The history of how this Yankees Dream Scene painting all came about is quite interesting too. It was sparked by the Phillies piece I did in 2008. A 14 foot canvas of 25 or their greats on the 125th anniversary of the club. I did it without the Phillies knowing it was coming and appeared with it on their doorstep. Much to my relief, they loved it, purchased it and it now hangs in the prestigious Diamond Club at CBP. The interest in that painting reached Legendary Auctions who have commissioned this painting and here we are. That’s the short version.
I spent 3 months reading, researching and discussing with Yankees aficionados about the history of the club, who should be in this painting and once selected, the character of these 5 players: Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle and Jeter, both on and off the field. It was important to tell a story in this painting, not just represent their images.
So… I have attempted to depict Ruth’s primal nature, his indulgences and flamboyance, his flawed genius if you like. His overflowing locker represents, not only his chaotic life off the field but the magnetic attraction he had on the public. He was the man, the idol, the superstar.
It was said that he used all sorts of salves and balms to help keep him intact following his after hours adventures. Bi carb soda was the tonic of choice to settle the stomach. I researched a brand from the 1920’s which appears in his locker. His brand of cigars are there too, along with his recorded 45 single “Babe and you”, fur coats and two tone shoes.
Joe is said to have been a more even, placid natured man so I chose this great pose of him, enjoying a post match Chesterfield. It was the 1940’s and 50’s and things were a little different. Joe was the wholesome face of Chesterfield cigarettes, so it was suggested to me that he must have a smoke “on the go”. A carton of them sit in his locker, along with a photo of his beloved Marilyn, and a newspaper cut out of his 56 streak.
Mickey is seen circa 1956 as a younger fresher faced, fun loving kid. The year of his triple crown. It was a decision to show him at this stage of his career as opposed to the more rough edged older Mick of the early 60’s. He has a Ballantine in hand and leans in to join the fun. His locker is full of bandages and tape in readiness for the injuries that were to come. Also his record 18 World Series home runs have been etched into the locker frame.
I wanted to show the changing décor of the Yankees clubhouse, so on far right are the fantastic old industrial age lockers of the 1920’s. His locker has an (iron) horse (Gehrigs nickname) embossed into the metal above his number 4. Centre are the green lockers of the 50’s and 60’s and at left is Babe’s red painted metal locker of the 1930’s. The famous façade that is in the current day clubhouse is featured also along with the NY logo’d carpet.
Lou’s Ken Wel Zipper back 1st Baseman’s mitt lays at his feet.
Finally, Lou Gehrig was meant to be the central figure. The serene and humble base to this elite group. Whilst the big personalities swirl around him, he sits quietly at the heart of this painting, at the core of what it is to be a Yankee. A fact that current day superstar Derek Jeter acknowledges with a respectful hand on his shoulder.
The hardest thing about constructing a Dream Scene is capturing the perceived essence of a person’s character. People have many aspects to their nature which are on display at different times, depending on the situation. With such iconic people who are so well known, it is a challenge to “get it right”. I chose different moods for the 5 guys to create a variation of emotions in the scene (and for the viewer).
For example. Babe could have been shown laughing or gesticulating enthusiastically as he was an extroverted man.
But the more I researched the more I saw photos of him looking stern, determined, even a little weary of the attention perhaps. He had a steely focus which I went for in the painting, maybe reflecting back in satisfaction on that 60th home run.
Different people offer different challenges. Joe’s was the easiest as he has such distinct features and was taken all from one shot. He went on in one go. The pose was great too. I felt it captured his more laconic nature nicely. And the pose offered perfect finger positioning to slip in a Chesterfield.
From a technical aspect the biggest challenge is matching the lighting to bring all the figures into one believable moment in time. As this scene cannot exist I have to find head and body shots that fit my needs to create interaction between the players. They may have completely different light source angles. So I have to manipulate the lighting on faces and bodies which is tough. For example. Gehrig, the central ,seated figure is actually me dressed up in Yankees uniform with the head superimposed on.
The slightest misjudgement of shadow, particularly on a face can change the whole structure of a face and thus, the look of a person.
Babe’s face was inspired by 3 different pictures. One from 1925, one from 1927 which was the main reference and age that I was going for, the other from the mid 1930’s. I think he looks like something in the middle, say 1930 ish. He has that slightly weathered look about him.
The feedback so far has been interesting and very satisfying to me. No one is really pointing out one guy in particular. Comments have centred around the entire scene. The limited viewers who have seen the finished painting (well it is 99% done at present) have been wondering through the scene as if they are stepping into the clubhouse and exploring all corners of this magical moment. The interaction between the figures is sparking the imagination to ask…What is he saying to him? What stories and feelings are they sharing.
That is what this painting is about. It’s about the stories of 100 plus years of this iconic baseball club. These 5 men carry the experiences and memories, and indeed symbolize almost the entire history of the Yankees. They have seen and done it all!
The painting will be auction off live at the National Sports Collectors Conference in Chicago on August 2nd 2013.
I’ll be making the trip there to see it all unfold. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. In fact I’ll have to cross most of it (the world) to be there, as I live in Melbourne, Australia.
Every historical piece I have done teaches me so much. I have been specialising in these Dream Scene canvases for the past 15 years and I am constantly being amazed at the impact that a sporting organisation can have on its fans, the culture of a city, state, country and in the Yankees case, the entire world. The Yankees are not so much a club as I culture unto them themselves. Their appeal transcends baseball and reaches to all corners of the globe.
Evidenced, in a way, by the fact that this painting was created on the other side of the world.
“Yankees Dream Scene” is a guest post by Jamie Cooper. Jamie was a professional athlete in the 1980’s in the AFL (Australian Football League). He left the field of play to paint the history of the game. It culminated in his work being used on the ground at their 2008 AFL Grand Final as the opening of the pre match broadcast, celebrating 150 years of the game.