Artist James Fiorentino has been creating beautiful paintings of famous athletes since he was a kid.
At 14, he painted Yankee great Joe DiMaggio. At 15, he became the youngest artist ever featured in the Baseball Hall of Fame for his likeness of Reggie Jackson. At 17, he was commissioned to create a portrait of Ted Williams.
Fiorentino is now painting such sports icons as Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Michael Jordan and Mike Trout.
With a twist.
A master of watercolors, Fiorentino is using his master brushstrokes to recreate some of the most iconic sports cards of all time.
A former college baseball player and card collector, Fiorentino has created art cards for both Topps and Upper Deck. The current card boom sparked the idea for painting the hobby’s most iconic cards.
The project, called “There Is Only One, the Most Iconic Trading Cards of All Time,” was the brainchild of Fiorentino and longtime friend Joe Drelich.
“Watching sports cards escalate so rapidly by 100, 200, 400, 600 percent made me realize that owning many of them had just become extremely difficult, seemingly overnight,” said Drelich, the owner of East Coast Sports Marketing and a promoter of card and memorabilia shows.
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Drelich owns some of Fiorentino’s artwork and reached out to his childhood friend about recreating some of the hobby’s top trading cards. The idea, he said, was to “bring James’ amazing talent to the sports trading card world in super-size fashion.”
The “There Is Only One, the Most Iconic Trading Cards of All Time” gallery will be unveiled Sept. 24 at the Philadelphia Sports Card and Memorabilia Show at the Valley Forge Casino in King of Prussia, Pa.
Since Fiorentino created his first painting for Topps in 1999, trading cards have been compared to fine art, with many collectors considering them “miniature sports-art masterpieces,” he said.
Now with the sports card industry riding a historic high, Fiorentino has created 22-by-30 watercolor paintings of such gems as the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, the ’52 Topps Willie Mays, the 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card and a 2011 Topps Mike Trout rookie.
Fiorentino said recreating the cards in detail was “both a challenge and a delight.”
“I try to craft each painting to match the original card as closely as possible, with my own style coming to the forefront,” he said. “Many of the vintage paintings include some of the same brushstrokes in spots.
“I also love the contrasting mix of vintage and modern cards, and different challenges they present in this overall collection.”
One of his favorites is of the 1953 Topps Mickey Mantle card, which was originally created by artist Gerry Dvork, a mentor and friend to Fiorentino growing up.
“Some of the Mona Lisa’s of the card world are in this collection, and the most noteworthy is that I will never paint any card that size again in my career,” he said. “This means that collectors will have the opportunity to own a very rare original piece of art.”
Fiorentino is excited about the upcoming exhibition, which he says will “highlight the sports-art side of collecting on a fine-art level.”
“The air of suspense as fans wait to see the originals in person is what makes this project both special and exciting to work on,” he said. “Being able to view the recreation of iconic sports masterpieces in person at 22x30 and in watercolor is what makes this so unique.”
The exhibit will be on display from Sept. 24-26. The initial reveal is a VIP invitation-only event on Friday, Sept. 24th from 7-8 p.m.
For more information about the exhibit, contact Joe Drelich of East Coast Sports Marketing at 908-842-7247 or email@example.com. For more on the gallery and Fiorentino’s work, go to https://thereisonlyonetradingcards.com/.