'Time of my life:' Artist captures sports moments

By Bill Althaus bill.althaus@examiner.net

When Joe Scardino was a youngster, growing up in Independence, he would go with his father and his friends to Municipal Stadium to watch the Kansas City Chiefs.

“I was in the huddle club,” said Scardino, who graduated from Truman High School in 1976, “and we’d go down to 22nd and Brooklyn and watch the Chiefs. I got to use my mom’s ticket, and I fell in love with football.”

Joe Scardino, a 1976 graduate of Truman High School, puts the finishing touches on his portrait of Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who was the MVP of the 2015 World Series. Scardino, who recently celebrated his 40th anniversary at Gill Studios in Lenexa, Kan., has become one of the most sought after sports artists in the Midwest. He works out of the studio in his Olathe, Kan., home.

After taking art classes at Truman, he fell in love with any type of art/media that allowed him to capture the true essence of sport – football, basketball, baseball or Formula 1 racing.

“As I kid I watched the Chiefs – Lenny (Dawson), Buck (Buchanan), Bobby (Bell) – all the Hall of Famers they had back then,” Scardino said, “Now, I’m creating works of art featuring them, and I’m having the time of my life!”

In the living room of his Olathe, Kan., home are three canvas paintings of his son Connor, at various stages of his young life. Move to the dining room, and there is a heartwarming painting of Connor doing snow angels.

Then, you move downstairs and the testosterone kicks in as Muhammad Ali is glaring as he stands over a defeated Sonny Liston; quarterback Joe Montana flashes his million dollar smile after winning his fourth Super Bowl; Patrick Mahomes flies through the air to attempt an impossible pass in Super Bowl LI; and you can almost hear the late Vince Lombardi growl, “Winners never quit and quitters never win” as he sports that famous profile on the sidelines at Lambeau Field.

Joe Scardino captured a highlight moment with Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

It’s almost impossible to pick out a favorite piece of art in Scardino’s home studio, as he has framed pieces on the walk, autographed pieces hidden away in files and works of progress on his easel.

“When I was at Truman, my art teacher, Mr. Braley, told me I’d never make it as an artist because I was unorthodox, and started with the dark areas and painted towards the light,” Scardino said, grinning.

“But my other art teacher, Mrs. Malott, was encouraging and always praised my work. It was good to have the input of each one of them, because I knew I was going to have a career in art.”

He just didn’ know that his career would be creating works of art of sports heroes and legends that would appear in collections throughout the Midwest and the United States.

He knew he was doing something right when he arranged to meet Ali, who was appearing at a sports convention in Overland Park, Kan.

“I bought a ticket to get my painting signed, but I was told there could be no flash cameras – which was disappointing because I really wanted to get a photo of Mr. Ali signing my painting.”

That worry soon faded when he met the former boxing champion, who signed a huge autograph across his chest.

Former world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali signs an original painting my Truman High School graduate Joe Scardino at a Kansas City memorabilia show in the early 1990s. Moments after signing the photo, Ali motioned Scardino to his side, lifted the painting above his head and posed for another memorable photo.

He then motioned for Scardino to come over.

“He was waving me over and he was waving for my wife to come over, too," Scardino said, "but the camera she had was a flash camera.”

That wasn’t a problem, as Ali grabbed the painting, lifted high above his head and posed for a photo with Scardino.

“It doesn’t get any better than that,” Scardino said. “He liked my painting, and that was all I needed to know I was doing something right.”

If there is a legend in any sport, there’s a good chance Scardino has created an image, or two or three.

“I love all mediums,” said Gill, who recently celebrated his 40th anniversary at Gill Studios, where he is the manager of the art department. “Watercolor and acrylic are my favorite. I’ll come down to my studio late at night, I’ll find an image and get inspired and get to work.”

“It’s the greatest gig in the world.”

For more information, or to see examples of his work, go to jscardinoart.com.