Going into this year’s Winter Meetings, I had never met Sean Kane or heard of his company Painted Glove Collectibles. But Mr. Kane got in touch with me just prior to things kicking off in Nashville, saying that he’d love the opportunity to show me his baseball paintings. Of course, I was happy to oblige.
We met just outside of the Trade Show, where Sean laid out his unique (and extremely well done) baseball artwork atop a brick wall while a I quizzed him about how he came to pursue this particular line of work, the tricks of the trade, and what brought him to Nashville in the first place.
Ben’s Biz (aka “Guy referring to himself in the third person”): So, how did this whole ‘painting on gloves’ thing come about?
Sean Kane: I’m a lifelong baseball fan who grew up in Chicago. I went to both parks growing up but am probably more of a Cubs fan. I’m also a professional artist, and have been an illustrator for 18 years for various publications.
This was always something percolating in the background — I was always going to baseball games, and always interested in gloves and stadiums. I was looking for a way to overlap these loves, and hit upon the idea of painting baseball gloves about 10 years ago….The first gloves I designed were more cartoony and decorative, but over the years it’s evolved to a finer portraiture, trying to tie in the history of the game and those other layers.
Ben’s Biz: Where do you get the gloves, and what sort of paint do you use?
Sean Kane: The internet is a good source for a lot of this stuff. There are guys who deal in antique gloves, so I look through their offerings and try to find something that will work. Older gloves have more surface space and fewer seams to them, providing more of a canvas to work on….I try to avoid signature models, because then I’d have to paint that person on it. Although I am looking for a Yogi Berra catcher’s model because I have a design worked out featuring Yogi and his quotes and I think that would be a fun future project.
I use acrylic paints, because they work really well with the leather. Those old gloves, even if they’ve been abandoned and found in a box at Salvation Army, they’ve got a great feel to them and take the acrylic paint really well. And that’s about it — really, really small brushes round out the art supplies as far as that goes.
Ben’s Biz: How do you go about selling the Painted Gloves, and who buys them?
Sean Kane: I mostly market them online through my website, as well as art shows [Sean’s gloves will be exhibited at Bergino Baseball Clubhouse in NYC next year]. They’re not inexpensive, more for the discerning baseball fan, although the market I imagine might include teaming up with organizations that want to thank their Legacy Box club members or corporate sponsors. Or maybe through a Hall of Fame that wants to do something special for its inductees.
It’s about 50-50, [regarding] gloves people ask me to design versus the ones I do on my own. I’m looking at doing one of Koufax, as well as Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente, and part of that is dictated by what I know people like. I’m also interested in expanding the concept, to work with current or past players who might want to feature the highlights of their career on one of their old gloves.
Growing up a Cubs fan, I’d love to do a Ron Santo glove one day. That’s the key one. And as far as a current player I’d love to do an Ichiro — I lived in Seattle during his time there and really came to appreciate his approach. He reveres his gloves and I can’t imagine that he’d let me paint one, but you never know.
Ben’s Biz: So what prompted you to travel to the Winter Meetings?
Sean Kane: I wanted to check out the Trade Show to see if it would be a viable exhibition space for myself; maybe I’ll exhibit in Orlando [at the Winter Meetings] next year. I also wanted to meet people in person, to show these gloves to individuals who I’ve met online who are in the business. It’s one thing to see something online, but completely different to hold a 70-year-old glove that someone’s painted.
Thanks to Sean for getting in touch — one of these days I may commission him to do a glove commemorating my 1992 season with the Wissahickon Middle School seventh grade baseball team. I started every game, but only went 1-for-3 on the season because I walked in all of my other plate appearances. I was like the Eddie Gaedel of suburban Philadelphia.