Sullivan, who lives in Louisville, Ky., flew into Atlanta last weekend to take part in a tour of SunTrust Park given to select fans, and was able to see his paintings in their new digs along with the park itself.
“The new stadium is incredible,” he said. “A stadium has a totally different atmosphere and vibe when there’s not a game going on, but every seat is so close to the field. You can really tell they’ve put a lot of energy and thought into it.”
The Braves opened SunTrust Park for a behind-the-scenes media tour Tuesday, three days before the ballpark will be opened to season-ticket holders for an exhibition game Friday against the New York Yankees. Video by Hyosub Shin
A dream come true
After high school, the Louisville, Ky., native continued to focus on his twin interests — baseball and painting — as he joined the baseball team at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in 2005.
During high school and college, baseball was the more important of the two, with artwork sitting ready in the bullpen. Sullivan went professional on the diamond as a left-handed pitcher after getting drafted by the Braves in 2008.
He spent five years with the team’s minor league affiliates in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Danville, Va., Rome, Ga., and Pearl, Miss. During this time, Sullivan shared a locker room with the likes of Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel and other future greats.
Richard Sullivan’s depictions of the World Series champion Milwaukee Braves include a painting of Hank Aaron, who later moved with the team to Atlanta.
Given these connections with the team, having artwork in the Braves stadium is a dream come true.
“This is one of the most special projects I’ve done, and I’m so honored to have it,” Sullivan said. “I can’t imagine getting another project that means as much to me as this one. Since I was 21, I’ve been connected to the Braves, and to have it come full circle is amazing.”
The 1995 Atlanta Braves included a young Chipper Jones, whose image is featured in one of 16 paintings of the team Richard Sullivan created.
The Braves front office also noted the importance of having local artwork in the stadium.
“We want SunTrust Park to feel like more than just a ballpark to our fans — we want it to feel like a home,” Braves president of business Derek Schiller said in a release from the team. “These original works of art, many of which were commissioned from local artists, create an intimate and familiar environment in SunTrust Park, making Braves Country feel right at home.”
A subject close to his heart
When his baseball career ended, Sullivan was just getting started on a venture that would land his work in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum,the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center,the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory and even in the office of Braves executive John Schuerholz.
Richard Sullivan’s paintings are located in the hallways outside the Champions Suites at SunTrust Park, and depict the Braves organization’s three World Series titles in 1914, 1957 and 1995. CONTRIBUTED
Sullivan went back to SCAD and earned a degree in illustration in 2014. There was a bit of a struggle deciding exactly what to paint, but the revelation came soon enough.
“After graduating, I realized I should combine my love of baseball and sports with watercolor,” Sullivan said.
Now 29, much of Sullivan’s artwork depicts modern-day sports heroes like 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, NBA phenom LeBron James and MLB standout Bryce Harper. He’s not afraid to venture into the past, though, painting the likes of Muhammad Ali and, at SunTrust Park, the 1914 Boston Braves.
At an age when many of his peers still play professional sports, Sullivan is carving more and more inroads into the sports business as an artist. He aims to continue on that path, though his work with the Braves will always be a major milestone.
“My aim was to give fans a story they can immerse themselves in through the World Series wins,” Sullivan said. “My work and my art has been a steady progression that has led up to this point.”