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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sports Art

OSU Montage, 2006, Jim Lane, my most ambitious sports effort.
Although I'm not at all a sports fan, I do claim the title of sports artist among my many other areas of subjective typecasting as a painter. Both in paintings and drawn portraits, I've done more than my share of baseball and football players, not to mention more than a few of their cheerleaders. Now that I think about it, I've also drawn a number of wrestlers and basketball players. Being from Ohio, I do have a warm place in my heart for the OSU Buckeyes. Even though I graduated from Ohio University, the Bobcats have never interested me much. As a painter, I've strictly limited myself to OSU football. Some might ask, if I have little interest in sports, why I paint sports subject. One word--money. It's no secret there is a TON of money in sports and several hundred pounds of it in painting and drawing sports. If the truth were known, I'd wager most artists paint sports figures primarily for the same reason I do.

Joe Montana, Steven Holland
Undoubtedly, the big money for an artist is in football art, followed some distance back by baseball and basketball. Other sports and their art bring up the rear, so to speak. The first name coming to mind in sports art is that of Leroy Neiman, to the point I'm not going to post any of his paintings here simply because you've probably already seen them, or at least, have a stereotypical image of his work. Instead, I've picked at random from the thousands of sports artist with work on line, two or three which appeal to me. The work of Steven Holland (above) jumped out at me. His Joe Montana action painting has a rich, dark, "gritty" look to it which I think captures the game perfectly. So many other artists, myself included, tend to want to paint "pretty" pictures of sports. Football can be, and often is, downright "un-pretty."

Mark Trubisky seems equally at home painting any sport.
Cut from the Leroy Neiman mold is Mark Trubisky (above). Though Mark has both a bachelor's degree from Syracuse University, and a master's degree from Penn State, neither of them are art related. He is totally self-taught as an artist, yet he has developed a quite distinctive, painterly looseness of style setting him apart from others in this crowded field. Sports artist Andy Jurinko, who died in 2011 at the age of 71, was quite the opposite, painting near photographic images closely resembling portraits, though his figures never lack for the action so important in sports art. He painted mostly baseball legends and the ballparks where they became legendary (below).

Stan Musial , by Andy Jurinko
I didn't write today's item simply to exhibit my own sports art, but while I'm at it, there is one piece I'm quite proud of. It's no secret that, by necessity, sports artists work almost exclusively from photographs. I very often used poses of players from a totally different teams, then changed the uniform colors and design, adding heads and faces from yet other photos to create my OSU football figures. The painting below, Big Ten in Action, uses three images of the same player to try to capture the rapid movement of the throwing action and, indeed, the whole game of football. Any sports photographer will tell you the game of football is the most difficult to follow on the ground in trying to shoot the action.

Big Ten in Action, 2006, Jim Lane
Similarly, where action is concerned, it takes a major effort to capture on film (or digitally) the movement of a single figure. When two or more are involved in the action, the difficulty nearly doubles. The painting below, titled simply X, like the one above, involved quite a lot of digital photo manipulation long before any attempt was made to move to canvas.

X, 2006, Jim Lane. This and all my other sports paintings were done using a palette knife in an attempt to capture the raw, brute force of the game. 
I would be remiss if I didn't include the guys (and at least mention the gals) who make sports economically viable and its sports art, buyable. Often they're derogatorily called "couch potatoes." Individually, they pay very little to enjoy all the dangerous, rough and tumble action of their favorite sport. However they support that sport by their simple physical presence on the living room couch. I was prepared to elevate myself to this vital calling, but in all honesty, I almost never watch sports of any kind.

After the Game, 2007, David J. Negron--the most important figure in sports.

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