La Canada Flintridge artist Tracy Holmes captures the energy and motion of auto racing on canvas.

By Karen Apostolina

MONTROSE - Artist Tracy Holmes is a picture of relative calm amid the vortex of swirling color that is her studio. A "sports and figure artist" from La Canada Flintridge, Holmes has taken up residence at Whites Gallery in Montrose to paint scenes of NASCAR racing. After attending a NASCAR race in 1998, Holmes fell in love with the accelerated feel of the track. The sport's constantly changing subject matter and dramatic stories inspired her. Race cars are the stars of Holmes' paintings, but she said she also includes the-people who participate in NASCAR's extreme environment. I am drawn to the spirit of the people and the action of the scene," she said. Her wildly colorful oil paintings combine realism and impressionism.

NASCAR is a brand-driven industry and its racers become hot merchandising commodities. Holmes went through an arduous licensing process that gives her permission to paint the likeness of famous drivers such as Jeff Gordon, a four-time Winston Cup champion. This also, allows her to sell limited edition prints of her oils and cards that have an almost photographic quality. I have turned a little more commercial to make art for people who can't afford originals," she said. Painting in open view at Whites Gallery has proved challenging but beneficial for the artist. She laughs and shakes her head as she explains how the creative process is a tender one and open to misinterpretation. "Painting in public rather than private makes you more vulnerable," she said. "Often, part of the process involves just sitting on the couch staring at the canvas. I am always afraid someone is going to see something unfinished and not understand."

Her splashy artwork stands out among the many landscapes lining the walls of Whites Gallery. Holmes is interested in painting action and doesnt confine herself to traditional scenes. I like to flirt with the edge," she said. I am interested in showing the possibility. of transformation, what people can achieve. Holmes is a third-generation artist. Her grandfather, Jack Ray, was an award-winning amusement park designer and an important influence in her life. Her mother also painted but struggled to make a living at it. Holmes' move from private to public may bring about her own transformation by bumping up her exposure level. Whites Gallery owner Linda Strack is excited about the energy that surrounds Holmes' art. "She catches the spirit of the race. You can almost hear the cars going around the track when you look at her paintings," she said. "She is so passionate about her work and that's what people respond to."

The gallery, at 2414 Honolulu Ave., exhibits the work of local artists and hosts a rotating show monthly. Coming up next is "Vistas and Vignettes," by Kendra Page from Tuesday to Jan. 31.

'Nose to Nose' is one of four greeting cards in the Jeff Gordon Stationery Series that are replicas of original oil paintings by Tracy Holmes. The cards are sold as an ensemble of 20 cards with envelopes in a keepsake box available at Whites Gallery.