A Conversation with John Giancaspro

It started with Ivan DeJesus.

John Giancaspro opened a pack of 1982 Donruss baseball cards, pulled an Ivan DeJesus Diamond King card, and a life-long love of sports art was born.

“I was only 12 at the time,” said Giancaspro, “and I thought a painted card was the coolest thing ever. I knew I wanted to do that. I was in junior high at the time and I asked my art teacher what medium that was done in. He said he thought it was watercolor. I have been using watercolor ever since.”

John doesn’t limit himself to simply painting on canvas. He also uses baseballs, boxing gloves, basketballs, footballs, football helmets, and home plates.

His passion has taken him to big shows where he’s had the opportunity to meet a number of his subjects and receive commissions from them and their relatives, including David Justice and Roger Clemens.

But shows aren’t the only place he’s had a chance to rub shoulders with big leaguers. His first opportunity for that came as a batboy for the New York Mets in the early 1990s.

“The greatest job I ever had,” he says. “I had been drawing/ painting Yankees and Mets players since the early 80’s and most of the people that worked at Shea Stadium lived in my neighborhood. One of them knew that I did this work and asked me if I wanted to work in the visitors’ clubhouse with him. Who would say ‘No’ to that?”

“The first player I did a painting of was Ozzie Smith. He signed it and asked for one the next time the Cardinals were in town. Sure enough, when the Cardinals came back to Shea later that season I presented the painting to Ozzie and he gave me an autographed game used bat in return.”

Over the next few seasons, John did paintings for many opposing players, including Barry Bonds, who even took him out to dinner and gave him a ride home in his limousine.

“In 1992 I mostly worked on the Mets side and really got to know some players well. Especially Doc Gooden. I’ve done about 10 paintings for Gooden and still keep in contact with him today.”

“It’s such a great feeling being in the clubhouse, being on the field, smelling the grass and playing catch with a player like Dale Murphy or Delino DeShields,” he said.

 

It’s even cooler when you do a painting of Dale Murphy and he signs it for you. Not a bad gig if you can get it.

“I stopped doing shows in 2002 because I wasn’t selling as much, the hobby had really slowed down and I got a job as a Doorman in Manhattan to better support my kids.”

“I still have the Doorman job and I did the National Sports Collectors Convention last year in Atlantic City after a 15-year absence from doing shows and I had a great response. I even ran into a few of my old customers.”

John’s work came full circle a few years ago when he gave the Diamond King collection an update, painting current stars in the same format that inspired him as a kid.

“It’s definitely a tribute to Mr. Perez and the Diamond Kings set that made me want to do what I do,” John said.

“I started the set in 2012 and I wanted to see modern players portrayed in the same style they were 30 years prior. I copied the design of the card and the illustration, researched photos of the players I would use. I only completed 15, but I’m still working on it.”

 

About the Artist

John Giancaspro attended High School of Art & Design and received a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts from the Fashion Institute
of Technology. He’s been painting athletes since the early 1980s and can be found online at www.jgsportsgallery.com as well as on Facebook.