Tom Lake proudly admits to being a gear head and says his young son, Titus, is following in his footsteps. But he is not your typical gear head, covered in grease and talking engines, fuels and all that.
Lake is a gear head of the artistic persuasion. His intense pastels of stylized cars will be featured at the Artists of the Rim Gallery through April. An opening reception for Lake and his work will be part of the April 2 First Friday festivities.
“His work is so clean. It’s beautiful,” said gallery cooperative member Donn Morris, who is coordinating Lake’s exhibit.
A Phoenix native, Lake and his family have lived in Tonto Basin the past three years. He started his love affair with cars — race cars — at the tender age of 4, when his family started taking him to drag races. In addition to rendering the cars into works of art, Lake has done some racing too.
He started doing artwork at the age of 6, doodling cars. When he was 10, he said an Arizona State University professor saw his drawings and said he should go into design.
“I was designing cars that look like the new Camaros,” Lake said.
He is self-taught and markets his work as a vendor at racetracks. Lake does a good business at the tracks; he recently had his highest commission sale at Southwest Nostalgia Nationals at Speed World in Surprise.
The show opening at Artists of the Rim Gallery this week is his first gallery show, he said.
Many of his pieces are inspired by stories he has heard from old racers. The process begins with a pencil sketch, which is refined several times before he starts with the pastels and charcoals. He said over the years he has learned how to build up to get the intensity he likes on his pieces.
Lake said the piece he was most excited about doing is something he calls “Hydrazine” — which is an unstable rocket fuel that some racers have tried to use. The story he heard was that the driver using it went through eight motors in two days.
At the Artists of the Rim show, Lake will have about 13 original pieces in varying sizes, plus a collection of his prints. He will be selling work in a $25 to $600 price range, he said. Morris said as part of Lake’s reception, members of the various car clubs have been invited to display their vehicles opposite the gallery, which is at 408 W. Main St., Payson.
First Friday festivities are from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Friday, April 2.