Rich Morrison, longtime Lakers’ fan and artist, is the mastermind behind the exclusive artwork. Rugged, yet passionate, his artwork reflects that exact persona – exhibiting undertones of every aspect goes into making a player’s jersey invaluable.
His two paintings pay homage to arguably the two greatest Lakers of all time: Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson. Although their jerseys are the only image depicted in Morrison’s work, the paintings are a true testament to the illustrious careers experienced by both players.
“I did the Magic Johnson one first,” Morrison said during an interview at the Bo Bridges Gallery in Hermosa Beach, Calif. “I’m an artist by trade, so I’m doing a whole series of jerseys. … I started in my own backyard, and it just came out so rad – so I decided to do a series.”
Starting with the paintings’ “canvases,” which, instead of being anything among the ordinary, are essentially worn out pieces of beach wood. “Worn out” and “masterpiece” don’t seemingly fit together when describing a work of art, but Morrison is able to combine the two differing qualities seamlessly.
“I wanted something that’s been roughed up,” said Morrison. “Something that looks like it’s been around. I found the piece of wood and it looks like it’s already been at the museum and I bought for my house. That’s the flavor I wanted to do.”
Morrison’s style in these pieces is simple, yet intricate. From a distance the two jerseys appear to be just that – two jerseys. However, as the cliché goes, “there is more than what meets the eye.” Within the paintings are details that perfectly parallel the message that an athlete’s jersey is made up of more than just fibers.
“It’s almost like if it’s a black belt of martial arts – like they have worn that same jersey and they’ve never washed it,” Morrison said. “They’ve had some victories, they’ve had some defeats, then they come out and win and they have the same jersey on. They go from white belt to black belt. That’s their work shirt, and they come home and can say ‘we did it.’ They are like battle scars, because that’s truly what they are.”
It’s obvious that Morrison’s vision curved the outcome of his artwork; and while his ruggedness instills a true sense of authenticity in his paintings, it also reflects the differing qualities and elements that have gone into involving all of the history that has been made by No.’s 32 and 24.
Morrison’s paintings were the result of his desire to do something that no one else is doing or has done; and to offer his own flavor and vision of what sports art truly is.
“No one is doing this,” Morrison said. “You can’t find sports art anywhere unless its photographic. That’s how I came up with this; if someone framed a jersey and basically retired it, I mean everyone has that – all of the sports bars have that, I could do that in my house too. I just decided to do some contemporary fine art of the jersey to evoke some power or feeling of the player into it. Almost like a superhero in a way – and this is what kind of came out of it.”
As for the process of completing the artwork, Morrison was simple in his process, making it sound as easy as Kobe makes a reverse-layup-in-traffic look on a nightly basis.
“I drew it up on paper, then I mounted it and painted into it,” explained Morrison. “Then I glazed it then framed it. It’s acrylic and drawing with like a glaze coating, which really brings out the colors and has a more finished high-end luster to it. This would be for if Kobe or one of the guys wanted one. I wanted all the fans to have them.”
Morrison’s creative eye undoubtedly has the ability to truly reveal the essence of sports art. However, while his potential is limitless, he is content with sticking to similar artwork at this point in time.
“For now, this is what I’m going to do,” Morrison said. “I’m into it. For the fan and the love of the jersey. I was looking around at all of the sports bars and they have jerseys hanging up, we kind of turn them into shrines. But no one is turning the jersey into art, because they have the actual jersey.”
Next: The Artist