Derailed into writing early on, Wallace Wyss re-entered the art field some 30 years later by accident and hasn’t looked back. Some artists, admittedly, get a slow start. One example is Wallace Wyss who in 1962, enrolled in art classes at Wayne State in Detroit. He was a year in, learning oil painting and charcoal techniques, when an ad agency came to the college to interview for interns. The day of the interviews he was told all art positions had been filled. “What’s not filled?” he asked. “Copywriter.”
Wyss volunteered that he was a published writer and had even won a national writing award. So suddenly he was a copywriter. After three decades in publishing and writing, he moved to the west coast as a car magazine staffer and segued into writing car books, eighteen in all. One, about race driver Carroll Shelby, became a best seller.
Wyss frequently attended car shows to take pictures for his books. In 2009, as he prepared to go to a Beverly Hills car show, he decided to make a painting of Shelby and take It to the show along with his latest book on Shelby. At the show, he sold the book and showed the same buyer a snapshot of the painting. The buyer said, “Go get it, I want the painting too.”
When he returned home, Wyss decided to paint car portraits. He already had thousands of pictures of cars to provide inspiration. It took months of experimenting with paint and paper before he began paintings. When he finally began marketing them, he decided to not sell his originals because they were done as small 11” x 17” works. Instead, he decided to sell only canvas giclee prints. Today, his favorite giclee size is 20″ x 30″ but he can be persuaded to go larger. Sometimes he embellishes the canvas. “To some artists, embellishment is just a dab here or there—with me it’s painting the whole picture again on top of the print.”
A one-time member of the Ferrari Owners Club, he specializes in Italian cars. Wyss’ love of Ferraris is quite evident in his work. But there’s one marque from the 60’s he’s painted a dozen times although still relatively unknown — a Bizzarrini. He paints it because he first glimpsed one in 1968 in Detroit and that vision confirmed his tilt toward the automotive world.
He annually treks to the Monterey Peninsula for Car Week where he has a booth at Concorso Italiano with his wife Angelita, selling his books, which are now all out of print, and his giclee canvases.
Ironically his two best-selling paintings, a Ferrari race car and Ferrari racing engine, show he’s not far from racing, just not trying to capture action on the track. He is enamored of a misty fog in the background. “I tried having the crowd at a car show be prominent—but focusing on one or two individuals would be distracting, so I paint the crowd first, then lay in mist so the car is the star.”
“Cars are about people,” he says. He plans to include more people in his compositions in the future. His favorite so far is a Shelby Cobra at a race. “I’m almost emotional about it,” he says. “Since I knew those same mechanics when I did my first book on Shelby. I’d like to work more folks into my car portraits—especially if they were involved with the history of that model.”
In August 2022, he consigned two of his Ferrari giclees to Mecum Auctions at Monterey in a category titled Road Art. “I had thought ‘road’ art was gasoline globes, or kiddies pedal cars. And I thought their audience was more about muscle cars. But they accepted them and the day I delivered my work, I saw they had real Ferraris to sell too.” He took a chance and placed them with no reserve, which means a bidder could have bought them for a dollar. But they both sold well, and he left with a new avenue for his works.
Wyss is currently working on another automotive subject that is the opposite of classic cars—hot rods, especially those popular in Latin-American neighborhoods. He says he really can’t help himself because they are history too.
Wallace Wyss is letting it be known that he’s open to submit work on consignment to galleries for those interested in an adventure into automotive art. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org