Artist Ronnie Joyner Reveals


Baseball artist Ronnie Joyner is a throwback. His work harkens back to the 1960s and before, as he gives every former major leaguer a curtain call in history’s spotlight. The autograph collector and die-hard fan explained his vintage techniques.

Q: Tell me how to describe one of your creations. It’s unfair to call them ‘caricature art.’ Each artwork says and does so much more.

A: It’s been hard to describe my drawings in a concise way. Caricature, although that’s what a lot of people call them, isn’t quite right because my portraits are realistic. That’s why I just settled into “bio-illustration”. It, in itself, isn’t very descriptive, but it’s the best I can come up with. Where space permits, I usually define “bio-illustration” by saying “a realistic pen-and-ink or pen-and-pencil player portrait surrounded by biographical text and cartoons.”

Q: What medium are you working in?

A: The bulk of my drawings are done with pen and brush in black ink on DUO-SHADE board. Here’s the deal with DUO-SHADE. It is a newspaper production product that saw it’s use peak from the 1960s through the 1980s. Newspaper production artists and cartoonists used it because you could create camera-ready (old term) gray areas without the need to halftone the piece, thereby compromising the crispness of the solid black linework. Therefore the control was in the hands of the artist instead of someone who might not be very good at creating nice halftones with the stat camera (another old, antiquated term).

With DUO-SHADE, the artist inks all the solid black line-work, then paints a clear water-like developer on the areas where he wants tone to appear. That process brings out the thin 45-degree angled hatch lines that, in the case of my work, make up the tones of the face. These hatch marks are invisible on the DUO-SHADE board until you paint on the developer. There are two bottles of developer with DUO-SHADE. One brings out one set of 45-degree hatch marks, and the second brings out the opposite set of 45-degree hatch marks, thereby making that area an even darker tone. DUO-SHADE a great product that, although most people don’t know the technical reasons why, allows my work to have that vintage feel of the guys from past eras.

Sadly, though, DUO-SHADE was finally discontinued by the only manufacturer. You can blame computer technology for making it obsolete. I have enough stock to do another 25 drawings, then it’s over.

The other medium in which I do my bio-illustrations is pen, brush, ink and pencil on coquille board. These pieces look distinctly different from my DUO-SHADE pieces, yet they also have a vintage look because coquille board is also an old-school newspaper production product. Coquille board has a pebbly surface. First, the artist inks all his solid black line-work, then uses a deep black pencil to add the shading. The pencil shading sticks only to the high points of the coquille boards pebbly surface, thereby acting as an instant halftone device. It’s brilliant because, like the DUO-SHADE, it keeps the artist’s black line-work solid and crisp while giving him complete control over the “half-tone”. Broken record here — coquille board is also now discontinued (at least the “fine” grade that we use), and I have only a couple sheets left. There is still a “coarse” grade being make, but it’s too rough to give the look I really want, but I’ll use it in a pinch.

I have no idea what I’ll do once I run out of my old stock. It may be time to move on to a new approach, but I’ll do it grudgingly.

Q: How can collectors learn more about you or purchase your work?

A: Unfortunately, my work is most likely not seen unless you’re an SCD reader or a member of the Historical Societies of the Washington Senators, Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Braves or St. Louis Browns. I’ve built a website covering all of my various baseball activities, but I’ve never got around to posting it. People can be directed to the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society website to see many of my bio-illustrations.

They sell prints there and all proceeds go to the society. I’ll always field questions, too, if people want to write me:

Ronnie Joyner, 7780 Traeleigh Lane, Charlotte Hall, MD 20622
rjoyner@tbiinc.com

Former players who’ve been given the star treatment by Joyner adore his work. One MVP called his bio-illustration “better than a baseball card.”

Tomorrow, the artist shares some of the praise baseball alums have bestowed.

Autograph Collector Investigates Mysterious SASEs

I’m writing today from the fringe of the autograph collecting hobby.

I haven’t been zoned on building sets of autographed cards. I cheer the
collectors who have the patience (and postage stamps) for such a goal.

From collecting back into the 1970s, I remember hearing from an elderly
retired player. “Is this card yours? If not, please send it back.”
I admire anyone who can keep track of who sent what, getting all
the cards autographed and back to their proper homes.

What puzzled me was the taped returned. In the last month, I’ve seen
tape on the back of a half-dozen envelopes.

Theories:

1. Homeland Security is monitoring my collecting progress? Nah…
2. The retiree had switched my letter with another SASE and had to reshuffle his replies.
3. The former player wanted to share more insight about his past, diving
back into the envelope to add one more anecdote.

I liked the third “explanation” most.

Actually, I’ll never be a CSI regular. My detective skills are slipping. The truth is that autograph signers have tired of “spit or sponge?” as the only choices for moistening each SASE. Or, they saw the Seinfeld episode in which George’s girlfriend keels over from toxic envelope glue?

I peeled some tape from a few replies. Each time, the glue remains. I applaud the major league minds who honed such a skill. Sign on!

A New Way to "Collect Autographs"

I confess. I’ve never been the world’s greatest autograph collector.

I consider myself retired from the “quantity” side of the hobby.
Every request I’ve sent out in 2010 has only a letter and a self-addressed, stamped envelope. No cards to be signed. Not even a blank index card.
I’m collecting recollections.

I’m asking 2 or 3 questions of each person I contact. That’s it.

I remember a well-known retired pitcher I wrote a few years ago. He’d been out of uniform more than three decades. I asked him a question about his Christianity.

“I’ve never had a letter like yours before,” he began. “Any time someone writes me, they want me to autograph cards.”

Along with being clear in what I want, I’m trying to make a couple of points in every letter I send, including:

1. My motivation — In every letter, “Tom Owens, Baseball Fan Since 1971” is the first line of my return address. Yes, I type. Hand-written letters might seem more sincere to some. Fill your correspondence with personal content, so no one will ever suspect you have a mass-mailed, fill-in-the-blank excuse for a letter.

2. My connection — I apologize to those who I’ve never seen play. I’m honest. Most of all, I make it clear that I know their background and their era. I show that I’ve done some homework. Do an online search. Look at his or her stats. Could there be a story behind one of the dates or numbers?

3. My perspective — I end each letter the same: “My ‘career’ ended in Little League, but those baseball memories keep me warm in the winter and young year-round.” There’s no claim that I could’ve outplayed them. I’m a humble, grateful fan trying to imagine what even a day of someone’s career felt like.

(I should thank Joe Garagiola for this last tip. When I interviewed him years ago, I asked how people who knew him as a kid in St. Louis behave. He sighed. Every time I meet someone from when I grew up in St. Louis, he said, they insist that they struck me out in a sandlot game.)

Not everyone will answer questions by mail. Not everyone will sign autographs. However, no one will respond if they aren’t asked. So, swing for the fences. See what lands in your mailbox.

What do you think makes a good letter? What have you learned from the current and former players you’ve contacted?

A New Way to “Collect Autographs”

I confess. I’ve never been the world’s greatest autograph collector.

I consider myself retired from the “quantity” side of the hobby.
Every request I’ve sent out in 2010 has only a letter and a self-addressed, stamped envelope. No cards to be signed. Not even a blank index card.
I’m collecting recollections.

I’m asking 2 or 3 questions of each person I contact. That’s it.

I remember a well-known retired pitcher I wrote a few years ago. He’d been out of uniform more than three decades. I asked him a question about his Christianity.

“I’ve never had a letter like yours before,” he began. “Any time someone writes me, they want me to autograph cards.”

Along with being clear in what I want, I’m trying to make a couple of points in every letter I send, including:

1. My motivation — In every letter, “Tom Owens, Baseball Fan Since 1971” is the first line of my return address. Yes, I type. Hand-written letters might seem more sincere to some. Fill your correspondence with personal content, so no one will ever suspect you have a mass-mailed, fill-in-the-blank excuse for a letter.

2. My connection — I apologize to those who I’ve never seen play. I’m honest. Most of all, I make it clear that I know their background and their era. I show that I’ve done some homework. Do an online search. Look at his or her stats. Could there be a story behind one of the dates or numbers?

3. My perspective — I end each letter the same: “My ‘career’ ended in Little League, but those baseball memories keep me warm in the winter and young year-round.” There’s no claim that I could’ve outplayed them. I’m a humble, grateful fan trying to imagine what even a day of someone’s career felt like.

(I should thank Joe Garagiola for this last tip. When I interviewed him years ago, I asked how people who knew him as a kid in St. Louis behave. He sighed. Every time I meet someone from when I grew up in St. Louis, he said, they insist that they struck me out in a sandlot game.)

Not everyone will answer questions by mail. Not everyone will sign autographs. However, no one will respond if they aren’t asked. So, swing for the fences. See what lands in your mailbox.

What do you think makes a good letter? What have you learned from the current and former players you’ve contacted?

Remembering a 1950s knuckleballer


Pitcher Paul LaPalme’s major league career spanned 1951-57, ending
with the Chicago White Sox. When buzz grew for the possible (and
overdue)Hall of Fame induction for Al Lopez, I wrote LaPalme about his
former manager.

His reply, squeezed onto a 3-by-5, was dated 3-15-76.

“Hi, Tom — Al Lopez was a great manager. He was great to play for.
I don’t follow baseball very close now as I am very busy
with my family, golfing in summer and cycling in winter.
Michael, Terry (his children) and myself we cross-country ski and we love it.
We were skiing yesterday in Waterville, N.Y. Best to you, Tom.”

“Lefty” LaPalme passed away on Feb. 7. The former World War II veteran
was 86.

Why did I keep such a chatty family update from a person I’d never met?

He may not have been a star to many. But Paul LaPalme’s family were stars to him.

%d bloggers like this: