The prolific and incredibly talented Art Fitzpatrick has died. We take an appreciative look back at his remarkable body of work.
We have featured a number of Fitz and Van’s illustrations at DTW over the last two years and we are very sorry to hear of his passing. His work was an inspiration to many in car design and anyone interested in drawing.
Between 1959 and 1971 Art Fitzpatrick worked with former Disney illustrator Van Kaufmann to create lush and evocative imagery for GM cars, primarily Pontiac.
As the illustration shows, the pair were able to portray romantic, rich and compelling images of cars. The technical mastery of Art Fitzpatrick is apparent in the detail of the renderings, calling to mind the sensuous reflective qualities of sheet metal, glass and above all chrome. The highlights flow beautifully and have tremendous depth.
As well as being able to represent the geometry of these complex sculptural vehicles, Art had to imagine scenes that best suited the car’s character and image. There is a film-director’s sense of staging and the images are always delightfully composed. The use of colour too catches the eye. Bearing in mind the medium, the images make one immediately think of the materials involved: the glossy paint, polished glass and extravagant brightwork. The page, paint and ink are invisible. The pictures are also superbly able to capture mood.
Not all of them are bright and sunny. The image above takes one to a wet and dark night, making the car seem all the more welcoming and secure. Notice the way the shop-front sign is reflected on the windscreen of the car, drawing your attention to its curvature. Another light source runs down the side of the car as well, adding visual drama. To achieve this kind of effect, Fitzpatrick had to imagine hypothetical light sources; today a photographer will move lamps around to see how the lights will play on the surface.
The difference is that Fitzpatrick had what amounted to a virtual lighting set in his mind and must have spent considerable time considering where and how to place the lights to bring out the main features of the car.
Photography put an end to the use of drawings in advertisements in the 70s but what they added in apparent realism they lost in richness, character and depth. To study Fitz and Van’s images is to learn how to render. I like to think that a good artist makes you look again at the subject. There is great intelligence in the way Fitzpatrick used the tools of his trade to put on paper the surface qualities of the vehicles and looking at them will impress images on your mind you take to the viewing of the real vehicle. You won’t look at these cars the same way if you have studied the corresponding images that Fitzpatrick created.