Rest assured the above headline doesn’t refer to the pitching of journeyman Yankee hurler Brett Tomko, of whom the Newark Star-Ledger’s Marc Craig writes, “as a baseball player, Tomko may be nearing the end. But as an artist, he is only just beginning.”
Tomko has done projects for teammates in the past. His latest is for Phil Hughes, a fellow Southern California native who had caught wind of his teammate’s talent. Tomko carries with him an iPhone loaded with previous drawings and paintings. When Hughes caught a glimpse of the work, he knew right away which artist he wanted to paint one of the special moments of his life.
One of Hughes’ favorite relics from his major league debut is a photograph snapped just before he threw his first pitch. It shows Hughes on one knee in front of the pitcher’s mound at the old Yankee Stadium. He was praying.
Originally, Hughes wanted an almost exact replica of the photo, which was taken at a wide angle. Tomko had another idea.
“I suggested cropping it down a little bit to add more drama to it composition-wise,” Tomko said of the piece, which is now a stunning vertical presentation. “We just collaborated and talked, got the idea of what we wanted and that was it, started working it.”
Tomko typically doesn’t let people watch him work. But on the Yankees’ last road trip, Hughes insisted on checking out the process. So, in a hotel room in Atlanta, Hughes watched for hours as Tomko darkened the background of his canvas before layering in the gobs of white paint that would eventually form his jersey.
Over and over, Tomko layered paint to give the area just the right texture. Hughes came away with a new appreciation.
“You could just see these perfect creases in the jersey,” Hughes said. “It’s insane. He’s really, really good. Some people think he paints, so what? But if you actually see him, it’s like, ‘Wow, he could do this for a living.’”