MARTINEZ, Calif. – During the nine innings of Tuesday’s Clippers-Stompers baseball game, Andy Brown was in the bleachers along the first base side of the field. In front of him was a stretched canvas, and to the right, his paints.
Taking shape during the game was a painting of Waterfront Park, complete with the players.
He’s accompanying his friend, Joey Mellows, for the first part of Mellows’s year-long trip to as many ball parks before the seasons end.
A native of Essex, England, Brown began drawing early in his childhood. He majored in art and then began teaching art in international schools.
Eventually his career took him to Seoul, South Korea, where he met Mellows at the same school where his fellow Englishman was a boarding master.
Like Mellows, he became enamored of baseball, but rather than write about it as Mellows is doing, Brown picks up oil paints and a canvas when he’s in the stands.
He’s done about 50 baseball paintings so far.
Not all are of ballfields. He’s painted a portrait of Martinez native son Joe DiMaggio, whose Major League Baseball nickname, the Yankee Clipper, is reflected in the Martinez ball club’s name.
He also has illustrated the poem “Casey at the Bat,” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer.
And sometimes he opts for watercolors, especially at Major League games.
Unlike at independent leagues, the ballparks of Major League games seat their fans closer together. Brown knows his neighbors don’t want oil paint on their clothes. “There’s not enough space,” he said.
Like Mellows, Brown was not a baseball fan while he lived in England. Going to South Korea changed that. “The Koreans are crazy about it.” So are the Chinese as well as the Japanese, he said.
Brown said ballfields make interesting subjects for painters. “I like the symmetry,” he said. He particularly liked the regular shapes and straight lines he saw in the Clippers’ ballpark and its outfield. Those shapes and lines are broken up by the ball players as they move around the field.
He paints portraits and landscapes as well. And he can work fast – before the ball game was over, he had finished his painting of the field.
He didn’t get to take it home, though. Clippers owner Paulette Carpoff saw it and claimed it for her own. “I couldn’t let it go anywhere else,” she said.
During their short stay in Martinez, both Brown and Mellows had a chance to visit the downtown area of Martinez. Both praised the beauty and charm of the city. But there’s something Brown would like to see in Martinez before too long.
“There’s no statue of Joe DiMaggio!” he said.