Monday, April 6, 2015

Diamonds are forever

"Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn Baseball," Jacques Barzun, French-born American historian and philosopher famously observed.

Writers throughout our country's history have written about The National Pastime -- Ring Lardner, Ernest Hemingway, Damon Runyan, Philip Roth to name a few. 

But some pretty notable names with a paint brush have been just as lyrical about the game as those giants of letters.

Welcome to the April (opening of Baseball season) edition of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist, from Caricatures by Joel.

While these days Football has clearly eclipsed Baseball in the collective conscience of our country as the sport that best represents our times and sensibilities, Baseball is still a game that evokes nostalgia and a familiarity for many of us whose first treasured possessions as children were a bat, glove and a ball. And "catches" with our Dads.

Baseball -- with its bursts of power, speed and balletic grace -- has provided inspirational images for many artists to capture on canvas. Baseball art exhibits have even been staged at world-class museums throughout the country.

Here are some samples of what I'm talking about, including the painting above by contemporary African-American artist Kadir Nelson:

This study by Thomas Eakins, iconic Philadelphia-based realist, was rendered in 1875. (Baseball is popularly said to have been invented by Civil War Union General Abner Doubleday thirty-six years before.)

LeRoy Neiman, more famously known for his brilliantly splashy sports illustrations for Playboy magazine, did this study of activity around the batting cage, likely in the 1960's.

Norman Rockwell's cover for Saturday Evening Post ran in this 1939 issue; "America's Artist" illustrated a multitude of Baseball themes throughout his long and storied career.

Then there's this recent silliness from caricaturist Tom Richmond, acclaimed contributor to Mad Magazine and a myriad of publications and commercial sites.

And since caricatures are why we're here, here are a few pieces by yours truly, touching on Baseball in some form or another:

Pete Rose, right, appearing at a Charlotte business networking gathering alongside his host.

Jordan Danks, formerly with the Charlotte Knights, a commissioned piece the Knights had me create honoring the team's all-time hits leader, with his wife and baby son.

One of the games leaders for the Powerade State Games of North Carolina, played in 2014 at venues throughout the Charlotte region.

And finally, "Matthew," Bar Mitzvah boy and lover of 
all sports.

See you the first Tuesday of next month -- the year's fifth inning -- as we take a few more swings with Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.