There is a definite perception in our society that art and sport are immiscible pursuits. At a fairly young age we are separated into the loud athletic kids who play sport and the quiet sensitive kids who draw. It shouldn’t have to be this way! Drawing is one of the worlds universal languages which everyone is born with the ability to experiment with and enjoy. It is the environments that we find ourselves in as we grow up which make us loose the childish confidence to draw, as a result many of us believe that we can’t draw.

The importance of sport and exercise are heavily acknowledged when you are young, even if you don’t display much aptitude for sport you are encouraged to give it a go and in many cases dragged kicking and screaming. Why is this not the same for art and drawing? At the first opportunity we are gently told that we are not much good at this drawing nonsense and we better focus elsewhere. The benefits of drawing are numerous for people of all ages; it helps with self expression, creativity, coordination and is crucial in helping us understand the visual world we live in. Unfortunately these benefits are not fully understood and are neglected massively.

The benefits of drawing extend far beyond your own personal growth it can also be incredibly useful in a wide range of professions from architecture and design to medical research and complex mathematics. I believe that the benefits of drawing could also be extended to the world of professional sports.

Almost every sport you can name is about translating visual images into actions with your hands, arms, body, legs and feet. This is exactly what drawing is. Turning an image in front of you or from your imagination into actions with your hand via your arm. The two disciplines are more connected than you’d think and improving your ability to understand the visual world can only be beneficial for your ability as a sportsperson. We often hear pundits talk about a certain player seeing the field or court incredibly well or possessing great creativity. Both these traits can be learned or augmented through drawing.

Visualisation is another phrase that is thrown around a lot in the sports world. The idea that you see in your mind whatever you are trying to achieve on the field, be that on the basketball court, the golf course or the football pitch. Drawing can be used to this end as well, by training yourself to draw you can improve the connection between your brain and your body making the process of visualisation or imagination easier and more powerful.

The benefits are obvious but there are significant barriers to overcome. Whilst we still view art and sports as being incompatible kids who go down the road towards playing professional sport will often not have the chance to develop these vital skills. However, there are a few sportsmen and women who have embraced both sides of the divide. Serena Williams is a devoted painter and former NFL star Aaron Maybin is a talented Fauvist artist. In addition there are two NBA players one former and one present who are committed to the arts.

Desmond Mason was drafted in the first round of 2000 NBA Draft and won The Slam Dunk Contest a year later. Mason had a solid 10 year career in the NBA but always remained involved with art which he majored in at Oklahoma State. When he was drafted league commissioner David Stern was fascinated by the dual talents of Mason and asked to buy one of his works, a portrait of Al Pacino in Carlito’s Way. Mason continued to develop his talents throughout his career and has sold works to many celebrities such as George Clooney, Alex Rodriguez and Joe Buck. Mason’s Abstract Expressionist style has been praised by critics and his work is valued as highly as $60,000. He is living proof that the worlds of art and sport can collide with amazing results.

desmond-mason

Indiana Pacers forward Jeremy Evans is a current NBA player who has continued his artistic endeavours from his college days at Western Kentucky. He is best known for dunking over a painting of himself dunking, very meta I know. But few at the time realised that it was Evans himself who had created the work. His teammates have talked about his incessant doodling at any opportunity and he has produced an impressive range of paintings, from portraits of fellow NBA players to abstracted landscapes and lonely city views. You can check out his work here.

Whilst both of these players have continued their artistic careers from their college days it would be great to see more athletes pick up a pen and paper and promote the importance of drawing not just in their field but in so many others. It’s not about it being good it’s about building up the skills and confidence to become more visually literate and showing the way for more to follow. The arts and artistic skill are often viewed as a luxury by our society where as sports are seen as vitally important. The reality is they are both crucial.

Ball is 4 Life.

Drawing is 4 Life.