Shades of glory

Kenn Oliver
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Maddox Cove artist melds his two passions into one medium

A picture tells a thousand words, and nowhere is that more true than in sports photography. Images that are captured in moments of guts and glory seem to linger in our long-term memory.

Think Bobby Orr's famous dive through the air after scoring the winning goal in the 1970 Stanley Cup Final, the famous over-the-shoulder catch by centre-fielder Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series, or the iconic image of defeat featuring the New York Giants' Y.A. Tittle following a 1964 NFL loss.

Artist Troy Birmingham shows off a few pieces of his sports art at his home in Maddox Cove. - Photo by Garry Hebbard/The Telegram

A picture tells a thousand words, and nowhere is that more true than in sports photography. Images that are captured in moments of guts and glory seem to linger in our long-term memory.

Think Bobby Orr's famous dive through the air after scoring the winning goal in the 1970 Stanley Cup Final, the famous over-the-shoulder catch by centre-fielder Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series, or the iconic image of defeat featuring the New York Giants' Y.A. Tittle following a 1964 NFL loss.

These images, like so many before and since, are ingrained the mind of sports fan everywhere.

Like Maddox Cove artist Troy Birmingham.

A lifelong sports fanatic, Birmingham has parlayed his love of sports into his love of art. The results are impressive.

"It's always been there," says Birmingham of his love for working sports into his art.

"Even when I was a kid, I would be drawing baseball pictures. The colours, the intensity of the faces."

At Birmingham's website, troysart.com, you can view some of his work to date. They depict Dan Cleary hoisting the Stanley Cup. Vintage Bobby Orr in the old Boston Garden, his hair blowing as he steps into his smooth stride. And Wayne Gretzky. Lots of Wayne Gretzky.

"I'm just a big fan of his... obviously," the self-taught Birmingham, whose nine-to-five gig as a graphic artist has him designing web-based e-learning courses for a company called Bluedrop: Performance Learning.

In fact, Birmingham was commissioned by a friend of Walter Gretzky to create a portrait of the Great One's parents shortly after Phyllis' death in 2005. He has a photo of himself, Walter and the print.

There's also a fine piece of work depicting Bonavista native Michael Ryder ... in a Canadiens uniform.

"I just finished that this summer, right before he signed (with Boston). But that's sports these days, you can't keep up with it," contends the 35-year-old, who says he'll do a Bruins-era Ryder piece if the demand is there.

In the meantime, he's working on a vintage Guy Lafleur piece and, depending on how Ryane Clowe and the San Jose Sharks do this season - and whether or not the burly winger from Fermeuse re-signs with the California club - he'll start work on that this spring.

Many of the pieces, all hand drawn with pencil and filled using coloured leads, are inspired by photographs available online. Others come from his own memories, such as the Orr print.

Birmingham's sports art is not readily available around town. His work can be purchased through his website or a C.B.S.-based business called Best Framing and Gallery.

"I find a lot of the galleries are mostly interested in the Newfoundland scenery," insists the Petty Harbour native, who has as many images of his hometown as he does sports art.

Since much of his work is commission-based, the bulk of his business comes not through the website or having them around town as it does through word of mouth among other sports fans.

koliver@thetelegram.com

Organizations: New York Giants, Canadiens, San Jose Sharks

Geographic location: Birmingham, California, Troy Bonavista Boston Newfoundland Petty Harbour

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