blogger and entrepreneur. With a passion for people and art. Every week Marcel interviews leading automotive artist and shares their stories at CarArtSpot.


  1. Tom Fritz Part 2. Slick Licks - CarArtSpot 19 August, 2015 at 10:25 Reply

    […]  Tom, I really enjoyed this nice conversation on your automotive art. Thanks a lot, I enjoyed it Marcel. And I just want to say thanks to all the people out there that enjoy my work and have shown their love and support over the years. Read PART ONE of Tom Fritz's interview. […]

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