Young Artist Brings Baseball’s Golden Era to Life

Sports Collectors Daily

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Young Artist Brings Baseball’s Golden Era to Life

Graig Kreindler in his studio

January 2, 2007 – If Graig Kreindler had somehow not wound up loving baseball, he would have likely spent much of his waking life describing why his first name was spelled so funny. And probably being rather annoyed at having to do so. Luckily, it’s a story he loves to tell, although for baseball fans no explanation is necessary once you learn he grew up in Rockland County, New York and was born in 1980.

“My father assured me that my name was special – who else wouldn’t want to be named after the great Yankee who almost single handedly thwarted the Dodger offense in the 1978 World Series?”

Graig Nettles connection aside, the 26 year-old Kreindler’s passion for baseball history combined with a love of art has spawned a budding career of turning moments many of us have only seen in black and white photographs into strikingly colorful paintings. He focuses on the time period from World War I to the late 1950s.

“Ballplayers then were accessibly human and the atmosphere of a cozy ballpark was just as important as what happened on the field of play,” Kreindler explained to Sports Collectors Daily. “My goal is to depict the look and color of this bygone era in oil paints, focusing on the quaint ballparks, lively personalities, and dominating teams.”

He uses news and wire photographs, newsreel and 16mm home movie footage and first hand accounts to create historically authentic scenes depicting baseball history– be they the subjects of the mundane or the spectacular.

“Since both of my grandparents passed on when I was rather young I try to image what it must have been like for them to be in the ball parks in the 30s, before my parents were born and even further back, in the 1910s when they were kids. What was it like to see Christy Mathewson and John McGraw’s crew?”

Kreindler began showing a passion for art at a young age. “Some of my first drawings were done off of the old Bowman cards from the 1950s that my father still had as well as the late 80s sets he lovingly purchased for my brother and I. We followed the Yankees somewhat religiously during the 80s, though I was usually disappointed with their lackluster play. However, I used to take joy in the stories my father told me about his heroes – Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Elston Howard as well as his many video clips of old games.

“Being Brooklyn Dodger fans, my mother and uncle further augmented my appreciation for the past. I swore that I was the only 5th grader who knew about Gil McDougald’s odd batting stance, or why Gil Hodges should be in the Hall of Fame.”

Kreindler’s smallest work to date is an 18” x 24” piece he created of Ebbets Field, putting his own family walking outside the ballpark. “I painted it for my uncles 60th birthday, and in the bottom right corner, I illustrated his father in a camel-hair coat holding a baby who is my mother along with a young boy next to him. That’s my uncle.”

While still pursuing an art education, his work has been displayed in such places as the annual Society of Illustrators where he was honored with two awards, and the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles. In 2003, the former honored Kreidler with
both the Norman Rockwell Award and the Illustration Academy Award. His works are already in some private collections as well.

As focused on the genre as he is, Kreindler didn’t actually set out to be a baseball artist.

“As a senior in the illustration program at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, I had been given an assignment to illustrate a ‘relationship’, and had the opportunity to interpret the task any way I chose to. I decided to do a baseball scene depicting the dynamic between pitcher and batter. I chose to illustrate Mickey Mantle awaiting a pitch from an unlucky hurler. I thought it would be more fun to do a more vintage scene, especially one involving my father’s hero. I reveled in the idea of recreating a scene from almost 50 years before – especially one that was to be so historically accurate. The painting was a hit with my teacher and the class, and even earned me a spot in the student scholarship show at the Society of Illustrators in New York.”

He had started the foundation to a career in the sci-fi/fantasy illustration business, but after graduation, he kept thinking about how much fun he had doing the Mantle piece and began reacquainting himself with the sports memorabilia hobby he loved as a kid.

”I was amazed to see that people were spending thousands of dollars on not only cards, but also old bats, uniforms and other baseball related items.”

There were even those who were into the artwork of the game and Kreindler would discover he had company in the world of baseball artists. He spent hours on Bill Goff’s website.

“Though I had spent so much time in school studying people like Rembrandt, John Singer Sargent and Monet, my new influences would include Andy Jurinko, Bill Purdom, William Feldman and other notables like Bernie Fuchs and Bart Forbes. I loved how these artists paid so much attention to the look and history of the game, and made images that were not only in a painting style I admired, but could easily transport me to an era that I never lived in, though was very familiar with.”

Kreindler’s goal as a painter is to “reanimate the collected ephemera of baseball through my artwork”. Focusing not only on gestures, player likenesses, or uniform styles, he tries to depict a mood or atmosphere, by manipulating light and color. In short, it’s an attempt to transport a fan back in time.

“These works transcend the black and white images people of my generation have become so accustomed to seeing on television and in books, while giving those of an older generation the opportunity to revisit childhood memories in lurid color and meticulous accuracy. I act as a visual historian: recreating a history that I have never experienced, yet, like millions of fans, maintain a profound connection with. Though the days of watching Joe DiMaggio in centerfield are over, I would like the vivid images and memories that were so much a part of the lives of an older generation to be released in their youthful energy and vitality through my artwork.”

Kreindler has also completed modern era works for Goff that have been released as limited edition lithographs (‘Curse is Foiled’ and a yet un-named Citizen’s Bank Park image).

“I have plenty of images in the works, including large paintings depicting players like Jackie Robinson, Sandy Amoros, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Eddie Plank, Christy Mathewson, and honestly, the list goes on and on.”

Finding the time to complete his painstaking works is a challenge, however. Currently attending Lehman College CUNY in pursuit of a Masters in Education, his short-term goal is to be a certified art teacher.

His larger paintings take anywhere from 3 weeks to two months to complete including all of the research that goes into them. Since they are generally dense in content, at that size they can run anywhere from $1000 to $7500. Smaller images however, be they less intense or grandiose, range from $400 to $1000 and generally take only a couple of weeks to complete.

The Nettles connection is something Kreindler is proud of and always has been.

“My little league career led to many years of playing third base wearing number 9. Interestingly enough, the pinnacle of my early art career came when I was about 9 or so, and it was from a little help from Nettles himself. I had drawn a picture of Nettles from one of my father’s cards, and through some egging on from my brother, decided to take advantage of a book he had that listed the mailing addresses of thousands of major league ballplayers, past and present. After a heartfelt letter and a couple of weeks of mailbox stalking, I received my drawing in the mail, signed by my hero.”