. Cobra Ranch Historical Automotive Blog: Featuring Wally Wyss

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Acclaimed Author Wallace Wyss Interviewed About His Fine Art.

     One of my favorite Authors is Wallace Wyss.  Immortalized by being bound to ink and paper through several publications across the decades, he also gets to drive some of the most amazing rides that even James Bond would be envious of.  Not only is he an author, but a artist too.  Pictured above is perhaps my favorite work by Wyss.  I can't wait to see his latest book, and I hope that it is bound by its own artwork.
     Author Wallace Wyss is mostly known for his automotive histories. He has authored or co-authored no less than three books on the subject of Shelby, In 1977, he wrote the now iconic Shelby's Wildlife: the Cobras and the Mustangs. In 2007,  he premiered his books SHELBY The Man The Cars The Legend and his 1962-2007 Cobra and Shelby Mustang 1962-2007 Photo Archive plus the book he co-authored with Brian Winer and Al Axelrod entitled Ford GT40 and the New Ford GT. But this interview is about his fine art. 
Q. How do you mean you became an artist “by accident?
Wyss: I  was going to the Beverly Hills car show, and I brought along a painting of Shelby that I made to promote the book. I also brought my new Ford GT book. I met a publisher at a booth for a magazine called Makes and Models and sold him the GT book and then showed him a small picture of the Shelby painting. He said “Where is it?” and I said “In my car 6 blocks away.” He said “Go get it, I’ll take that too.” On the walk back I thought “Hey, why stop at being a writer?” I bought some watercolors and was off and running.
Q.What art training did you have?

Wyss: None. I earned my degree in journalism. Of course being  a photographer for 40-plus years helps a lot in composition.

Q.What media are you using?

Wyss: I started with watercolors but they were too transparent so now I’ve moved to acrylic oils which I like a lot better because they are more opaque. I’d go to regular oils but don’t want a house smelling of turpentine which you need to clean the brushes.

Q.What did you paint pictures of first?

Wyss: To promote my Shelby and Cobra books and the GT40 book the first few were all of Shjelby-related cars, but gradually I began to paint other cars I like, such as the various Ferraris.

Q. Do you use photographs?

Wyss: Yes, for reference. I first go through my 10,000 photo collection, most of which I shot since 1965, and select those with potential. Then I make a color print or even black and white print and then start a painting, using that for reference to get the proportions right.

Q. What artists influenced you the most?

Wyss: Well, long before I became an artist, I was a fan of such artists as Jay Koka, Ken Dallison, Nicola Wood, Dennis Brown and Art Fitzpatrick. Every year the high point of my visit to the Pebble Beach concours is to go into the Automotive Fine Arts Society cocktail party the night before and see what’s new from each artist.

Q. What about other fine artists?

Wyss: In my painting “Yellow Cobra” I think there’s a little bit of Edward Hopper influence, at least in the way I painted the people. So it all depends on which art book I was looking at last, as to how I am influenced. I wish I could have more people in them like Jack Vettriano, he’s a Welsh-born fine artist who really is becoming popular.

Q.What Mustangs have you painted?

Wyss: I did a ’65 Shelby GT350, a ’69 Shelby, and a Boss 302 plus an ’07 Shelby GT500.

Q. Is your favorite Shelby car a Shelby Mustang, a Cobra or a Ford GT?

Wyss: I like all of them, and particular models within each of those model ranges. For instance, in the Shelby Mustangs I like the '65 GT350 R model, in the GT40s I like the '69-69 Ford GT Gulf car with the 302 and in the Cobras, the 427 Cobra comp car.

Q.What is the trickiest painting you have made?

Wyss: I wanted to show a Cobra in raw aluminum. I found a little known magazine with color of a 427 Cobra being tested over in England at Silverstone racetrack and used that as a reference. It was really hard to get the "raw aluminum" look. Now I'd like to do an aluminum bodied Cobra that's been polished out.

Q. What form is your work sold in?

Wyss: The latest idea is - each time I finish a new oil - to make inexpensive posters of it, which I call “mini-posters” and market those on eBay just to get the existence of each new painting known. In small print on each poster, it tells how to order the large print on either French-made watercolor paper or on canvas.

Q.What car will you paint next?

Wyss: I recently bought a wide angle lens—a 38 mm—for my Nikon F3 so it just depends on what I catch on film and how the resulting picture strikes me. I find that sports cars look a little bolder when shot with a slightly wide angle lens. I might also try some more moving shots of cars but since I don’t use a motor drive, I can just catch one or two shots each time the pack goes by on the racetrack.

Q. What about going beyond cars?

Wyss: Well, my life is built around cars, but I still hope to do some scenics, like Big Sur, which I just went to, or around  
Mendocino, where the family ranch, Cobra Ranch,  is. Or do some of the scenes I've recorded on film from Sedona.  But it all depends on the lighting and whether  or not I can capture the scene in paint the way I saw it with my eyes.

Q. What about people?

Wyss: I tried to paint portraits of Shelby—that was the first painting I ever made—and more recently Gurney but I can tell you from personal experience--people are much more difficult to paint than cars.

Q. Where can art fans find out about your art?

has most of my Ford car paintings and this other site
has a lot of the exotic cars. 

Q. Thank you.

Well there you have it; artist by accident after three decades of work as an author.  No more excuses for myself, it's time to breakout the watercolors!


  1. What a beautiful automobile!

  2. So, who is the interviewer?

  3. This interview is between Wallace Wyss and Pete Vack. Variations of this interview have been made available to Ponysite.de and Veloce Today.

    Thank you for your interest.