Artist Bernie Hubert’s paintings have been seen on the Baseball Art Facebook since shortly after its inception in 2010. A self-proclaimed Willie Mays fan, Hubert’s colorful paintings contain an abundance of detail, and more often than not describe the era depicted through the inclusion of signs, scoreboards and fans. Just hearing Hubert’s answers to these questions made us want to go back and study his catalog of paintings again. So we did, and you should too…
Baseball Art: When did you realize you wanted to become a baseball artist and did you have anyone help push you along the way?
Bernie Hubert: I never really thought about becoming an “artist”, much less a baseball or sports artist. When I retired, I needed something meaningful to do with my time, so I decided to reacquaint myself with my boyhood love of painting. I was always the best “artist” in my grade school and junior high classes. Not knowing just how to start again, or what to even paint, I thought I’d try my hand at painting images of recognizable people, images that others, when they saw my finished piece, would also recognize. So I thought that baseball players might be a good way to start, and who better to paint than Willie Mays, my boyhood idol. That’s how I started.
Baseball Art: Have you ever had the opportunity to share your artwork of a particular player with the athlete.
Bernie Hubert: It was 2001 and I was not as yet doing colored paintings, just black ink sketches. I got invited by a friend to attend the 50th anniversary of the Bobby Thomson “Shot Heard ’round the World” gala in NYC. Lots of old Giants, Dodgers and Yankees attended, and there was a signing session. I waited in the Duke Snider line with my 4″x6″ sketch of him, and asked him to sign it, pointing to a spot on the sketch itself. (I didn’t want him to sign the surrounding mat). He looked up at me stoically, and I sensed he knew exactly what I was asking him to do, nevertheless he signed the mat, not the actual sketch. He handed it back to me without looking up. Years later I learned that many athletes don’t like to sign directly onto original art, thinking that their signature alone makes it valuable. Whatever!!
Baseball Art: Can you share an experience or interesting story about being a baseball artist?
Bernie Hubert: One of my early paintings was a rendering of the World Champion 1954 NY Giants, (with) the eight NY Giants starters standing side-by-side-by-side. One day, out of nowhere, I get a call from Davey Williams, the second baseman, asking me about the painting. Once I explained my Willie/NY Giant “roots” to him, we became instant friends. Davey, 80+ years young, would call me every three to four months to talk about those great old Giant teams. He’d tell me wonderful stories about Willie and the rest of them. He loved that painting so much, and I had a number of reproductions made for him to give to his family and friends. Many of them didn’t even know that he was ever a major league ballplayer. One day I get a call from his daughter, Lisa, telling me that Davey had passed away. He was on his way to the barber shop to show his friends the painting. He never made it there. Lisa told me the painting lay next to him in the front seat of his car. Very sad. He was a wonderful man.
Baseball Art: Are there any athletes that you haven’t drawn that you would like to capture with your artwork?
Bernie Hubert: Not really, it’s all about the image. What I search high and low for, in terms of reference photos, are old historic images with lots of fans in them. A number of my paintings have up to 100 fans individually painted in them. I love the timeless style in the old suits and hats and ladies hairdos. So, no, I’m not as interested in the ballplayer as I am in the era, and the images that depict that era. Put another way, when I see an image that I want to paint, I know it immediately.
Baseball Art: Who, throughout the history of baseball, would you like to have the chance to watch a game with?
Bernie Hubert: I am one of the great Willie Mays fans of all-time, and I’ve done at least 10 paintings of him. I was the #2 member of the very first Willie Mays fan club back in the early fifties. I could go on for paragraphs about my youth as a Willie fan, but suffice it to say that, if I had a chance to watch a game with anyone, it would have to be him, preferably Willie as a young NY Giant. Willie, in the eyes of many, was the greatest player to ever play the game. In my youth, no one ever loved a ball player more than I loved Willie.
Baseball Art: Could you describe your “studio space” and what we would we see if we visited you during a project? (your table, what is on the walls, what music is playing or TV shows? What time of day are you most productive)
Bernie Hubert: My “studio”, I’m embarrassed to say, is the kitchen and kitchen table. In fact, I was relieved to learn that Paul Lempa, another baseball artist who frequents the Baseball Art (Facebook) page, also paints on the kitchen table. He and I have shared a laugh or two about that!! My wife is very understanding. My only responsibility is to move all the paints and materials over to the far side of the table each night so that she can serve dinner. For very large paintings, I’ll just set the easel up in the kitchen — great light and lots of space, and since I only work on one painting at a time, it works for me. As far as productive time, it’s generally first thing in the morning, and late in the afternoon.
To view more of baseball artist Bernie Hubert’s paintings, visit the BernieHubert.com website.