October 2, 2014

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Katherine Wirick's Pictures of Pitchers Minis

Bob Gibson, baseball card style
What better time than United States baseball's post-season* to talk about a pair of sketchbooks from artist Katherine Wirick, an artist and baseball fan?

Picking out pitchers that inspired her to draw--which means those who looked visually interesting when hurling a baseball--Wirick combines a headshot with a pose of the player in action.

The effect is like paging through oversized baseball cards, if instead of a photo, the older, 1950s cards had used an artist's representation. Perhaps a better way to think of these is if the players, who range from the amazing Mo'ne Davis to war-wrecked Christy Mathewson, were all pitching during the 19th Century, and the only way to show what they did in motion was to draw it, because of the camera technology.

Loosely penciled, with a few stay lines still visible if you look closely enough, they're each given a different hew that's subtle, but sets a mood. There's nothing flashy here, it's more of a reflection on form and ability. I believe the color comes from pastels, but I am not 100% sure. It matches the ink lines so closely, it could all be digital.

Certain pitchers make repeat appearances, like the visually appealing Sandy Kofax, who blew out his arm but was amazing when he threw, or Walter Johnson, who Wirick says she's still trying to get right.

Sandy Kofax, big as life
The second edition, which features more of a mix of older and newer players, shows just how baseball and its uniforms have changed. The detail differences are very clear in the linework, and even two from the same team show subtle changes, because no two players wear their uniforms exactly alike. The best parts of these drawings, however, are in the facial emotions when each is pitching. If you ever watch a baseball game, seeing the reactions of the (arguably) most active person on the field tells you a lot about them, how they pitch, and how the game is going. Wirick captures that feeling, whether it's the seriousness of Mathewson, the joy of Kershaw, or the soulful look from Babe Ruth, still young and not yet on the course to make him the greatest who ever played the game.**

Obviously, these minis do have a limited appeal. They definitely make me want to seek out more work from Wirick, but part of that is because I'm a lifelong baseball fan. If you are as well, then make sure you get a copy of these directly from Wirick, either at a show or on her website. (As of this writing, only the first is available online.) Best of all, you can even get a digital copy, if you prefer!

Finally, thanks to a friend who was kind enough to pass these on to me to enjoy. I definitely did!

*Despite many thoughts to the contrary, they play baseball all over the world, though the ones stateside generally draw the top players because of the pay. Japan, Italy, and even Israel have baseball leagues, to say nothing of all the winter ball that goes on in Latin America.

**Don't even try to argue this. Ruth is the best player of all time. Period.