If you like baseball art, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll like the art created by Kevin McNeil. If you like the Boston Red Sox, there’s an even greater chance that McNeil’s work will provide you with inspiration.
McNeil is an English major who left his artistic talent on the sidelines while he pursued a more mainstream career but, fortunately for us, art appears to have finally emerged victorious. BaseballArt.com recently caught up with McNeil for a very informative Q&A.
Baseball Art: When did you realize you wanted to become a baseball artist and did you have anyone help push you along the way?
Kevin McNeil: I’ve been drawing since I was very young, 3 or 4 years old, and around the time I was 10 I really got into baseball, so I naturally gravitated toward the sport as an artistic subject. I used baseball cards, game programs and team yearbooks as inspiration/source material, and it kind of blossomed from there. Through high school and college I was doing different work as part of my art studies, but I never stopped doing baseball pieces on the side, purely for my own benefit/enjoyment.
In my post-college years I put aside doing any kind of artwork for about a decade… I had a typical 9-to-5 office career and didn’t feel like I had the time, space, or motor required to keep up with it, even as a hobby. But when I got married I decided I wanted to give some original pieces to my groomsmen as gifts, and doing sports-related subjects seemed to be something they would appreciate the most. The works were well-received, and it rekindled my passion for creating art, as well as demonstrating to me that there might be a market for that type of subject matter going forward.
I’ve been lucky to have had several sources of motivation that have helped me along the way. I have an artistically talented uncle who recognized something in my doodles when I wasn’t much older than a toddler, he kind of set me on the path first. My parents, my wife, and my extended family have always been very supportive. The Sons of Sam Horn message board, an online community dedicated to the discussion of all things Red Sox, has been a huge factor in my growth as an baseball artist; its members have provided a lot of encouragement and commissions over the years.
Baseball Art: Have you ever had the opportunity to share your artwork of a particular player with the athlete.
Kevin McNeil: I haven’t yet, but recently I got the chance to meet Red Sox reliever Craig Breslow after I donated pastel paintings of Sandy Koufax and Dustin Pedroia to be auctioned off for his Strike 3 Foundation, which raises awareness and funding for pediatric cancer research. Craig was very gracious and appreciative, which meant a lot to me.
Baseball Art: Can you share an experience or interesting story about being a baseball artist?
Kevin McNeil: For me the most interesting thing is finding out that I wasn’t alone. I always figured I was in some sort of arrested development, like it was something to keep on the down low, but God bless the internet, because once it came along it didn’t take too much poking around to see that there are a lot of artists who find some sort of meaning in baseball art. I don’t feel like Richard Dreyfuss from Close Encounters of the Third Kind anymore.
Baseball Art: Are there any athletes that you haven’t drawn that you would like to capture with your artwork?
Kevin McNeil: There are a lot. I have a particular project in mind that focuses on players from the 1970s. Those were the guys who were my first baseball heroes, and between the garish uniforms and crazy hairstyles, I think there are a lot of compelling visual themes to be explored. We baseball artists sometimes tend to be a little too conservative and hagiographic, I think I’d like to turn that on its ear for a bit.
Baseball Art: Who throughout the history of baseball would you like to have the chance to watch a game with?
Kevin McNeil: Ted Williams. Not only because I’m a Red Sox fan and he’s one of the best players of all time, but because he loved talking about the game. Ted had some very strong opinions and wasn’t shy about voicing them, I hope that I’d get his unfiltered best.
Baseball Art: Could you describe your “Studio Space” and what we would we see if we visited you during a project? Describe your table, what is on the walls, what music is playing or TV shows. What time of day are you most productive?
Kevin McNeil: I have a finished basement that serves as a combined studio space, library, and man cave. I’ve got a drawing table and some easels at one end of the room, and a lot of built-in bookshelves and a TV/stereo on the other side. The windows are full-sized, so they let in a lot of light, which is a bonus for a basement room. The walls have a lot of sports memorabilia and movie posters on them, the shelves are stuffed with books.
I listen to a lot of music when I draw/paint, it’s a very important part of the process for me, I lean toward far more aggressive stuff than I do when I’m not creating. But I’ll just as often have a game on the TV, whatever happens to be on… Sox, Bruins or Celtics. BC football. If it’s a Saturday morning, Liverpool or Celtic FC. I prefer to work during the day, I’d rather have the light and the large uninterrupted block of time, but my “job” job gets in the way of that, so I usually end up drawing/painting at night.
Baseball Art: Any other information you’d like to share?
Kevin McNeil: For anyone out there who wants to create a greater audience for their art, just keep working at it and stretch your comfort zone and good things will happen. Every step I took that got me from being a guy who gave up on his art for 10 years to where I am now required doing something that initially terrified me. Whether it was stepping up my output, trying media I had never worked with before, or creating a website from scratch, these were things I decided to do to improve myself and to gain some satisfaction with who I am and what I am capable of doing. Even if I never sold a single piece, the journey has brought me far closer to being a whole person than when I started. All it takes is the willingness to use your fear as an indicator of what you need to change.