Since he was young, Peter Chen has always been fascinated by baseball art and photography. He discovered early on that he had more talent with a paintbrush than with a bat, so he combined his love for baseball and art while continuing to hone his craft. Chen is recognized for his Jumbotron-style portraits of baseball players, but he has several other distinctive styles as well. Chen graduated from U.C. Berkeley and earned a Masters in Education from UCLA, and he taught high school art before pursuing a career in graphic design. Following more than a decade of designing for clients, Chen began creating ballplayer portraits as a hobby.
Baseball Art: When did you realize you wanted to become a baseball artist and did you have anyone help push you along the way?
Peter Chen: I’m not sure that I set out to become a baseball artist as much as I’ve always simply enjoyed drawing baseball players. Nevertheless, after many years of working for clients in the design field and in need of an outlet for personal expression, I began painting baseball players again.
Back in my college years, it was my mom who encouraged me to learn programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator. Today, I make my living in both of those programs in addition to creating the jumbotron art. So, I’m grateful to my mom for pushing me in that sense. I’m also thankful for those who do create baseball art and the inspiration it gives me—too many to name. Few things stop me in my tracks like baseball art.
Baseball Art: Have you ever had the opportunity to share your artwork of a particular player with the athlete?
Peter Chen: Yes, but…so, several years ago I went to a community event to meet Steve Garvey who was my favorite player growing up. I had never met him before and was a bit nervous about what to expect. Earlier in that year I had actually painted a portrait of him, so I thought what better than to have him sign a photo of the portrait. When I got to the front of the line and handed him the photo, he looked long and hard at it without a word before signing it and shaking my hand. All of a sudden, as if a veil was lifted from me, I could see almost anything and everything that was wrong with the painting! To his credit, Garv was as cordial and polite as he’s been known to be.
Can you share an experience or interesting story about being a baseball artist?
Peter Chen: You mean a less embarrassing one? When I began creating the jumbotron art portraits, I received an email from someone with the Horner surname who asked about the Bob Horner portrait. Naturally curious, I asked if he was related to Mr. Horner, to which he confirmed that he was his son and wished to have it in his office. So far as I know it now resides in his office.
Are there any athletes that you haven’t drawn that you would like to capture with your artwork?
Peter Chen: One of my goals is to finish all the players in jumbotron-style that I remember from the 70’s & 80’s as being solid players, not necessarily just Hall of Famers or All Stars. I probably still have at least 200 more portraits to create—guys like Vida Blue, Dickie Thon, Mark Belanger, Al Hrabosky, Freddie Patek, Wally Joyner, Manny Sanguillen, etc. I’d also like to complete the jumbotron team portraits of each World Series Champion from those two decades.
Who throughout the history of baseball would you like to have the chance to watch a game with?
Peter Chen: Pete Rose. His charisma and passion for the game despite being out of the game for so long is compelling and fascinating to me. He’s a great a storyteller, down-to-earth, fun to listen to, and who better to tell it than the man with the most hits, the most at bats, the most effort.
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)
Peter Chen: I’m currently working on my jumbotron art, so my studio space is essentially Photoshop and Illustrator on my PC. My desk is a whirlwind of notes, papers, notebooks, and everything else unworthy of photographing, except an autographed baseball by two of my all-time favorite players, Steve Garvey and Garret Anderson. On the wall I have a poster of the 1980 Dodgers, a 2002 World Series Champions pennant and a photo of the great Dodger infield–Garvey, Lopes, Russell & Cey. Musically, I’m a bit all over the place right now but working with the dialogue from When It Was a Game in the background is good stuff. Mornings are definitely the most productive for me after a strong cup of coffee.
Is there any other information you’d like to share?
Peter Chen: As a person of faith, just an appreciation to God for giving me the ability, desire and opportunity to draw, design and create; I can’t imagine not being able to do so. Alas, thank you guys at BaseballArt for what you do to help engage the baseball art community. Back to creating…