Artist, Ed Chee, turned his love of the Toronto Blue Jays into an annual art project, producing a unique record of an extraordinary season
It’s safe to say that Ed Chee is both a committed artist and a dedicated Toronto Blue Jays fan.
In late 2015, the talented 46 year-old from Vancouver, interested in tackling a common practice amongst his contemporaries, made completing a daily art project a goal for 2016. Successful annual projects like these need to share a common theme, but also provide ample opportunity for variety for their creators. Chee didn’t have to look long for his subject.
Baseball, with its 162 game regular season, cast of decidedly unique characters, ever-changing atmosphere and endless storylines was the perfect fit.
“Being an avid baseball and Jays fan, I decided I would do a sketch of each game for the 2016 Jays season,” Chee said.
Although he started out as an Expos fan, he changed allegiances to the Jays as a teenager in 1985, hungrily pouring over the box scores daily while stretched out on the living room floor. His first game was in the summer of 1985.
“My friends and I were at the Friday night game where the Jays could have clinched the East vs. The Yankees – but Moseby dropped a ball in the rain in (centerfield) that allowed the Yanks to win,” he recalled. He has vivid memories of the game, which took place in old Exhibition Stadium.
“I was not prepared for the amazing feeling that washed over me as I stepped through the tunnel of the left field bleachers – to see a bright green, sunlit (AstroTurf) field,” he gushed. “You now that feeling when your eyes have to adjust from dark to sunlight? It was that moment. Plus the emotional adjustment that came over me as I saw a major league field for the very first time! It was such a powerful moment for me.”
Now, he uses his gifts to convey that same feeling to others.
One inspiration for Chee’s project was Dan Fraga, director and comic book artist who has a number of animated projects to his credit. Chee, a storyboard artist for animated television shows, worked with Fraga on a Monster High movie.
“He is a really great artist and person,” Chee said. “He did daily drawings, and posted them every day to his Social medias – Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram etc.”
Chee decided to follow suit, sketching one key moment from each Toronto Blue Jays game during the 2016 season into a 5.5” x 3.5” Moleskine notebook. He posted many of them to his twitter account, @cheechoo98, throughout the season.
“I chose Twitter because that’s where all the baseball fans hang-out, and you can have ‘conversations’ with them,” he said. “You can even have ‘conversations’ with the Jays columnists and writers. Very cool.”
He also posted some of his drawings to Instagram, where his work caught the attention of reliever Jason Grilli.
“Jason was thoroughly impressed, thought it was awesome and that Edward is unbelievably talented,” said Grilli’s representative Leticia Reyes.
Chee was excited to know that his work was noticed by players for the team.
“It was very cool to have Jason Grilli retweet one of them,” he said. “He was an easy ‘draw’ because of his amazing celebrations.”
Chee estimates that he spent between one and two hours on each drawing, taking his time to ensure that he captured each play or scene as it happened, but through his own lens.
“I’ll rough it out, do some rough pencil compositions first, search for the play I want, review all angles of it from multiple cameras, practice getting the likeness (or multiple likenesses) of a player’s face, and generally re-framing the composition so that I’m not drawing exactly from broadcast,” he said. “I like to make up my own camera angles and compositions.”
He typically took a Zen approach to which scene he ended up drawing, allowing the game to dictate his finished product. “As the magic of baseball plays out, there are multiple ‘turning point’s’ or key plays, so I often let the game sink in and think about it and go to bed – by morning, I’ll know what to draw,” he said.
There were times however; that he made specific drawings to ensure his project was both deep and wide. “Other times, it’s just that I haven’t drawn a certain player yet and I wanted to get him in the sketchbook.”
He missed drawing switch-pitcher Pat Venditte during his tenure with the Toronto Blue Jays. “Which I’m upset about!” he lamented.
MLB.tv to the Rescue
Living in Vancouver made this project logistically more difficult for Chee, given that games typically started at 4 p.m. in his time zone and were in the seventh or even ninth innings when he arrived home from work. But thanks to modern technology, he could see the games in their entirety, from a few different viewpoints, on his own time.
“The MLB.TV app is great in that I can watch the game from the beginning when I get home. Or I can fast-forward, rewind pause, listen to the opposing team’s broadcast, etc.” he said. “On the PS4 version of the app, it adds ‘markers’ of key plays on the timeline so I can go directly to an event or significant play. Also, I love how I can watch the opposing team broadcast for different camera angles and commentary,” he added.
A Five Tool Player
While the images that Chee drew of the Toronto Blue Jays’ 2016 season illustrate one aspect of his artistic skills – his talent extends far beyond those sketches. Drawing has always been a part of his life.
“I went to an Art College majoring in Oil Painting, so, I’m always interested in painting and drawing,” he said. “Life drawing really feeds my soul – it’s like eating for me,” he added, noting that he occasionally visits his local Dr. Sketchy’s, which dubs itself an anti- Art School dedicated to making figure drawing sexy, to draw “all the fabulous ladies of the local Burlesque scene in Vancouver.”
In the late 2000’s he went completely digital, sketching people and outdoor city-scapes directly into a Nintendo DS lite.
“I carried it around as a digital painting sketchbook,” he said. It helped him record a difficult time for his family. “That ‘project’ happened during the time my father was battling cancer, and I did a great number of sketches of him during our hospital visits and in waiting rooms.”
He was featured on Global News in Toronto for that project and its resulting show.
Right now, the majority of his focus artistically is on his work as a storyboard artist, where he’s currently working on a boy’s action show. It’s a fun job, he said, that is both demanding and creatively rewarding.
“I love that I’m in control of how to tell a story,” he said. “Working in the TV and film industry, you basically get to be a film director, utilizing film language, storytelling, and of course lots of drawing.”
When he does have some free time to focus on his craft, he spends it digital painting in Photoshop or doing character design practice.
View them All
Chee not only posted select drawings from the Toronto Blue Jays 2016 season to his twitter and Instagram pages, but he’s also made every one of them viewable to Internet users.
In the future, he’s considering making printed versions of the books available for purchase, but that isn’t high on his priority list. After all, a new season of Toronto Blue Jays baseball is just around the corner, and Ed Chee plans on again immortalizing every magical moment of 2017 in the pages of his sketchbook.
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Joy Frank-Collins is a Communications professional who got her start writing as a journalist at a daily newspaper in southeastern Ohio. She was born in Reds country, but “found” baseball watching the 1986 Mets win the World Series. A long-time Pittsburgh Pirates fan, she added the Blue Jays as her AL team the day they picked up Russell Martin. She lives in Marietta, Ohio, with her family, who all share her passion for baseball. She loves the suicide squeeze, a crisp 6-4-3 double play and catchers. When not obsessing over baseball, Joy likes to work out, travel and drink wine.