Fritz Proctor IV’s TikTok videos are flourishes of vivid pigments. He mixes bright crimsons, cobalt blues, and titanium whites to produce a color — whichever one he’s decided to re-create that day.
As @fritzdoesart, Proctor follows a standard format in most of his videos. He picks out a color swatch card, grabs his trusty palette knife, and slaps together globs of oil-based paint on a table until he arrives at a perfect match. He then dabs the paint on the swatch card, proving the two are all but indistinguishable.
The videos fall somewhere between ASMR and art, but whatever they are, they’re working: He’s racked up 6 million followers since he started his account last August.
“That whole paint-mixing process has been part of my studio practice as a painter,” said Proctor, 24, who works out of his Malden home. “One day my wife, Blair, was complimenting [me] on how therapeutic it was. ... I put [up a video] and it just started going crazy.”
Proctor, a painter by trade, said paint mixing is a skill necessary to make the right colors for his own works. He attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York before finishing a studio art degree at the University at Buffalo.
After learning the ins and outs of color theory in college, he said knowing which paints to mix, the order in which to blend them, and the precise amounts to use is “muscle memory.”
“It’s hard to fool the camera,” he said. “I have to get it pretty close.”
But swatch cards aren’t the only models he uses. In his more than 200 videos, Proctor has re-created the buttery yellow hue of a slice of Velveeta cheese, the dusty beige of the Mona Lisa’s face, and the tea green of a dollar bill. Sometimes, fans will give him challenges, like blending the color black without using black paint.
“I’ve had to move into materials, props, things that are iconic,” Proctor said. “Every day is like: What am I going to do next?”
Each video, he said, can take him up to a half hour to make, and the process is complicated by the fact that he has to match the color to what is perceived through the lens of the camera, not what he sees.
Proctor, who called paint-mixing “a bit of a meditation,” rarely posts tutorials to teach viewers to mix paints themselves. However, he said he occasionally leaves videos up in which he doesn’t think the color is a perfect match, and noticed that viewers began picking up on the errors, too.
“With the TikTok, my real goal is to try to get people interested in art without them actually knowing,” he said. “I want people to be aware about color. And they see, ‘Oh, it needs purple.’”
A native of Niagara Falls, N.Y., Proctor has raised over $2,500 through a GoFundMe (which he advertised on his TikTok) for Niagara Falls City School District’s art program to provide students with art supplies, scholarships, and cultural field trips.
“My goal is to just get more people to be interested in art, because it’s totally changed my life,” he said. “I genuinely believe that the more people that create art, the happier people will be”
Proctor said that in April 2022 his own work is slated to be on display at the Buffalo Art Movement gallery, including a huge painting of Rafe’s Chasm in Gloucester — “I’ve fallen in love with the North Shore,” he said. One of his reasons for moving to Massachusetts was its potential for nature paintings of the Bay State’s landscapes. He saves all the colors he mixes to use for his own pieces, and he occasionally posts time-lapsed TikTok videos of him painting around Massachusetts.
Though he continues to cultivate his fine art career, he said part of the price for becoming viral for this niche skill is learning to let go of his ego. “It’s kind of like a Bob Ross scenario,” he said.
Money from sponsorships and monetization from his TikTok and YouTube videos allowed Proctor to leave his job as a sign painter for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
“My dream was to quit my job and be a full-time painter and paint every day, and that’s come true,” he said. “It’s [taken] on a life of its own, so I’m just a vehicle for it.”
Dana Gerber can be reached at email@example.com