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The Real World: Auto Painter Reaches for the Sky

With 40 years of experience in auto painting and a lifetime as an artist, Ferry equally enjoys both his occupation and his hobby.


By Lauren Weidinger


Tom Ferry’s painting changes colors. That’s right. It actually changes colors. And you don’t need to ingest any hallucinogens to see this. All you have to do is look at it from different angles.

The painting, which is made entirely from auto paint, arose from Ferry’s fascination with the aurora borealis and night, themes that play out through many of his works. And the masses seem to like it – it sold at a recent art show in Ketchikan, Alaska, where Ferry works as a painter for Ketchikan Autobody and Glass.

The curator told him if she had 20 of those paintings, she could have sold every one.

“I was amazed when she said that,” said Ferry.

A Gold Star Student
Ferry was also amazed when, in second grade, he received a “gold star” for a ship he drew in art class. That’s when he realized he might have some talent.


Later on in his academic career, he was named art editor of his high school newspaper and also cultivated his passion for art by creating cartoons, aspiring to one day become a political cartoonist. It wasn’t until after high school that he started pursuing different types of artwork more seriously.

Painting Cars
After Ferry parlayed his talents into a career in the collision industry, he discovered that painting for work and painting as a hobby can be a difficult balance.

“It’s kind of hard [managing both],” Ferry says. “Here at the shop, I’ll just prep a piece of aluminum, or get a canvas from someone, then pick a particular paint right off the wall of the paint room and start painting away as I’m also painting a car. It’s kind of wild.”
With 40 years of experience in auto painting and a lifetime as an artist, Ferry equally enjoys both his occupation and his hobby.


“[I love] my hobby as an artist because there is no pressure to produce like a true professional artist, but I have and could sell a lot of artwork if I wanted to,” says Ferry. “The one thing I like about auto painting is the challenge, as it’s the hardest part of doing an auto repair; it makes or breaks the job.”

Like all artists, Ferry enjoys experimenting with different forms of “art and medium.” Looking to broaden his scope, he recently delved into three-dimensional art, including sculpting and construction. An aluminum sculpture he laid eyes on for the first time inspired him to try to craft one in the future. As for construction, he just built an addition to his parents’ 1940s-style home.

“To design something on a 1940s-style home and put an addition on that doesn’t look like an addition is quite a task,” he says. “It went really well, and a lot of local architects really liked it, too. So now I’m also an amateur architect.”


Ferry also discovered a love of music early in his life when he was introduced to the bass guitar in high school. He became so enamored with music that he moved to California to pursue it as a career, writing songs, recording three albums and participating in different groups, including “Black Ice Hot-N-Heavy.”

Through this process, he discovered that he loved music above all other art forms…and that the inspiration for art and music is quite similar.

“With art, sometimes you go through spurts of inspiration; it just comes flowing out of you, which is like music also,” Ferry says. “When I was playing music, I would have a recorder next to my bed so I could make up songs and hum a few bars on the spot, record them and then play them in the morning. With artists, you have spurts of real creativity, and then you have times where you just draw a blank.”


Ferry’s recent success with his “shifting colors” painting was not the first time his work has been recognized. He also received a few awards at the Blueberry Art Festival held annually the first week of August in Alaska.

When he retires, Ferry hopes to generate a series of paintings depicting fishing boats in coves or other remote areas. He also dreams of being commissioned to create paintings for art enthusiasts.

Having worked in numerous art forms, including sculpting, designing logos and tattoos, painting, drawing and others, Ferry believes the future is limitless.

Lauren Weidinger is a student at Revere High School in Richfield, Ohio, and an aspiring journalist who hopes to further her studies at Northwestern University.

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