Bill Rose started his professional art career drawing portraits of his daughter’s softball pals back in 2000. Now he’s hit the big league.
His iconic “Forever Royal” mural of the club’s World Series triumph a year ago hangs at Kauffman Stadium and prints based on it and other works are hot sellers with sports fans.
He has had his drawings published nationally and featured in a film directed by Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood. On the home front, Rose has dedicated time to the Prairie Village Arts Council and judged this year’s Prairie Village State of the Arts event.
And the affable 62-year-old has never had an art lesson in his life.
“I always loved art and had done photography since high school,” Rose said. “I knew I had a good eye, but never thought that I could draw.”
He was sitting in his studio at the Crossroads Arts District. Around him were his latest paintings and prints of the Royals celebrating as a team, and vivid portraits of Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon at key moments during the 2015 World Series.
Earlier drawings also adorned the studio including a haunting sketch of a young woman biting an apple. It was that drawing, done in 2008, that really launched Rose’s career.
But first, a little background. Rose grew up in the Chicago area and wound up attending college at Ball State University in Indiana where he got a business degree. After college, he lived in Colorado for three years where he met and married his wife.
The couple moved to Kansas City in 1978 because Rose’s Dad had a business here. They later moved to Prairie Village where they raised three daughters, all Shawnee Mission East grads.
“I had numerous jobs in the business world, mostly project management and health care IT,” he said. “I worked at H&R Block eight years doing their digital work.”
One day, he was at home looking at a photo he had taken of a softball player holding her bat. There’s was something about the image that moved him to pick up a sketch pad left on the table by one of his daughters.
“On a whim, I thought I’d sketch the girl,” he said. “Within one hour, to the astonishment of my wife and kids, I did this great rendition.”
Parents of the players liked his work and asked him to draw their daughters too. Then he got a commission to do a portrait of Chiefs football standout Tony Gonzalez from the Granfalloon, who’s owner is his wife’s cousin. It still hangs at the popular Plaza bar.
While it was fun, he hadn’t quit his day job at H&R Block.
“I realized I had a pretty significant talent and I’d never had a class,” he said. “I don’t know where it came from, it was just something inside.”
Encouraged by his progress, Rose entered a competition sponsored by American Artist magazine. It was his drawing of the girl biting an apple that won it. That image appeared on the cover of the magazine and caught the eye of Eastwood.
The director was doing a film called “The Forger” and the plot revolved around a teen-age art prodigy who became an international art forger. A young producer called Rose out of the blue in February 2008 and asked if he’d be willing to do the artworks for the film.
By then, Rose had decided to pursue his art full time. He spent three months on location in Monterrey and created 50 drawings and several paintings that were used in the film. And his photo talents also were utilized when he was asked to be the still photographer on the set.
His big break with the Royals occurred when the team asked their art consultant, Paul Dorrell, the owner of the Leopold Gallery, if he knew someone who could do a commemorative work. Dorrell suggested Rose.
The rest of the story is now hanging prominently and proudly on walls throughout the Kansas City area.
Rose still bases his drawings and paintings mostly on photos. For the iconic 8×10 foot “Forever Royals” mural hanging at Kauffman, he superimposed the team celebrating on the mound after clinching the Series on a panorama of the huge crowd that gathered at Union Station to celebrate.
“It’s been pretty huge doing this,” he said. “I’ve come full circle.
“I started with sports portraits of my daughter’s friends, then I did more figurative works and now, the last couple of years I’m doing sports works as well.”
His paintings and drawings are available through the Leopold Gallery in Brookside, 324 W. 63rd St.