One of Phoenix Raceway’s most unique and creative traditions is the live art painting of each race winner by friend of the track and motorsports artist Bill Patterson. Bill prepares his canvas in Victory Lane and watches the race in suspense, not knowing which of the 40 cars he will be tasked to paint as soon as the Checkered Flag drops. PIR’s favorite painter is popularly known as a live artist, one who paints a visual performance in a public arena. While the chaos of Victory Lane unfolds, from Gatorade baths and confetti showers to an endless hat dance, Bill remains focused in the corner, intently finishing his newest masterpiece.
Read on for how he started painting at Phoenix Raceway, how a late pass from Kevin Harvick got Bill on to ESPN and more!
Phoenix Raceway: How did you start painting in Victory Lane?
Bill Patterson: “It was something I was thinking about for some time and something that I wanted to throw out to Bryan when he asked me if I knew about the paintings that Leroy Neiman used to do at the races. I of course knew him for his very iconic work. He’s a genius and a huge personality. His sense of color, motion and style is just fantastic. So he asked what I thought about doing a live painting like Leroy for the fall race. I was stunned because that was exactly what I wanted to do. It was perfect.”
PR: What is the best part about working in live art?
BP: “Live art to me is always so exciting, slightly terrifying, but mostly just a hell of a lot of fun. I love creating something from nothing and people being able to watch the process as they see me start from nothing and then they see this or that and then there’s a car. I kind of go through the same thing – I sort of know where I want to go with the painting when I start, I’ve got it sketched out and pretty well in my head, but I love watching it happen, too. I love changing it and letting it morph and develop and mature as I go. I get a huge kick out of it.”
PR: What is the worst part about live art?
BP: “Dragging the stuff around, mixing the paint, stretching the canvas, setting up the easel, all that stuff I’m just sick to death of. But I still love to paint.”
PR: What is your favorite memory at Phoenix Raceway?
BP: “The very first one I did was 2006. I remember it clearly because it was panic time. I started about 10 laps to go and it looked like Tony Stewart had it locked up. He and Kevin Harvick were running one and two, and were running that way for quite some time and Harvick didn’t seem to be making any progress on Stewart until after I had started the painting. Two laps from the end they swapped. The ESPN guys were setup right next to me and they had a hell of a time watching me switch those guys around. Actually, they came back from commercial with one of their guys trying to help me out. It was a lot of fun and the first time of many that I’ve gotten to shake Kevin Harvick’s hand in Victory Lane at PIR.”