The Capital of Annapolis

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Vince Perez doesn’t play baseball, but he had a coaching job this summer most fans would drool over.

The Annapolis artist instructed pitching legends Vida Blue, Tommy John, Gaylord Perry and Tom Seaver. He wasn’t providing pointers on how to throw a fastball high and tight, but he was advising them on location.

Perez gave each of the ballplayers a quick lesson, then had them paint specific sections using cross-hatching technique. They were quick studies — though the artist’s 40 decades of experience as a teacher undoubtedly helped.

“All of these guys, in order to get to their level of the sport, had to (be) intelligent, sensitive and aware,” Perez said.

The result of their unique collaboration, a 8-foot-by-12-foot painting called “Champions,” was unveiled in New York City this month and will tour the country. Profits from prints of the mural will go to USO Fort Drum, with the goal of raising $1 million.

“It’s one of the best projects I’ve ever done,” said the 73-year-old Perez, whose resume stretches from fine art to pop art
and medical illustrations to fantasy paintings. He has designed Grateful Dead T-shirts, science fiction calendars, woodcuts and charts doctors use for training. Perez was a professor at the California College of the Arts, teaching there for 40 years before moving to Annapolis to be closer to his son.

“Vince is just an inspirational guy and his talent is unbelievable,” said Anthony Clarke, one of the artist’s neighbors
and co-owner of Galway Bay and two other county restaurants.

“Champions” features three runners clad in red, white and blue with an eagle in the background. The entire project was done over just a couple months and involved three of the ballplayers coming to Annapolis to paint.

Perez traveled to California with the giant canvas so that Seaver could participate. That turned out to be a story in itself.

The container the painting was stored in was too large to be a carry-on — something Perez found out only at the airport.

The working canvas was 9 feet by 16 feet to allow for both framing and space for Perez to give painting lessons to the ballplayers.

So, to get the mural out west, Perez had to spread it out on the floor of BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, carefully fold it, and put it in a duffle bag he bought there.

The actual visit with Seaver was far less eventful. The Hall-of-Famer turned to be an excellent student, Perez said.

“I can pretty much teach anybody if they’re up to it,” he said.

When he wasn’t flying with the painting, the artist worked on the mural in the basement of Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis. Clarke helped arrange for Perez to work there.

“We’re pretty ecstatic about (the mural),” said Christopher Ahlgrim of SignatureART, the company behind the project.

Perez is planning at least two other murals. One will be called “Heartland,” in which he’ll work with country music stars.
“It’s just kind of fun working with celebrities,” he said. “I’ve been a private artist so many years. It’s nice to be in the public and share this with my friends and family.”

A lot of people have skeletons in their closet, but Perez has them all over the house.

Some are for amusement, like the bony mug he uses to hold colored pencils. But most, like the full-size skeleton hanging from a stand in his studio, are used in his medical illustrations.

Perez was trained as an abstract expressionist, and got into the medical art field only by happenstance when he was earning a master’s degree. His mentor asked him to teach an anatomy class as a favor, so Perez did some studying and filled in.

He approaches each subject of the intricately detailed charts – whether it’s the nervous system, musculature or a single organ – as if he’s telling a story in order to illuminate function.

“Art is like breathing,” he said. “Plumbers plumb, and artists art. Every day is fun and enjoyable.”

Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md.,

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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