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.
Your average fan uses a baseball glove to, you know, catch baseballs. Sean Kane uses them to create amazing pieces of art.
For more than fifteen years, Sean Kane has been creating one-of-a-kind painted glove pieces that have earned him national recognition and a sizable following which includes many of the players he features. It all started in 2001 with a trip to spring training.
“The first glove had bright, playful images on it: a guy eating a giant ballpark hot dog, a pennant with ‘Play Ball’ on it, a ‘Hit it Here’ target and on the inside, a ball diamond scene with players and stadium,” Kane said.
“I left one painted finger on the glove blank where I hoped to get Tony Gwynn’s autograph. As luck would have it, I wasn’t there 5 minutes, walked up to a batting cage, and there was Tony talking to fans. I showed the glove to him, he laughed and said it was cool and he signed right where I imagined he would.”
From there, Kane began creating pieces that showcased his love of baseball stories, baseball graphics, and old baseball gloves. The process can be tedious and time-consuming, but the results are well worth the effort, both for Sean and his patrons. The first step is to acquire the appropriate glove.
“I aim for gloves from the era to be represented, for the position the player played and for the hand they wore their glove on,” says Kane. “For my recent painting of Lou Gehrig, it took a few years to find a 1920s/30s first base mitt for a lefty, similar to a buckle-back glove I’ve seen a picture of him wearing. The glove is my little time machine, adding another layer to the story being told.”
“I then stare at the glove for what seems ages, looking for the spots where I can apply design and portrait elements. Each glove is unique in this way, with various creases to be avoided and sweet spots for portraits, etc., which complicates the creative process compared to working on a traditional canvas but also adds to my excitement at the possibilities.”
Kane spends hours poring over old photos, statistics, and career highlights, looking for just the right things to include. With limited space on each glove, sometimes deciding what to cut out is the most difficult part.
“I don’t always succeed with the ‘less is more’ approach –I’ve done some which seem like the back of a baseball card crammed with info. The editing process is a big part of the design decision-making, for sure,” says Kane. “I try to highlight just enough info about the player to tell a simple story — enough meat on the bone for the casual fan to be interested and the big fan to have a jumping off point for their own stories about the player.”
That’s the key to Kane’s work. Because the gloves often don’t depict a specific moment in time, viewing them on display can mean different things to different people. His Hank Aaron glove may elicit memories of the 1957 World Series to one person and memories of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record or getting an autograph as a kid to another. There are notable exceptions. Last fall, Sean unveiled a two-glove set to commemorate Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. But many of his pieces are celebrations of the player or players depicted. Sometimes it’s an entire team, and that can present its own issues.
“The painting featuring the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers was probably my most challenging,” Kane says. “Since it was featuring an entire team, I wanted to include the entire team, at least by name. Doing so in a way that wouldn’t be a total visual mess was tough and the five portraits wearing pinstripes were very tiny and difficult to paint. I’m pretty proud of that one.”
In the future, Sean will continue to do commissioned work, but he’s also researching stories and acquiring gloves for two different projects. One focuses on Indiana-related baseball history for an upcoming exhibit, and the other will feature Japanese ball players who have made a recent impact on the game in the U.S.
Sean’s paintings have been featured on ESPN. com, NBC Sports. com and MLB Network Radio and reside in the permanent collection of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, The National Pastime Museum, and private collections across the U.S. His paintings have been commissioned by the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers Fantasy Camp and have assisted in fundraising efforts for several charities. Glove paintings have been exhibited at The Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and West Virginia University.
Sean has been a professional artist for over 20 years, creating art for big hitters in the publishing and corporate worlds including The New York Times, Amazon. com, The Wall Street Journal, Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Charles Schwab, and Target Stores, among others. He’s a Chicago native now residing near Toronto with his wife and two Little Leaguers. He is a graduate of Butler University and attended Herron School of Art.
Sean was recognized as an ‘Artist of the Month’ by the National Art Museum of Sport in 2016.
Growing up, we learned to take care of our baseball cards because they would be valuable some day. We may even be able to sell them to pay for our kids’ college! Tim Carroll ignored that advice and the result is something wonderful.
Carroll cuts up baseball cards and turns them into unique works of art, which has gained him quite a bit of notoriety. Each piece takes between 45 to 60 hours to create, sometimes more. He recently took the time to talk with me about it.
’80s Baseball: I love your stuff. How did you get started and how did you come up with the idea to do what you do?
Tim Carroll: Thank you! I’ve always liked to draw, but a science conference trip to New Orleans with my wife back in 2009 changed my life. We had spent the day walking through galleries in the Quarter, so art was on my mind. It began to rain, and we walked into a convenience store. I picked up a magazine that had a very small blurb about the 100th anniversary of the T206 Wagner. I mentioned it to my wife, and let her know how amazing it would be to find one of those cards. She told me I should take all of the cards that were in our closet (from my late ’80’s childhood) and trade them for one. Obviously, it isn’t a quantity thing; it’s a quality issue. That day stuck with me, and when I returned home, I decided to create a T206 Honus Wagner tribute, but I didn’t want to simply draw or paint it.
I pulled out my commons, started finding cards that resembled the background color, and began to cut and glue them down. When the Wagner was finished, it was a nice sense of accomplishment. Looking back now on my “prototype”, it was hideous, lol, but I LOVE it. I compare it to my work now and make my testimony of how it takes hard work and dedication to get better at something.
’80s Baseball: I see you used to be a teacher. What did you teach and how did you transition to being a full-time artist?
Tim Carroll: I created the Wagner two months before I graduated from Ole Miss with my degree in elementary education. I had zero intent of it ever going past one piece. It was just something to do during a rainy spring back in 2009.
Then I made another, and another. I began using other mediums, and people inquired about buying them. I began to teach, but the supplemental income from the art I was producing was nice. As I sharpened my skills, the workload increased. I was an elementary teacher for seven years, teaching everything from general 3rd grade to 2nd-5th grade mathematics. As time went on, I was taking on more and more commission work and it got to a point where I was spending every bit of my evenings and weekends working on art just to keep up.
I came to a career crossroads, so to speak, last year. My wife and I had been discussing the proper time to transition. There had been some planning along the way, but when the moment came, it was a leap of faith. I had been telling kids for many years to trust themselves, do what they love, (insert cliche here). What I was telling them wasn’t empty, though I meant every word I was saying.
We live this physical life once, and when I reflect back on my life later I want to say I have no regrets. Passing up the opportunity to use the talents and work ethic that He has given me would not have been the best move to make. So, I decided to practice what I was preaching to the kids, and with my wife’s unconditional blessing and support, I jumped.
It has been an amazing last few months. I get to have breakfast (and sometimes lunch) with my wife throughout the year without it being rushed. I get to put everything away in the evenings and spend time with my kids like I wanted. My weekends are free to take road trips, lazy days hanging out, going to ballgames, and just simply being where I’m supposed to be while they are young. I loved teaching, and I miss having the direct positive impact on children’s lives that I did while I taught, but as a family-first guy…..this has been the coolest experience.
’80s Baseball: Upper Deck used your Ken Griffey Jr. piece. How did that happen? How cool was that to have a card company use your work that was made from their product?
Tim Carroll: When I originally created the Griffey, Upper Deck shared it through their blog, and that was pretty much the extent of it, or so I thought. A few years later, during the 25th-anniversary celebration, I received an email from them asking if I still had the piece. They brought it with them as they traveled to the Industry Summit in Las Vegas, and then to Florida where it was signed by Junior himself.
The reaction they were getting from the piece led them to commission several works from me, and I even had the pleasure of tagging along with them and working live at the Cleveland National in ’14, the Fall Expo in Toronto later that year, and even the NHL All-Star FanFair the following year in Columbus, OH.
For each event, I used Upper Deck cards to create pieces. It was a treat each time, having people show up to the table on Day 1 of each event and then popping in periodically to see the progress. I met so many people that I still converse with on social media. To boot, meeting Shaquille O’Neal at a bowling alley, Wayne Gretzky at the Hockey Hall of Fame, Pedro Martinez at the airport, Carey Price in downtown Columbus, among others (in non-signing environments, no less) was something that would’ve never happened without the Griffey piece.
’80s Baseball: Basic question but I need to ask: Where do you get all the cards? About how many do you have on hand at any given time?
Tim Carroll: I started with just the cards I had from my childhood, which was no more than 10-15 thousand. Several people I met online offered, and continue to offer, support by sending cards should I need a specific set, brand, team, etc.
A local guy that once owned a card shop donated over 150 thousand at once, and a couple of collectors that needed to clear space also donated their junk era portions. There have been several generous people that have given or offered smaller lots. I appreciate each and every one of them. Add that with a few cases of 87-90 Topps, Donruss, and Fleer that I bought, and I am now up to about 450K in my garage studio. So, for anyone wondering, I’m good on commons for now!
’80s Baseball: Aside from commissioned work, what goes into your decision-making process as to who you’re going to work on next?
That’s a great question and one that I’m not sure I have an answer for. It’s more of a feeling or desire, I guess. I have a list of pieces that I want to make, and cards get added to that list all the time. I have even started several of them. I try to finish one of those ‘just because’ pieces in-between finishing commissions. I do that in an attempt to build my own collection of originals, although all are available. I’ll begin something like a 1954 Topps Ernie Banks and then commission work will take over. I’ll then start a Jackie Robinson Leaf rookie or another early Mickey Mantle. Repeat. I have so many that I have started that I need to finish! That’s another bonus to doing this full-time. I have the time to get to some of those non-commissioned pieces, and I have been able to strike a few off the list.