Feature Article in CFAI's "Where Art Lives" Magazine Pages 84-87
"Well Played" by JEANNE ILLENYE
With the baseball season currently in full swing, I thought it apropos to share with you a particularly fun painting from a very special client, the Major League Baseball Commission. It was such an honor when I was the artist chosen to create a corporate retirement gift for long time great, Allan H. "Bud" Selig, MLB Commissioner for 22 years.
I could barely contain my excitement, even though I'd only ever been to a Major League Baseball game a couple of times in New York City at the old Shea Stadium with my husband, a diehard Mets fan, as well as seeing a game at the old park in Cooperstown, New York when I was just a child. I recalled that it wasn't the first time in recent years that I'd been approached by a corporation regarding my baseball paintings. Previously, the publisher of famed American journalist and novelist Jim Lehrer included one of my paintings in the cover design of Jim Lehrer's novel, "Oh, Johnny".
So the plan was set, contract executed, then the arrival of two official baseballs with Bud Selig's signature. One was in a classic display cube for posterity and the other which was even more thrilling to me, was well worn from the game. Imagine, I held in my hand an official baseball that was actually in play...flown across home plate at speeds of 95 mph, cracked against the powerful swing of a bat, and sunk deep into a glove at first base! Oh, I could almost hear the roaring cheers...and yet there it was before me in my studio, silently resting on my lap in the gentle grasp of one hand, paintbrush in the other.
In this quietude I studied my subject...how it felt, the pattern of the stitching, the logos and fonts printed on it, and I thought about the artist who designed the fabulous MLB logo, the hands that stitched that vibrant red thread through softly puckered leather and the unique design of the ball itself. I began the process of merging the two baseballs together in my mind's eye, utilizing the logos and signature from one and the aged appearance from the other along with the dramatic lighting from a previous painting, which was my client's request. The main challenge was the fact that since the ball needed to be lifesize at less than three inches, it meant extremely tiny details with logos, laces and Bud Selig's signature. You’ll see in the image of me holding the ball alongside the framed painting how I deliberately aged the ball. The title came to me immediately as I painted, which so often is the case. "Well Played" seemed especially suitable to celebrate Bud Selig's career and immense dedication to this time honored sport as he embarked upon a new chapter. It would be a treasured retirement gift from the Major League Baseball Commission in recognition of his historic leadership.
After my experience, this classical floral painter has now committed to getting back in the game of painting baseballs again! As we all look forward to Spring, which for most of us means flowers and birdsong, I will also be joining the ranks of dedicated fans by celebrating the game. To view more of my baseball paintings and read my personal recollections visit jeanneillenye.blogspot.com and keep an eye out for future paintings of nostalgic, time worn baseballs commemorating this beloved sport for all to enjoy!
Blessed are those who see beautiful things in humble places where others see nothing.