It’s probably safe to say there’s no other working artist with a following like Fritz Proctor the IV.
The Niagara Falls-raised Proctor, 23, who first made headlines as a teen curator at the Albright Knox Art Gallery, is a sensation on TikTok, the social media site dedicated to short, self-made music videos. A December story in these pages detailed his online success and a digital fan base at the time of 1.9 million.
His audience continues to grow daily, now past 4.3 million, all because of a very simple procedure familiar to most painters. Proctor mixes and matches colors. Using his tool to select colors from his palette, he is able to expertly match any color from the milky brown of a slice of bologna to the bright orange in a hot pepper to the dark green of a Magnificent Hulk toy. The "music" in his brief videos is the sound of his palette knife tapping his workspace, marking a percussive beat as he blends an assortment of colors to match the color of whatever item he is attempting to replicate.
The Niagara Falls High School grad, who still has family in the region including his dad, Fritz Proctor III, also an artist, and his mom, Vicky, along with twin siblings Billy and Rae-Lynne, is now married to a photographer, Blair Proctor, and living in Boston. In a phone interview this week, he described how his life has changed since he's gone digital.
QUESTION: I just watched your videos on TikTok and clearly, the world loves them. How did you get started at this?
ANSWER: It all started at the beginning of the pandemic. I was painting a lot in my basement studio here in Boston and part of my studio process was to mix colors to match the color of Home Depot paint cards. It makes it a lot easier to think of what color I need in certain parts of my painting to get the right color. I would mix that color perfectly and apply that paint to the canvas. My wife suggested I make videos of it and I did.
Q: Did that first video get views?
A: The first video took off right away. It got thousands of views. I just kept with it. I just kept making more because people were commenting "This is so great," and "I love it." The thing that makes me happy is a lot of young art students are saying "This is inspiring," and that makes me want to work harder. Also, people with anxieties find it therapeutic. They tell me, "I have anxiety, and watching these videos calms me down."
Q: The videos are very entertaining but you don't use music, which is kind of the point of TikTok, right?
A: I try to not use music because I think the sounds of the process are very important for the viewer. It's a bit academic too. A lot of people will watch who aren’t really interested in art, but they'll watch a video of an artist mixing color, and all of a sudden they’re taking part in an artistic experience. They’re gaining knowledge without even knowing it. You get a really wide range of an audience of artists and art lovers and those who know nothing about art.
Q: Who is your inspiration?
A: My inspiration is Bob Ross from the PBS show.
Q: You are quite different from Bob Ross, but I bet he would love your videos.
A: He’s another character people find therapeutic. People say Bob Ross invented ASMR. It’s Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It’s a bit of a scientific term, but I put the term in my tags a lot. It’s a medical term that's become really popular online. It's people making sounds or doing things that viewers find pleasurable and relaxing. There are YouTube videos online of people playing with toys or popping bubbles. Bob Ross would put his brush into the mineral spirits and tap his brush. There are a lot of sounds in a Bob Ross show.
Q: So, how many followers do you have now?
A: It goes up pretty quick. On TikTok, it's at 4.3 million followers, and they are from all over the world. My comments are in Korean, Thai, Spanish and Russian. I try to not incorporate too much language so they have that reach and they're relevant everywhere.
Q: How do wrap your head around those numbers?
A: I don’t. I can’t. I haven't been able to comprehend it yet. The first time I could really understand it was when I did a live video in Times Square where I paint-matched the Statue of Liberty. People knew who I was. It seems like I’m in a different world. Last year at this time, I was just making art. I was posting online and maybe received 30 likes. Now it's a different thing.
Q: People in the industry must be paying attention to you now. Have you had any offers?
A: I have a manager now. She approached me. She takes care of brand deals. I’ve been able to quit my day job working for the Massachusetts park system, I was a sign designer. Just recently I was able to take that big leap. I was able to quit my job and be a full-time artist.
Q: How's that going for you?
A: I just had a big show at BAM!, the Buffalo Art Movement. It was very successful. I sold a lot of paintings, which was really nice, and a lot of people reached out and told me they went to the show. It was a difficult time at the height of the pandemic. People went out to see the show anyway and that means a lot.
Q: Do you feel a lot of pressure to produce the TikTok videos?
A: I used to do it every day. But that got out of hand. It's a lot of work. So I try to post something every other day and I try to see what s going on in the world and find something that’s relevant. It’s also a challenge to think of something to color match, but people give suggestions. I've paint matched my hand, I did a Pokemon the other day. I've done a football, a basketball and even Camila Harris. I try to do people every once in a while. A lot of beauty people who are into cosmetics tell me I should make my own foundation line (laughs). It’s pressure but it's enjoyable. I’m going to paint no matter what. It has also done something interesting for my art. It's given me this array of color. I’ll introduce colors into my painting, just because they’re there. There are surprises that are kind of cool for the painting.
Q: What's your dream?
A: My dream was to be a full-time artist, (laughs) and that happened. I’m really grateful. I don’t know what’s next. I just want to create more videos. I have plans to expand on my social platform. I want to start doing educational videos with some platforms like Patreon, where people can pay different levels and depending on the price they pay, they receive services from me, like one-on-one videos. Or if they want to see more instructional videos, they can pay for a lower tier.
Q: How do you describe what has happened between high school and now?
A: When I was in high school, I was driven, especially studying with Mr. (Rob) Lynch at Niagara Falls High School. I talk about him a lot but he really pushed me and showed me that art is a lifestyle. I was brand new to it and he really changed my life with his teaching of art. It’s always been in my heart and in my mind to somehow give back. In a way, I feel like this is that. I’m showing people art every day whether they love art or like art, they’re embedded in an artist's process and it helps people.
For more information about Frizt Proctor IV, visit online on Instagram, Facebook or TikTok.
Watch a video of Niagara Falls-raised artist and TikTok sensation Fritz Proctor IV color match a Pokemon toy at Niagara-Gazette.com.