Simon Ward, a local professional artist, has a combination of two passions — cars and art. For him, “one leads to another.”
Remarkably, Ward has never studied at art school, college or a university yet he was drawing as soon as he could hold a pencil. He went to his first Grand Prix at 8 years old in 1972, although he was going to racing events much earlier. As a child, he remembers having to tell a story about the weekend and draw a picture on Monday morning in school.
His eyes lit up when he said, “my drawings were always of cars and racing!”
Ward has many paintings of other subjects like the recent “Cheerleader” and “Rodeo,” but his ongoing passion is painting Formula 1 Race Cars like Ferraris and Alfa Romeos.
Formula 1, commonly known as F1, is the World’s most prestigious international annual racing competition and the most popular annual sporting series.
In 1986, following his father’s dream for him, Ward was trained in engineering to become a mechanic of Formula 1 Cars.
“I could not change a spark plug, but I could paint one,” Ward said.
While living in Oxford, England, he received his first letter from his favorite race car driver, Ivan Capelli, who eventually would make it to Formula 1. Ward began producing works for drivers and teams in lower categories like Formula 2 and Formula 3.
Some of the drivers made it into Formula 1, such as Mark Webber, David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinnen, along with some of “the greats” like Emerson Fittipaldi and Riccardo Patrese, who would commission 14 paintings covering his career.
His journey from England to Pennsylvania began one very cold evening in November of 1989. Ward received his message of interest from America.
“Of course, in 1989, there was no email,” Ward said. “It was either the phone or waiting for the post.”
The message came from Sebring International Raceway, Florida, where he worked from 1991 to 2005, producing eight huge paintings of Formula 1 race cars. The paintings continue to grace Sebring Regional Airport. Just six months after the invitation, he was at the Indianapolis 500 and, the following March, at the Sebring 12 Hours.
“So, another journey began” he said. “The Indicar and Nascar with Dan Gurney, Carroll Shelby, Jim Hall, Daytona, Sebring, Charlotte, Martinsville, Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and now Watkins Glen with the Simeone Museum in Philadelphia and New York.”
“There is a great car culture here with the Eagles Mere Car and Aircraft Museum, there’s a Batmobile and the ever-present Watkin’s Glen, which I think just everyone here (in the United States) has been to in their lives, or that’s how it seems,” Ward said.
He also mentions how being here has provided a new challenge. He explained he never worked with another artist, although he thought at many times this may be possible. Some of Ward’s paintings can take two years to reach one canvas with research, finding the right car, location and the story behind it.
“They all have to fit together,” he said.
Ward said he met a few artists, but Leslie Landon “had something a little different.”
He says Landon’s work is far more contemporary than his own work and describes “one unbelievable painting of two red cherries that to me, with modern techniques set against my more classic style, really jumped out.”
He said, in that painting, all he saw was the “red metal of an Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Porsche!”
Ward and Landon collaborated, and their breathtaking exhibit — mostly race car-focused — and Landon’s mixed-media work continue to be at Buzzsaw Coffee at the Pajama Factory, 1307 Park Ave., Williamsport.
What is at the heart of Ward’s “Drive for Painting?”
“Racing drivers’ race, it is a passion,” Ward chuckled. “It’s a bug. It’s in the blood. I express this using a brush just as a race car driver uses a steering wheel. There is also the speed, the color, the sound and the atmosphere of racing. There is nothing quite like walking around a paddock full of racing cars. I also get to meet the drivers, my heroes, too. I guess, throughout my childhood, I would watch them on the television. Now I get to meet them, and some collect my work.”
Ward and Landon’s paintings are on exhibit until Jan. 31 at Buzzsaw Coffee, and Ward will have his second exhibit during First Friday in March at the Lycoming Arts Council, 46 W. Fourth St., Williamsport.
As Ward has seen the Penn State following here, he has added original paintings of former Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, Penn State’s 2022 victory in the Rose Bowl, Sean Clifford and his first cheerleader.
“After all these years of sitting in front of an easel, I am still learning,” Ward said.
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