Baseball / Japanese Baseball | Sac Bunts

British artist Andy Brown captures essence of baseball through paintings

by Jason Coskrey

Some baseball fans carry a glove to a game hoping to catch a ball. Andy Brown is a little bit different.

Brown doesn’t go to games in search of foul balls. He carries some paint, a few brushes and other supplies. What he hopes to catch is the batter swinging for the fences and the pitcher delivering high heat. He wants to capture the vendors, the flag on the pole blowing in the wind and the fan in the outfield blowing into his trumpet. He wants to paint what he sees on and around the field, capturing the experience through brushstroke and color.

“I’m trying to get the characteristic of that stadium or that person, but in my own way,” Brown told The Japan Times. “I feel like color is a way I do that a lot, and the brush strokes and the way that I’m handling the paint. I feel like it all comes down to atmosphere. It’s not picture-perfect. It’s not a photograph, but I don’t want it to be a photograph. I want to have more of an intense feeling to it, of an atmosphere to it. So people can get an emotional reaction to the work.”

Brown is originally from London and studied fine arts at Loughborough University in England. He moved to South Korea in 2009 and has taught art in international schools in Busan, Seoul and currently Jeju, the largest island off the coast of the Korean Peninsula.

He was an artist long before his attraction to baseball and has held exhibitions in Korea, Britain and the United States. He drew wide attention in 2002, when he used teabags to create a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. The piece was covered by the BBC and Brown even received a letter from Buckingham Palace in response.

A British national seems an unlikely candidate to devote his time to watching, and painting, baseball, but Brown was sucked in after attending his first games in South Korea, where baseball enjoys a fervent following. His interest grew as he delved through the history of MLB and became familiar with past players and events, while also attending more games.

“I always feel like sport, and especially baseball, reflects a lot of life and human emotions,” Brown said. “There’s everything in there. Its like a theatre. It’s like a big stage, you’ve got the guy on the mound and he’s trying to beat this other guy, you’ve got the heroes and villains. It’s beautifully timed as well. I love watching football (soccer), and the ebbs and flows of the game are fantastic. With baseball, you have those lovely bursts of action and pauses and it can calm down for a while and rev up again. It just pulls you in all different directions.

“Why I started painting it was, I guess, to understand it more. I think for me, I understand things through drawing them and painting them and visualizing them.”

Brown has painted scenes from games in Japan, Korea and the United States. Among his many pieces is a dynamic and colorful four-painting sequence of Shohei Ohtani’s first MLB home run, a painting of Koshien Stadium and high school players from Summer Koshien among many others. He also paints scenes from MLB and Korea’s KBO.

He’s painted 11 of the 12 main NPB ballparks, with Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi still on his list. Much of his work can be seen on his website, andybrownstadiums.com, or on Twitter (@andybisanartist) and he’s always on the lookout for chances to hold exhibitions of his work.

Brown enjoys the atmosphere at Japanese games and says you can feel the history and symbolism even in the music and cheering from the fans. He also counts Hiroshima Carp second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi as one of his favorite Japanese players.

“I saw him playing in the World Baseball Classic and I saw him playing for the Carp,” Brown said. “He’s an acrobatic kind of second baseman. His technique just stood out to me, just the way he plays the game. His swing, everything about him. Even his fashion, the way he wears his socks and all that stuff. The way he approaches the game, to me there’s just an appeal to his approach to it.”

When he paints stadiums, and the scenes in and around them, Brown does a lot of his work in his seat during games (he does his paintings of players in his studio), though admits to sometimes being torn between wanting to paint and wanting to just watch the game. He loves to paint with oil, but has to be wary of the how much space he has — “the couple next to you doesn’t want to get oil paint on themselves,” he said. Oil also has a lengthy drying time that can make things difficult.

“A lot of the paintings tend to be acrylics that I’m doing at the games,” he said. “I have started doing water colors as well, because it’s really beautiful, very versatile, it doesn’t take up a lot of space, so it’s very practical. Ideally, oils is what I enjoy using. I will use that if I’ve got a little bit of space around me.”

Brown loves to paint, and baseball has struck a chord with him. Those two passions will continue to mix this summer, when he has a trip planned to a number of stadiums around the U.S.

“I like making a record of it,” he said. “I feel like I want to document the game and the places and the local people and the local culture and the country culture, the way different places play it and the way different places react to it.”