One of my most challenging, time consuming and rewarding paintings was a commissioned painting that I painted for, at the time, the owner of the Cleveland Browns, Mr. Al Lerner. It was a fairly large painting, 24” by 37”, oil on board. I had to paint it fairly large in order to be able to paint in every little head on 73,018 fans. I actually put hair on many of them. :-)
In 2001, I was painting for MBNA, the credit card company. Mr. Lerner took MBNA public in 1991 and bought the Cleveland Browns in 1998. In 1996, the former owner of the Browns, Art Modell, had moved the Browns team to Baltimore and the Baltimore Ravens were formed. The Browns and Mr. Lerner had to rebuild the team, signing their #1 draft pick Tim Couch, an All-American quarterback from the University of Kentucky in 1999. #2 Tim Couch is depicted in my 2002 painting, backed up in his own end-zone, with a comfortable fourth quarter lead.
This was one of the Browns big wins of the 2001 season, 24-14! The win over the former Browns team and now rival Ravens was huge for Tim Couch and Mr. Lerner, beating the eventual 10-6 Baltimore Ravens on home turf, Cleveland Stadium. It was an honor for me to capture a 4th quarter moment in the game for Mr. Lerner.
At the time, there was a bright future for the Browns’ franchise and quarterback Tim Couch. 2001 ended with a decent 7-9 record. In 2002, Couch led the team to a magical 9-7 year and to the playoffs. Again, they beat the Ravens at home during the regular season 26-21 on 10/6/2002. Then sadly a few weeks later on 10/23/2002, Mr. Lerner passed away. In the final game of the season Tim Couch broke his leg, and a somewhat accident prone quarterback’s hopes for a long bright career began to fade. Couch was released from the Browns in 2004 and struggled over the next few years to find a new football home, to no avail.
On the other end of the field (so to speak), the Baltimore Ravens ten years later have just won the Superbowl, following a 12-4 season. Since picking up quarterback Joe Flacco in the Ravens first round 2008 draft pick, Flacco has taken the team to the playoffs in each of his first four seasons! An NFL record. Following last year’s Superbowl win, Flacco just signed a record 120.6 million dollar, six year contract!!!!
Ten years later, I’m a self-employed artist living in Williamsburg instead of working for MBNA and living in Maine! I look back fondly at my time painting for MBNA but I am enjoying working on my own too. As I mentioned earlier, this was one of my most enjoyable commissions. This year’s Superbowl win by the Ravens took me back to when I was trying to read the names on the back of the Ravens players’ jerseys for this painting, making sure I didn’t spell them wrong.
Last year in 2012, ten years after my painting, the Browns struggled to a 5-11season. Mr. Lerner’s son and Browns owner Randy Lerner, sold the Cleveland Browns. Mr. Lerner is gone, Tim Couch is retired, and the Cleveland Browns are looking downfield to a new future.
Hopefully, the Lerner family still has my painting featuring one of the bright moments in the Browns franchise over the last decade and reminds them of the happy memories of their time as Cleveland Browns owners.