Trading paint takes on a whole new meaning when Bill Patterson is in the Victory Circle at Phoenix International Raceway.
For almost a decade, the artist has been a fixture at the Avondale landmark, live painting scenes onto canvas. That includes capturing the final round to the finish line, blurring brush and acrylics into a completed portrait.
Now those paintings are on display in an exhibit called, “A Brush With Victory,” at West Valley Arts HQ, in Surprise, through Nov. 11.
The exhibit is a partnership with PIR, celebrating the raceway’s 50th anniversary.
Arts HQ Executive Director Bernadette Mills said she expects the loyal NASCAR fan base to draw people from across the Valley to the show, along with fans who travel from across the country to see the race.
She said live painting brings the spectator into the action to experience a voyeuristic journey, and in Patterson’s case, track the moments until a dramatic race is over.
You can visually experience the artist’s thought process, she said.
“Yes it’s entertaining, but it’s also a magical experience to watch a blank canvas transformed into a work of art,” Mills said. “The fact that Bill does this on site with cars racing around him, and thousands of screaming fans is a true testament to his talent and concentration. And the fact that he has, at times, had to change the winner at the last stroke is phenomenal.”
Patterson has sketched since the age of three. Another love developed around the same time — downhill skiing. About 10 years later, the two interests coalesced into one hobby when he saw his first car race in Argentina.
“I loved to ski and go fast, and when I saw my first car race, I was hooked from the first car on track,” Patterson said.
The live painting started in 1999, when a friend challenged Patterson to do a piece in front of a crowd for charity. His first live painting was done in about 20 minutes featuring Al Unser, Jr. and Roger Penske. It sold to the highest bidder for $16,000.
Several companies, have commissioned him, including Mazda, Microsoft, and FedEx.
Patterson started live painting PIR races in 2006, capturing things like Jeff Gordon’s 76th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win in 2007. That win tied Gordon for sixth all-time with Dale Earnhardt for the number of wins. He also re-envisions such moments as Alan Kulwicki’s 1988 win in the inaugural NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
“There’s something electric about a perfect line through a corner that can’t quite be described,” he said. “But I try!”
He is scheduled to live paint at the VIP reception of The Sound of Speed, a collaboration between PIR, Barrett-Jackson and The Phoenix Symphony, Nov. 6, at Symphony Hall, as well as at the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500, Nov. 9, at PIR.
Bryan R. Sperber, Phoenix International Raceway president, said PIR’s 50th Anniversary was the perfect opportunity to display Patterson’s paintings in a professional gallery for the first time.
The Victory Lane paintings have become a PIR tradition and are something that drivers, fans and media look forward to after each race, Sperber said.
“Bill has a unique gift for capturing the speed and power of the sport in his work that resonates with race fans and art enthusiasts alike,” he said.
“Part of the magic in his work is that nearly all the pieces were done as the race was coming down to the finish, sometimes with the outcome in doubt until the final lap. Often, that results in some small touches to commemorate great moments.”