A large part of my love affair with baseball is the experience of going to the ballpark. I take advantage of a beautiful Spring or Summer day, hop in the car, and go to a game. If such baseball expeditions are a part of your life, I am certain you have rituals and things you collect from the ballparks you’ve visited. I always purchase an official cap of the home team, but during the game, I love to just kick back with a beer and a creative ballpark meal and just relax with 9 innings of background noise.
For Andy Brown, a British artist who was born in Aylesbury, a small town 40 miles from London, England, the experience of going to the ballpark has become a much more involved affair. In 2019, Andy visited all 30 major league ballparks, set up an easel and canvas, and painted throughout the game. This has resulted in beautiful depictions of the hallowed grounds of America’s baseball-themed cathedrals. Overall, Mr. Brown has painted 90 total ballparks in 9 different countries, including his homeland of England during the 2019 MLB London Series.
Although Andy recalls some of his first cartoon drawings as an 8 year old kid depicting the exaggerated motion of a pitcher’s wind-up, it wasn’t until he was living in Korea in 2009 that the artist attended his first live baseball game.
“I saw my first baseball game in Sajik Stadium in Busan, home of the Lotte Giants. I love the atmosphere created by live events - the electricity and expectation and the places where people congregate to celebrate and witness something and be part of a community.
I started painting baseball as it was new to me and very much part of the Korean culture. I wanted to learn more about it, so I started drawing sketches of ballparks during pregame. By doing this I could notice details that might sometimes get overlooked. Drawing and painting forces you to be very engaged with the objects in front of you. At my first game I loved the atmosphere and noise of the crowd and the beauty of the ballpark itself. These are still things that always amaze me. I love how these patches of ground have been carved out by humans as a place in which to relax and unwind”
Yet, art and culture were a part of Andy’s approach to his work before he started painting at ballparks. In 2002, the 20th anniversary of the Falklands War, Andy was finishing up his Fine Art Painting degree at Loughborough University, and his work was very focused on British culture and heritage. Even though Andy was only 2 years old when the war occured, he describes its images as prominent in his mind. So, he began painting said images using tea in a watercolor fashion to give his paintings of the Queen a sepia-esque tone. This style ended up leading to a fascinating accolade for Andy.
“The culmination of this work was making a portrait of the Queen using tea bags themselves. I sewed about 1000 tea bags onto a piece of hessian which made for an interesting portrait. 2002 was also the Queens Golden Jubilee. It seemed to capture people's interest and I found myself in newspapers and magazines for a while. About 9 years later my younger brother gave me a photo frame with a Trivial Pursuit card in it. I didn't understand why, so I read the questions. There was one about the Pope, Forrest Gump and the plane Concord and then for the 'Arts and Literature' section there was a question about my portrait of the Queen. I was quite surprised to say the least!”
I asked Andy if he had a favorite ballpark he’s painted. Understandably so, I got a multitude of answers to my question. Since he fell in love with the ballpark experience in Korea, Andy has around 50 works of art from Jamsil, Mokdong and Sajik among other parks within the country where he lived from 2004-2019. Andy also mentioned his love for the Koshien in Osaka Japan where the Hanshin Tigers play and where they hold the Spring and Summer high school tournaments. He adores the colors of the red dirt infield and deep green scoreboard. In addition, he mentioned the Shinto shrine on the concourse where many fans congregate. But, my favorite answer to the query of Andy’s favorite ballpark he’s painted isn’t even technically a ballpark. This is probably due to the fact that it led to my favorite of Andy’s many inspired works of art.
“I loved painting at the Field of Dreams Movie Site in Dyersville, Iowa last year. I was painting all 30 MLB ballparks in 2019, the 150th Season of professional baseball in the US, and stopped in Dyersville on my way to Minneapolis. It was an awe-inspiring place. The natural beauty of the landscape and the sunsets were something else.”
Since fan-attended baseball is on hold, Andy joins the rest of us in pining for a return to the ballpark experience, as he had plans to travel to Mexico to paint during Summer League games. He is keeping himself busy though, and plenty of paint is hitting Andy’s canvases.
“It seemed to me that this is a very uncertain time where the future is unknown and people are understandably anxious. Baseball and sport in general is wonderful in that it can absorb and distract us from our daily stresses and strains. So I felt I could help people around the world and take them away from these thoughts and do so from a hut in my parents’ garden. With the future being hard at times to foresee I decided we could all do with a little hope and dreaming. I started making polls online for social media users to interact with where they could create their own dream teams of baseball players. I started with an all time dream team. Each day I would post for suggestions for players at the next position and the top 4 suggestions would then be added to a poll.”
Since painting the winners of the aforementioned polls as the all-time “Dream Team,” Andy has started doing the same for each individual MLB club. At the time of this article’s writing, Andy is working on his all-time team painting for my beloved Los Angeles Dodgers. I’ve greatly enjoyed keeping up with the progress of the project on Twitter and have even gotten involved in some of the debates on who should be immortalized by Andy on the canvas.
“It is a very new way for me (or many artists) to paint. I don't know who will be the next player to add to the canvas or where they will go. So, there is a lot of uncertainty and improvisation needed. I find it a great challenge and a great way to keep busy and connect with fans out there. Hopefully, it helps distract a little from current events and gives us a little time to escape and think of great moments and times.”
If you want to commission a painting of your own “Dream Team” or purchase Andy’s existing work, visit his website andybrownstadiums.com. To follow along with Andy’s progress and vote in polls for which players he should paint, follow Andy on Twitter @andybisanartist. I know I’ll be posting photos of Andy’s work hanging in my home soon!