Sports artist Efdot discusses his custom baseball cards, more

For The Win presents a new series featuring people whose work focuses on the most creative elements of sport. We spoke with many of the greatest artists, authors and publishers who are helping to make sport a better place.

NEW YORK – Eric Friedensohn didn’t even have time to get upset. He was set to take the Wrigley Field mound in July.

But it wasn’t going to be easy. He hadn’t pitched a baseball in a long time, and the mound feels like it’s twice as far from home plate when you’re suddenly in front of a large crowd. It didn’t matter that he was ready. It was finally his time.

“I still don’t think I’ve dealt with it completely,” Friedensohn told For The Win. ” I was delighted. I was surprised. I had a 15 minute warning so I was a little scared.

The terrain was not incredible. He landed outside the strike zone, and Clark, the official Cubs mascot who was waiting with a glove behind the plate, was unable to catch him. For a ceremonial first pitch, however, it wasn’t as embarrassing as someone like 50 Cent or Dr. Fauci.

All things considered, this wasn’t a bad look for Friedensohn, especially since he makes a living as an abstract artist.

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Friedensohn, also known as Efdot, is a Brooklyn-based visual artist and creative director who works with large-scale wall installations, fine art, screen prints, and product collaborations. He has a few people employed on his team at his Buschwick studio, which he says operates as a “mini creative agency” which he runs in tandem with his fine art practice.

He describes himself as very community oriented and he has painted all types of murals, reaching out to small local businesses as well as neighboring small businesses and as large as co-working spaces across the world.

An example of his community-driven mindset includes his efforts to raise over $ 60,000 for the Bring Change 2 Mind (BC2M) charity with the Cubs. Efdot was actually pitching the first pitch at Wrigley because the Cubs asked him to collaborate on a limited edition collection for Mental Health Awareness Month. The project included a silkscreen print and several garments. He also appeared on Chicago outfielder Ian Happ’s podcast on mental health.

“Mixing my art with sports on this project was really interesting for me because it was soft and tender,” Efdot explained.

When he first met For The Win, he was days away from a project for the New Heights NYC nonprofit, a youth development program that aims to empower and educate underprivileged children. Part of its curriculum includes after-school basketball programs, and some of its notable alumni include NBA players, such as Precious Achiuwa, Moses Brown, and Lance Thomas.

For this particular project, Efdot was installing a mural for the relocated New Heights NYC home that would soon open at the Bedford Union Armory in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. The center will feature several brand new basketball courts, and with its energetic style that sometimes resembles a city grid, its mural has shared the history of the organization.

The main theme of this mural is the ascension, with stairs as a common motif. It included fun nods to New York like a subway map, a big apple, and other depictions of the community and the New Heights organization itself.

Alex Dzialo / For the victory

“This is our new home, so we really wanted to work with an artist who could come in and tell the story of where we started and where we are,” said Ashley Faison, Director of Development for New Heights. For victory. “He did a great job marrying the concepts of books and basketball together, and it stands out right away.”

This piece is one of many he has produced with sport as a subject, an increasingly popular trend among some artists. Efdot is one of the many contemporary artists who have become known for making sports art.

Like many, sport was a big part of Friedensohn’s life when he was growing up. He played baseball, tennis and football. But the Brooklyn-based artist described her involvement in athletics as a love-hate relationship. At one point, he said, he felt like he was playing more for his parents than for himself.

He began to realize that when he found more joy in art – he was inspired by his grandmother, who made stained glass as a material – and skateboarding. Finally, he completely stopped playing.

“But I’ve always loved the art of sports,” said Efdot, who said he appreciated the rich history of design, typography and color on ephemera such as uniforms, badges, pins, hats and dashboards. “I loved the nostalgia to see Brooklyn Dodgers in the script. It always gives me a very warm feeling when I [see] these logos.

Even though he no longer played, he still had fond memories of his childhood, such as collecting baseball cards with his brother. The two were selling items from their school collection during recess.

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Alex Dzialo / For the victory

It all came full circle for Efdot when last year he was selected as one of 20 featured artists to team up with baseball card trading company Topps for his 2020 project. He was feeling really lucky, okay. sure, but he knew it wasn’t. is going to be an easy task. He usually didn’t draw faces and didn’t pay as much attention to baseball as when he was younger.

“I was pretty nervous about it,” he admitted. “But it brought me back. It forced me to go back to my childhood memories. It was such a healthy thing for me to do during the early parts of the pandemic. It was a bit of a nostalgic escape.

At first, because he didn’t want to redraw the players and misrepresent them, he mostly drew around their silhouettes to create an abstract environment or background while leaving their photographs untouched.

Since then, Efdot has presented his own spinoff series which he sold through Topps in which he paid homage to 10 iconic stadiums in the league. These subjects did not need to use the human form, which gave him more creative freedom than he had with the previous effort.

After completing this, he is now one of over 50 artists currently participating in Topps Project 70. Unlike Project 2020, where he received cards to remix, he now has more creative flexibility to design any card within 70 years of archiving. material in the Topps collections.

This time around, with the increased experience under his belt, he leaned more into illustrations. He also changed the background of his images from black to white.

Meanwhile, with the booming NFT markets and the somewhat surprising popularity of remixed collectible cards like hers, it’s clearer than ever that people love to own things. These days he’s thinking more of his submissions to Topps in terms of relating to a series in the mind of a collector.

Topps

In his creative process, this means doing as much research as possible on his subject matter so that he can add layers to the room. It doesn’t have as much space to add as much detail as it would in a mural, but it was able to pay homage to the infamous Billy Ripken card with a swear word on it by sneaking into a reference on his card for Oriole Park in Camden Yards.

Of course, Efdot acknowledged that there is only a small subset of people who love both sports and art, let alone his specific art style.

But once these people found him, he was able to cultivate a collector base and reward them in unique ways. One idea he executed was to sell accompanying cards – featuring his own intellectual property with his original abstract figurative Blob character – which he himself printed in Queens.

Alex Dzialo / For the victory

Blob’s character appears on his mural in Crown Heights again, this time wearing a basketball uniform featuring the # 8 on the front. As in much of his work, both playful and accessible, the figure evokes fluidity and movement in an otherwise static image.

“I could be myself, fully, but also express it through sport,” Efdot explained. “I like to find ways to build my own creative muscles in what I do outside of sport while still integrating it into sport. “

It aims to take the essence of its subject matter and boil it down to an icon, almost like a logo in sports. Over time, he hopes that people will begin to associate his designs with certain feelings in their own lives.

As he continues to perfect his style, throughout his practice Efdot seeks to create images simple enough that they are easily digestible and recognizable while remaining unique and full of personality.

For example, when he collaborated with Topps, his intentions were to move away from the ultra-sleek digital photography of contemporary baseball cards and more towards the illustrated look that one found on the back of baseball cards in the years. 1950.

Topps

A recent example of this was his card for Satchel Paige. Artistically, this is one of her most successful pieces to date as it captures the recognizable movement that is found in both Paige’s pitching wind-up (where her arm whips on release) and marries him to the visual language of the iconic, wavy style of Efdot.

“It’s almost a snap in every design,” says Efdot. “For me, finding that balance has been fun.”

Of course, working with Topps also attracted a new group of sports fans to his art. For some, his style didn’t resonate, and he said he needed to build thicker skin in the face of criticism.

However, he said the overwhelming majority are in favor and understand what they are doing and understand the vision. People wonder about art and want to know what happens next. In fact, he’s even seen people who bought his baseball cards buy one of his original pieces, like a line drawing of the city or one of his characters in the wild.

“The passion of the audience is greater than anything I have ever experienced before,” Efdot said. “One of my favorite things is seeing these baseball card collectors become art collectors.”

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