Q. Are you still a book author?
Wyss: If the right
car comes along, I'd like to chronicle it. Last time
it was the Ford GT40 I've always loved that car
and when Ford showed a concept car called GT40 in 2002,
it got me started on that trail and I co-authored a
book entitled 'Ford GT40 and the New Ford GT', a limited
edition book that I am happy to report has become an
Q. What got you started in art?
Wyss: Way back,
when I grew up in Detroit, I wanted to be an art major.
But then an ad agency put out a call for summer interns
and I found out the art slots were full so I chose copywriter
and then changed my major to journalism.
Q. So you made your first painting when?
Wyss: I had three
books on Shelby-related cars coming out in 2007. I figured
maybe at the Beverly Hills car show on Rodeo Drive I
could sell a few so I brought them along and was walking
through the show when I met a magazine publisher. I
sold him a book and thought, "Maybe he'd like to
see the painting I did of Shelby. " I showed him
a snapshot of the painting and he asked: "Where
is it?"" and I said it was in the car. He
said, "Go get it, you sold that, too." On
the long walk back to the show carrying the painting,
I thought, "If they want my art, I'll be an artist."
for larger view
"You rarely see a Pininfarina-bodied Maserati
coupe so I just had to paint this one."
Alfa 33 Stradale
"I chose to do this because its a very
rare car with the greatest lines of the Sixties
mid-engined cars." - Wyss
Ferrari 250GT Lusso
"The Ferrari 250GT Lusso is often called 'the
most beautiful Ferrari'. I think the P3/4 is better
looking but maybe Ill give it the award for
most beautiful street car." - Wyss
"This was inspired by a Ford PR shot. I did
a different background but I think I captured the
Cobra-at-speed feeling." - Wyss
Ferrari 250GTO, Series 1
"I shoot racing shots with a telephoto. This
is all I could capture of a 250GTO as I did a side
pan shot at Monterey but I thought painting half
a GTO is better than none." - Wyss
"I saw this GT40 at Monterey
and didnt realize later that its the
historic GT40, having won LeMans not
once but twice." - Wyss
Ferrari 500 Mondial
"The Ferrari 500 Mondial, maybe because its
a four cylinder, hardly gets mentioned but I think
its a beautiful car when it has the Pininfarina
body. This painting was inspired by one I shot at
Monterey." - Wyss
"Dan Gurney was a hero of mine in the Sixties
and I was pleased to find a Ford publicity shot
of him in the 64 Targa Florio in a 289 Cobra.
The original was in black and white so I had to
research the color of the team Cobra." -
Q. Do you sell originals or prints?
Wyss: I call them
"reproductions." Yes, my originals are quite
small sometimes and also require some correction before
I can reproduce them, so I prefer to sell reproductions
on watercolour paper in signed and numbered limited
edition series. I can also print them on canvas, and
"gallery wrap" them, which means the canvas
is stretched around the corners of a wooden frame support.
And sometimes I paint over the canvas print,. That's
something called "embellishing a print," and
in that case it becomes a one-off painting again, no
longer a print identical to others in the limited edition.
Q. Why did you only do Shelby cars at first?
Wyss: As I said,
I had several books on Shelby related cars, including
Ford GT40 and the New Ford GT with Al Axelrod, Brian
Winer, SHELBY The Man The Cars The Legend and COBRA
& SHELBY MUSTANG Photo Archive so I thought I'd
make paintings of the same cars to show at book signings.
I did a polished Kirkham 427 Cobra, a Gulf GT40 that
won LeMans, a '06 Ford GT, small block Cobras and so
forth. But after the first year as an artist. I decided
to do some Ferraris and Porsches and other cars that
have interested me through the years. I still haven't
painted my favorite car, a Bizzarrini Strada because
I don't have a good picture of one. I've photographed
several but the light was never quite right to "define"
the voluptuous shape. Just having the angle right doesn't
do it for me I need the natural light to be defining
the car's form.
Q. Do you work from pictures?
Wyss: Yes. I have
tried to draw a car from scratch and you need so much
equipment like elipse guides to do the wheels and tires
and take up so much time doing diminishing line perspective
and such that I just don't have the patience, so I take
a photograph from my collection of 10,000 images and
work with that as a reference.
Q. Would we recognize the photograph from seeing
It depends on how realistic I want to get. For instance
in my painting of Dan Gurney in the Targa Florio in
a Cobra 289, I was using as inspiration a Ford PR photograph
only available in black and white. I told myself if
I would paint the car first, and if I can't mix the
color of the car right, I will abandon the effort but
when the color came out correct on the car, I decided
to go ahead and complete the whole painting.
Q. Do you do a lot of research on your period paintings?
Wyss: When I am
painting a race car in its original racing livery, I
refer to websites like Atlas F1 Bulletin Board to see
what livery the car wore in some of its races. I think
an artist doing a portrait of a historic car in its
original era owes that to his or her audience. For instance,
I did a painting of a red Cobra racing at LeMans in
'63 but found out later the two Cobras racing at LeMans
that year were white and sort of a green apple color
so now that painting can't be reproduced until I paint
the car the right color.
Q. Why would you want to do a painting
when a good photograph exists?
Wyss: First of all,
I have many photographs of my own that I like as photographs
so I don't paint them because they convey the essence
of the car without being a painting. But sometimes at
Monterey or a concours I shoot a car with a background
that looks too modern-I don't want a 1995 Chevy crewcab
in back of a '59 Ferrari Testa Rossa. So I paint a painting
and bland out the background so you can appreciate the
Ferrari and not be bothered by the presence of the Chevy
Q. Would you be pleased with the title "super-realist?"
Wyss: Recently when
I looked that up, I find that the term is now also called
"hyper-realism." It only applies to some of
my work, For instance in my painting of the Gulf GT40
at Monterey, it's hard to tell that painting from a
photograph. But other times I go very abstract on the
car or the background like my work 'Ferrari 500 Mondial'
at Monterey. I am still searching for a style I can
call my own.
Q. Are all your paintings "period?"
Wyss: No, only a
few depict racing in the original era of the car since
I wasn't around racetracks in the Fifties and didn't
shoot photos at the races I did attend in the Sixties.
Most are from vintage racing. The problem with vintage
racing is that, in the open cars, the owner might have
spent hundreds of thousands making his car period-authentic,
but as soon as he dons that modern full face helmet
he destroys the "period" look of my photo.
I haven't decided whether to paint old style helmets
on the drivers or not since that would be more authentic
to the car's original look but then would no longer
represent what I saw at the vintage race.
Q. What's your favorite media?
Wyss: I started
working in watercolors but grew frustrated with the
transparency so went to acrylics which can be both transparent
and opaque depending on how much water you thin them
out with. I would eventually like to go to full oils.
Some of my works are collages, in that I will cut out
parts of other paintings and glue them into the painting
so those would have to be called "mixed media."
I don't sell the originals though, only the prints,
so it's difficult to tell from the print if the original
was all one sheet or if it's a collage.
Q. Who are your favorite automotive artists?
Wyss: For many years
my favorite event is the annual show of the Automotive
Fine Arts Society on the turf at Pebble Beach. I think
Ken Dallison is the best in watercolors, then I like
Jay Koka for his willingness to change styles, and Harold
Cleworth for his paintings that look good from a way
off, and Nicola Wood for her subtleties in her Cadillac
paintings. I am still trying to figure out the techniques
of Dennis Brown's work.
Q. Is modern work of classic cars
Wyss: I can't say
for my own, since I am the newbie but I think in the
case of limited editions of some famous artists that
could be the case. I can't say they will appreciate
in value but there's a chance they could be worth collecting.
Especially editions made for a particular concours.
I am just glad that Jack Vettriano, a British artist,
had his painting "Bluebird" (showing a land
speed record car) go for almost a million dollars because
that one sale brought all paintings using automobiles
as subjects up a notch in status. Car artists are no
longer on the outside of the art world looking in.
Q. When you shoot pictures for reference,
what camera and lens do you prefer?
Wyss: I have an
old beat up Nikon F3 and lately have put away my 50mm
lens because it's "too boring a view" in favor
of a wide angle 28 mm lens that makes cars look a touch
more dramatic. A 28 is about as much as you can push
it in wide angle because otherwise it distorts the car
too much. A 35mm distorts less and is safer for a more
"normal" look. I might buy a 35mm lens again.
I also use a 36-86 zoom.
Q. You don't shoot digital?
Wyss: No, call me
old school but I still shoot film, I hear too many excuses
from digital photographers about batteries being weak,
so they can't shoot. I don't want to take a chance,
as I spend a lot of money to get to a race or concours
($500 to go to Monterey '09) and can't be stopped by
dead batteries. The shutter is still manual in my Nikon
so if push comes to shove I can still shoot. I also
shoot color slides because it's easier to choose which
ones to make into paintings but it costs me 10 times
more for slide film and 3 times more to process it than
print film. so it's a tough decision. I also carry a
$1.98 backup camera I bought at a thrift shop
I use that to rib the guys with expensive cameras, saying,
"It's not the camera it's the eye."
Q. What car will you paint next?
Wyss: I shot maybe
200 pictures at the 2009 Monterey Historic, and other
events at Monterey. I haven't really culled them yet
to see what strikes my fancy. I am torn between continuing
to do old classics of the Fifties and Sixties
cars from my era, essentially or depicting brand
new models like the Ferrari 458 Italia which I have
yet to see in person. I just completed a painting of
the new Ferrari California Spyder. I really put off
making a decision until I have 5 to 10 8"x12"
color photos in front of me and one reaches out and
says, "Paint me."
Q. What's your advice for those who want to take
photos of cars that could be "art?"
Wyss: To always
have your camera ready when you are at an event or a
track and to constantly be on the lookout for photo
ops-such as when I saw two little girls being put into
a classic car at a concours, I waited around just to
photograph them in the car. But I would say that only
1% of all the photos I've taken throughout the years
have potential to even be considered for a painting.
Signed and numbered works can
be ordered directly from the artist.