I have been painting athletes for almost two years now, probably more than 50 paintings completed.
Being primarily focused on Chicago sports, I always received requests for Michael Jordan. I even tried to paint him a few times and failed. There’s an added pressure when painting someone as great as Michael Jordan, who is, without much argument, the best athlete and competitor we have ever seen.
His cultural presence, even 20 years later, makes it hard to create original art that hasn’t been over-replicated. There’s also a vulnerability of putting art on display for all of social media to see when the subject is so familiar. Does the painting look like him? Does this capture the energy of the moment? (Shout out to my wife for being my best critic. Thanks Amy!)
With the airing of The Last Dance, there is a sense of vulnerability, albeit probably still controlled and calculated, that Jordan is displaying. The documentary serves as a way to break down some of the walls between him and the fans.
The Jordan I grew up watching — without the social media access of todays player's — helped to perpetuate the myth of a giant who only won. Understanding the grind and work that he put in during the '80s inspired me to push through the the mental hurdles I create for myself, focusing on being very deliberate in each unique brushstroke. Painting MJ, and the “Last Shot” and his face-off with Kobe, connect me back to the '90s, which is where my love of sports began to take shape and where my love of art begin to cultivate.
It seems fitting that painting the greatest would help me solve some of the creative problems I have been having. My journey as a sports artist is just beginning, but in finding parallels between the creative process and the journey and struggle of the athlete, I am pushing myself to get better and seeing the fruits of my labor.