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The art of basketball: Behind the Raptors is a talented fan base of artists. Even the players have taken notice – Toronto Star



In the hours leading up to a Toronto Raptors game, as players and coaches prepare for the opposition, and fans plan their day around arriving at the arena or settling in front of a screen for opening tip, Tristan Douglas is usually putting the finishing touches to another Raptors game-day poster.

This season, the Toronto-based illustrator has challenged himself to draw a game-day poster for all 82 regular-season dates. The inspirations have ranged from 1960s French Wave film posters to a photo of rookie Scottie Barnes dressed as the Joker for a Halloween party.

In a recent matchup against the New York Knicks, Douglas paid homage to the legendary Hollis, Queens rap group Run-DMC. When the Raptors played Orlando, he drew a dinosaur being cut in half as part of a magic act. When Douglas recently came across a Polish movie poster of the 1959 drama “The 400 Blows” he decided to recreate the poster for a Raptors-Blazers matchup.

When Douglas recently came across a Polish movie poster of the 1959 drama “The 400 Blows” he decided to recreate the poster for a Raptors-Blazers matchup.

Basketball is an expressive sport. On the court, players throw behind-the-back passes on fast breaks. They thrill the home crowd with gravity-defying dunks. Off the court, the expression comes in many forms, including NBA players recording their own music and starting their own fashion lines. For Raptors fans, expression has come in the form of one of the most talented fan bases of artists in North America.

Douglas still remembers the first time mom Anna took him to watch a Raptors game as an eight-year-old during the team’s inaugural season in 1995. “We went to Shoppers Drug Mart, bought two-dollar tickets and sat in the 500 level at SkyDome with binoculars,” he recalls.

A basketball fan growing up, Douglas moved from Niagara Falls to Toronto at the age of 18 to pursue a stand-up comedy career. The dream was short-lived. When his mom became sick, Douglas found a creative outlet in drawing, even though he never had an interest in visual arts growing up. “It lifted me up,” he says. “I drew things that made me feel good and made me laugh.”

This season, Tristan Douglas has challenged himself to draw a game-day poster for all 82 regular-season dates.

When the Raptors spent last season in Tampa, Douglas started to challenge himself to draw black-and-white posters for every game. He started posting his art on social media, where Douglas goes by the name “half good.” It’s how he views his drawing skills.

“I’m self-taught, so my drawings aren’t the most realistic. They don’t have the best lighting, the shadows aren’t always correct,” Douglas says. “In my mind, I’m always like, ‘Yeah, these are OK.’ So I’m always pushing myself to be more than OK. So for now, they’re half good.”

As he’s integrated himself into the Raptors art community, Douglas has formed a circle of artist friends, including Dana Smart. Followers of the Raptors over the last few seasons have likely seen Smart’s fun and quirky illustrations of players.

When OG Anunoby hit a buzzer-beater three to defeat the Boston Celtics at the NBA bubble in 2020, Smart drew an image of Anunoby strutting off the court. It caught the attention of Raptors fans on social media and became a viral image.

Smart was born and raised in Guelph and lived in a basketball household where both of her parents were huge Raptors fans. Smart remembers doodling in class growing up and attending art camps in the summer. As an adult, she got an iPad and started designing logos for school events.

Dana Smart finds her inspirations through watching the Raptors, but also from watching “Open Gym” episodes.Dana Smart finds her inspirations through watching the Raptors, but also from watching “Open Gym” episodes.

An optometrist during the day, Smart describes her style as part art deco, part cartoon. “One thing that is overarching that I can’t escape is that it is rooted in the geometry and angles and vector shapes,” she said. “It’s all rooted in the shapes.”

Smart finds her inspirations through watching the Raptors, but also from watching “Open Gym” episodes. She gets most of her drawings done either in the morning or on the weekend when she’s not working.

One of Smart’s favourite Raptors illustrators is Vancouver-based artist Jane Chiang, who goes by DrawTheNorth online. Chiang grew up in Taiwan and moved to Canada when she was in grade eight. She was inspired as a kid by the illustrations of artist Takehiko Inoue in the Japanese basketball manga “Slam Dunk,” which Raptors forward Yuta Watanabe has credited as an inspiration for getting him to play the sport.

After two years studying computer science at the University of Victoria, Chiang decided to join an art institute where she studied 3D modelling for games and movies, and learned about digital illustration. After graduating she got an entry-level job at a movie studio.

Vancouver-based artist Jane Chiang, who goes by DrawTheNorth online, was inspired as a kid by the illustrations of artist Takehiko Inoue in the Japanese basketball manga “Slam Dunk.”

To make more money, she started to accept commissions to illustrate pets. Chiang became a diehard Raptors fan during the team’s 2019 championship run, and became inspired to draw realistic renderings of Raptors players. When she posted a portrait illustration of Jalen Harris last season, the Toronto rookie took the image and made it his Instagram profile photo.

Many players have started to take notice of the growing art community within the fan base. When the Raptors organized a pop-up art exhibit called “Art of the North” in 2018 spotlighting fan art from artists across the world, an illustration of Fred VanVleet by Casey Bannerman caught the Raptors guard’s eye.

Growing up in Peterborough, Bannerman remembers working as a high schooler at the local mall, where he spent many hours drawing in the stock room. “There were thousands of pages of order sheets and plenty of Bic Cristal pens,” Bannerman recalled. “So all I would do all day was draw.”

In 2017, after a lengthy battle with substance addiction, Bannerman was able to turn his life around with the help of friends and family, including his fiancée Kelsey. In the process of discovering what was truly important about his day-to-day life, Bannerman decided to pursue his passion for drawing.

His comic-book style illustrations have since landed him several high-profile collaborations, including a recent partnership with VanVleet on a backpack which was designed by Bannerman and distributed to kids in at-risk communities in Toronto. He’s also worked with Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam. Siakam was so moved by Bannerman’s illustration of him, in uniform with the image of his late-father smiling over him, that he commissioned a local jeweler to turn it into a memory pendant.

Pascal Siakam was so moved by Casey Bannerman’s illustration of himself in uniform with the image of his late-father smiling over him that he commissioned a local jeweler to turn the image into a memory pendant.

It does beg the question: What is it about the Raptors fan base that is producing so many talented artists?

Sarah Brown illustrates under the name DrakeCereal and has become the standard-bearer for other basketball artists to aspire to. She’s a Ryerson graduate who started drawing on a Wacom tablet and found a new way to express her fandom. Brown’s drawing style is inspired by Saturday morning cartoons and throwback Nike posters. She has a very simple theory as to why the Raptors fan base includes so many great illustrators.

“Toronto is full of raw talent. We’ve got so much grit and little patience to wait around for someone else to see us,” Brown explained. “The city forces you to bet on yourself, find your own style and make it work for you.”

She also points to the passion of Raptors fans. “It’s more than just a team,” Brown said. “It’s a community built on Twitter memes, heartbreak, overwhelming pride and Nick Nurse reactions.”

Sarah Brown illustrates under the name DrakeCereal and has become the standard-bearer for other basketball artists to aspire to.

The community is also being driven by artists, who have received a tremendous level of support from the fans. Smart recently drew a series of illustrations for Yahoo Sports Canada. She also runs an Etsy store and sells T-shirts, prints and mugs featuring her drawings. Chiang has an online store where she sells prints and apparel.

The artists are all in agreement that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and the Raptors, who have occasionally organized pop-ups and collaborated with individual artists, can do a lot more to highlight the art community.

“There isn’t a lot of original artwork on their socials and on their merchandise,” Smart said. “There could be more of a spotlight in appreciating the arts. We have so much talent in the fan base.”

The sentiment is echoed by Douglas, who also runs an online store. But you won’t find any of his Raptors game-day posters there.

Douglas has bigger plans to display all 82 of his regular-season posters at the end of the season as an art exhibit. He’s also exploring the possibility of compiling his drawings into a coffee table book.

Artist Tristan Douglas holds one of his framed game day posters, at the Christie Pitts basketball court. Toronto, ON. December 17, 2021.

When Kyle Lowry returns to Toronto to play his first game as a visitor at Scotiabank Arena since signing with the Miami Heat in the off-season, Douglas is hoping to crowdsource Raptors artists to contribute their own game-day poster for the special occasion.

Although he admits it would be nice to one day make the transition to becoming a full-time illustrator, Douglas — who still has a day job that pays the bills — isn’t thinking too far ahead right now as to where these game-day posters might take him.

“As long as people enjoy it,” he said, “I am going to keep doing it.”

Alex Wong is a freelance writer based in Toronto.


Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.

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Art with heart: B.C. artists are saying thanks to frontline staff by offering them their works –



B.C. artists are using their skill and creativity to thank frontline workers by offering them original works through an online platform. 

Artists can donate their work by making a submission on the Arthanks website, where each available piece is displayed in a photo. Frontline workers can then browse through the options and request a piece of art. 

“We connect the two. We just say here’s the art, here’s the recipient, please get together socially distanced and hand it off,” said David MacLean, a North Vancouver-based artist who came up with the idea.

“When you give a piece of art it’s kind of original, it’s a little bit different, it’s a little more than just a one-off thank you,” he added. 

MacLean says the concept of Arthanks was formed as he found himself painting more during the pandemic.

“I was getting madder and madder about the grief that frontline workers are taking … and thinking, ‘what have I done?’ Well, nothing. I’ve done little or nothing to help,” he told CBC’s The Early Edition on Thursday.

MacLean began giving his art to friends and family who were frontline workers — including nurse Robyn Whyte, who he met at a Deep Cove cafe.

Whyte said the two had chatted about their professions and MacLean offered her one of his works after noticing a wolf design on her sweater. 

“It just happened … he was donating a piece of art that was related to wolves and I couldn’t say no, it’s a beautiful piece of art,” said Whyte. 

MacLean had informally donated about 20 pieces of art when he reached out to Ginger Sedlarova, a friend in the local art scene, to help recruit volunteers and expand the initiative. 

He said they have given away about 40 pieces of art since the initiative started last summer, and they are now looking for more artists to donate. 

The works on display currently include paintings, vases and miscellaneous pottery.

He said all frontline workers are welcome to request a piece of art, including health-care workers, education workers and those in customer service-facing jobs such as grocery store clerks — “anyone who put themselves at risk to help us in this time of COVID,” according to the Arthanks website.

In receiving her gift, Whyte said she was reminded that people are thankful for the contributions of frontline workers. 

“It’s great to be acknowledged. We’ve all been working very hard and it’s just going on so long…” she said. “I know that there’s people out there who are thankful and I really appreciate it.”

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Restoration of Michelangelo’s Pieta statue in Florence reveals flaws in marble



The restoration of Michelangelo’s famed Pieta dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence has revealed that the single block of marble from which the masterpiece was sculpted was flawed, offering a likely reason for why it was abandoned before it was completed.

The statue, better known as the Bandini Pieta, represents the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene holding the body of Christ as he is taken down from the cross by a man, Nicodemus, whose face is the self-portrait of the Italian Renaissance artist.

“It’s a Pieta that has suffered and is very intimate… it is a really personal statue,” Beatrice Agostini, director of the restoration project, told Reuters.

The works of restoration confirmed that the 2,700 kg piece of marble had veins and numerous minute cracks, particularly on the base, which may have been the reason for Michelangelo’s decision to stop working on the sculpture before finishing it, a statement said.

The artist had initially planned to place the sculpture next to his tomb but only years after beginning to sculpt it, in the mid 1500s, a then 75-year old Michelangelo decided to abandon the masterpiece, giving it as a gift to a servant, who then sold it to a banker, Francesco Bandini.

Restorers did not find any sign of hammer blows, making it unlikely the widespread hypothesis that an unhappy Michelangelo tried to destroy the sculpture in a moment of frustration, the statement added.

The non-invasive restoration started in 2019 but was interrupted several times due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Deposits were removed from the sculpture’s surface, which was then cleaned, bringing it back to its original hue.

The project was commissioned and directed by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore and was financed by U.S. non-profit organization Friends of Florence.

“The operation has restored to the world the beauty of one of Michelangelo’s most intense and troubled masterpieces,” a joint statement said.

Visitors have been able to witness all stages of the process as the statue was always on display, in an open laboratory, on a platform, behind a glass screen.


(Reporting by Matteo Berlenga in Florence, writing by Giulia Segreti in Rome, editing by Angus MacSwan)

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Art Beat: Arts Council keeps its friends close – Coast Reporter



Until Feb. 6, the Sunshine Coast Arts Council is exhibiting works by its members in a variety of mediums.

The annual “Friends of the Gallery” show is hosted in the Doris Crowston Gallery of the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre, at 5714 Medusa Street, in Sechelt.

Now in its 20th year, the “Friends” event began as a way to encourage emerging artists. Today, individual artists from the community are invited to submit one piece of work they completed in the previous year to be shown in the group exhibition.

Artworks are also available for purchase.

Youth Urged to Float Beachcombers-Inspired Creations

The Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society describes itself as “a magnet for creative souls on the Coast.” To mark this year’s golden jubilee of The Beachcombers, the iconic CBC Television program, the society is seeking to attract young creative souls through an art and writing contest.

Various types of submissions are welcome, including short stories, creative nonfiction, poetry, scripts, cover artwork and colouring for the planned anthology and exhibit.

Written entries must contain at least one reference to The Beachcombers, the Coast or the beach. Allusions to jet boat manoeuvres and amicable ribbing at the lunch counter of Molly’s Reach are likely assets as well.

Details are online on the Society’s website at Submissions must be received by midnight on June 1.

Family Literacy Week: Tales on Trails

The Province of British Columbia has proclaimed Jan. 24 to 31 as Family Literacy Week, marking the fifth successive year that Family Literacy Day (Jan. 27) has overflowed with a sevenfold increase in bookish intensity.

“Children’s literacy skills expand and grow much faster when families read, play and learn together,” said Jennifer Whiteside, B.C.’s Minister of Education. “Family Literacy Week is a great opportunity to focus on dynamic ways to support our youngest learners so they can develop the skills they need to succeed in their school years and beyond.”

Decoda Literacy Solutions, a province-wide literacy organization, is hosting a photo contest. Participants may take a photo using a “Let’s Be Active” theme and submit it by email to or post it on social media using these hashtags: #LetsBeActive and #FLW2022. There will be a class prize and a prize for individuals.

To mark the occasion, the Gibsons and District Public Library has encouraged families to host “reading walks” in which families and individuals stroll through local parks, reading along to stories.

The Coast Reporter encourages all such literary ramblers to glance up from time to time, in order to avoid mid-chapter collisions incurred while covering one’s tracks.

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