Anthony Oropeza is a modern-day Renaissance man whose love of art and philanthropy knows no boundaries.
The doting single father is the creator of “Amigoman,” a popular youth comic book series that is published to promote reading and to give elementary students something cool to read.
He is also an aspiring artist whose work with the Kansas City Royals brings oohs and ahhs from fans across the metro area.
As you look at a recent piece of all-star catcher Salvador Perez, you can feel the swing of his bat and hear the roar of the crowd.
The same thing happens with a dynamic World Series celebration work of art that features third baseman Mike Moustakas jumping into the arms of his longtime friend and first baseman Eric Hosmer as they celebrate the team’s first world championship in 30 years.
He is just about done with his current “WIP” (work in progress) a painting of Hosmer that is so colorful and dynamic you feel as if you could ask the Hoz a question and he would answer.
The intensity, the batting stance, the gleam of the sun off his helmet, the dramatic background that brings the piece together – all these elements are reasons that the local arts organization ARTsKC and the Royals have invited Oropeza to take part in Art on Display at The K, at 11:30 a.m., Sunday Aug. 7 at Kauffman Stadium.
Oropeza will be on hand for a meet and greet with one of the new generation of sports artists from the metro area.
“It’s so exciting to think about taking my art to The K where I can meet with fans and talk about two of my favorite subjects – art and the Kansas City Royals,” said Oropeza, sporting his familiar Royals hat.
As he stands in his basement studio and talks about the genesis of each piece, visitors can view the progression of his art (via his social media accounts Instagram @strongavestudios and facebook /AnthonyAOOropeza) – which is familiar in style to sports art icon Stephen Holland.
If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, Oropeza’s art is a love letter to his idol.
“So you see a similarity in my work and the work of Mr. Holland?” Oropeza asks. “Thank you! I can’t thank you enough because he is my idol, and he is such a generous and gracious man.”
Once Oropeza realized his artwork was missing something – that special it that takes it to a new level – he got up the courage to try and contact Holland.
After connecting with Holland via FaceBook, Oropeza was granted a telephone conversation he hoped would last 10 to 15 minutes.
“I was on the phone with Mr. Holland an hour and 26 minutes,” he gushed. “Can you believe that? He was wonderful. I asked him how he developed his style, how he came up with his background, how long it took him to finish a piece. When I got off the phone, I had so much knowledge. I was overwhelmed.”
Soon, he was bursting with creative adrenaline that fueled his recent Royal artwork.
“You can look around this room and see which piece I did before I talked to Mr. Holland and which pieces are more recent,” he said. “I’m so happy where I am right now. I can’t wait to finish one piece so I can begin another one.”
But a 9-to-5 job as a web development coordinator for the Johnson County (Kan.) Parks and Recreation department and raising a daughter keeps him busy much of the day.
“I work late at night and weekends, and I’m fine with that,” he said. “I can’t wait to get home from work, see my daughter and then, when she’s off to bed or when she is at her mom’s home, I come down to my studio and get to work.”
His work has been featured at the Alcott Arts Center in Kansas City, Kansas, he will be a guest artist at Kansas City ComicCon Aug. 12-14 (and may have a couple Royals pieces on display) and will have pieces on display at the “Latinos and Baseball: In the Barrios and Big Leagues” Aug. 12-13 at the Kansas City Museum.
While sports art is his passion, “Amigoman” is his calling.
The idea for a Latino superhero came to him while he was participating in a communications class at Rockhurst University in the 1990s.
“We were talking about culture and audience and I thought to myself, ‘There is no Latin superheroes on this shelf, someone like me, my neighborhood friends and younger kids could relate to,’ and I began thinking about a superhero we could relate to and ‘Amigoman’ was born.”
Oropeza takes time off from work to visit area elementary schools and distribute his comic books to classrooms. They are first published in English, and then eventually translated and printed into one complete comic book in both English and Spanish.
“The kids enjoy the books, and it gives me the opportunity to show his work, give demos and talk with them and let them know that there are many artists who care about them and are honored to share their work.”
Oropeza is hoping one day to offer lithographs and prints of his work. He has sold many originals, including a striking piece of Hall of Famer George Brett that showed the grit and intensity that made him the greatest player in Royals history.
“It’s starting to become an exciting time for me right now,” he said, as his daughter came downstairs to give dad a hug. “I love working on my sports art and working on ‘Amigoman’ comics, but she is my life.”
Indeed, she is his real life masterpiece, but for Oropeza, he humbly stands by his words, “I’m actually just like many of my projects, a ‘WIP,’ a work in progress,” Oropeza said.