Adam Ballinger

Athlete to Artist

Adam Ballinger
Athlete to Artist

BZZZZ BZZZZ (Alarm Ringing)

It’s 5am; wife is off to the gym and the children are asleep, Go Time!

There is a precious window of time that exists for me to get creative. I’ve learnt that if I don’t take advantage of these predawn hours my art pays the price.

In the past six years I’ve really embraced my creativity and made drawing a priority. It’s a different change of pace from competitive sport but one that I’ve always enjoyed. Growing up I was lucky enough to have a mother who was an art teacher and my skills have benefited from her encouragement.  Despite a passion for drawing, for most of my adult life my artistic side was overshadowed somewhat by basketball but like all players I couldn’t play professional basketball forever and there comes a time to retire your body. Now it’s these 5am sessions where I combine my love of the game with my passion for drawing.

My eyes could be shut and I’d still be able to draw Larry Bird. He has one of the best stories in the history of sports; he was a garbage man, quit school and went on to be the best players of all time. He is a hero of mine, especially as a 6ft9 white guy with big dreams growing up in a small town like Indiana, just like Larry. Patrick Ewing was apart of that 90’s New York Knicks bruiser team. I’ll never forget their toughness and the way they never took a step back. The iconic image of Sean Kemp gliding through the air is something I’ve always wanted to draw. I’d rather draw guys from this era than the current guys just because they’re the ones I remember and provide niche value to the guys that loved the sport back then.

My eyes could be shut and I’d still be able to draw Larry Bird. He has one of the best stories in the history of sports; he was a garbage man, quit school and went on to be the best players of all time. He is a hero of mine, especially as a 6ft9 white guy with big dreams growing up in a small town like Indiana, just like Larry. Patrick Ewing was apart of that 90’s New York Knicks bruiser team. I’ll never forget their toughness and the way they never took a step back. The iconic image of Sean Kemp gliding through the air is something I’ve always wanted to draw. I’d rather draw guys from this era than the current guys just because they’re the ones I remember and provide niche value to the guys that loved the sport back then.

I often get asked where I find inspiration and I have a couple of tricks. An easy prompt for me is an old Sports Illustrated magazine from the 90’s, the pictures and advertisements throw me back to that era instantly. Otherwise the best inspiration is being aware of your environment and taking notice of what you emotionally engage with. I’ve got a scrapbook with lots of saved images and I also carry around a notebook everywhere I go. These books house ideas dating back to seven years ago and it may be old school but I try and keep everything in the non-digital, it resonates with me more.

Adam Ballinger Art is a work in progress. Retiring from sports and trying to get my art exposed to a wider audience meant I had to dive into the social media scene. As far as social media goes, at first I didn’t want to be apart of it and this was a mistake on my part. Like many of my vintage I didn’t have social media growing up and I never embraced it as a vehicle for self-promotion when I played professionally. This meant I didn’t connect with the possibilities social media presented for me to showcase my art. That said I’ve learned you have to be your own biggest cheerleader and pump yourself up as much as you can. It’s all about producing quality work and getting in front of the right eyes.

An old magazine gave me inspiration to draw Latrell Sprewell, Allan Houston and Marcus Camby. How can’t you love the shoes of this time? They were called ‘Spinner shoes’; they actually had spinners on the side. These are the things people connect with. It brings back memories of an era, which I loved. 

An old magazine gave me inspiration to draw Latrell Sprewell, Allan Houston and Marcus Camby. How can’t you love the shoes of this time? They were called ‘Spinner shoes’; they actually had spinners on the side. These are the things people connect with. It brings back memories of an era, which I loved. 

Having self-discipline, being self-motivated and having a strong work ethic are all traits I have pulled from my professional sports career and taken on my start-up journey. Appreciating that there is always someone coming after your place in the market has helped me push harder. I also never thought I’d be thanking those 5am track sessions but they’ve come in handy.

Being a big sports and pop culture fan made it an easy decision when it came to choosing my subject. Obviously I’m a huge basketball fan and 90’s NBA is particularly dear to me. Those guys were cult figures playing in what people imagined to be the Promised Land at the time. As a young kid those guys seemed like modern day gladiators with uniforms as their outfits and jump shots and crossovers as their weapons. I do love comics but these guys are real life superheroes and this is why I draw them.

 

  One thing I love most about drawing is letting my imagination run wild. This was an opportunity with this Russell Westbrook commission piece. Rusty is a fashion king so wanted to put together a montage of what he has worn in the past. 

 

One thing I love most about drawing is letting my imagination run wild. This was an opportunity with this Russell Westbrook commission piece. Rusty is a fashion king so wanted to put together a montage of what he has worn in the past. 

In the last week alone I’ve had some big wins being approached by various media outlets like Sports Illustrated and Astro Studios (small studio in San Francisco). A series of drawings including three of my favourite NBA players of all time (Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing and Sean Kemp) will be displayed. If I hadn’t built a presence on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook I wouldn’t have been exposed to these opportunities. I would really challenge people starting a business to get comfortable with blatant self-promotion.

I’m proud of my transition from basketball to Adam Ballinger, the artist. It would be remiss of me to say the transition has been easy, like any career change it’s tough. After basketball I had to move quickly to support my family. The pace of family life doesn’t allow for much downtime, which is probably a blessing when it comes to retiring. I’m lucky enough to have a beautiful wife who runs a successful business of her own so she understands how challenging the start-up phase can be. Together we have three children and my family are a major motivation for my career reinvention. My roles as Dad and Husband are just as important to me as my roles as basketballer, business owner or artist but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a delicate balance trying to fit them all in! 

"DADDY, DADDY".

Children are up, pens are down.

Indiana born • MSU Spartan • Former Pro • Australian • Proud Husband •Proud Father • Illustrator/cartoonist

Follow Adam Ballinger on Instagram @adamballingerart