Picture perfect

The artist Tim Layzell reveals how he created this month's stunning cover image

There has always been one surefire way to tell if you have made it as an artist: people start copying you. It is a truth ruefully acknowledged by Tim Layzell, the man who created this month’s cover image.

“I suppose I have a distinctive style,” he says. “And I have noticed that some people are trying to copy it now, which is annoying, but I still love doing it.”

Over the past two decades since winning a competition at the age of 13, Layzell has carved out a name for himself as one of the world’s foremost painters of motor racing. His pop-art style has been imitated but never matched and to many it is perfectly suited to capturing the drama and movement of the sport. 

This magazine has long admired his work and when it came to illustrating our cover story celebrating Stirling Moss’s victory at Pescara in 1957, he was an obvious choice – not least because colour photographs of the event are so rare. We approached him at his studio in Bristol, and after several meetings to discuss what was possible and what was required, he accepted the commission.  

“A lot of my work is commissioned these days, and a lot of time goes into researching the paintings,” he says. “For the Pescara image I looked up old issues of Motor Sport, found YouTube videos and read books to get a feel for the race and decide on the moment I wanted to paint. 

“The painting shows Moss in his Vanwall in the foreground followed by Luigi Musso in the Ferrari and Fangio in the distance in his Maserati. A lot of research goes into getting the colours right but on this particular image the most difficult thing was finding images of the banner over the pedestrian bridge – it is always the things you think will be easiest that end up being hardest.”

This specially commissioned acrylic-on-canvas painting took Layzell about three months, and was unveiled during the Hall of Fame event in June.

“The style is deceptively simple,” he says. “I use block colours, which means that rather than shading in areas as you would on most types of painting.

“I just use one colour, then another. It gives the painting real movement and draws you in, but it is like painting with one hand tied behind your back. And I paint direct onto the canvas too – it’s not something I sketch out then fill in.”

Layzell’s work has appeared everywhere from Goodwood to Monaco and sells for thousands. But he says that he still gets a massive thrill from each new commission: “The ones I enjoy the most are those where I have to create an image of something that doesn’t actually exist before I paint it,” he says. “In that sense the Pescara picture was ideal.”

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