Richard Sullivan at his Portland studio | Photo by Sarah Davis Photography

After playing baseball for more than six years — mostly for the Atlanta Braves’ Minor League Baseball program — Louisville native Richard Sullivan quietly returned home to focus on his other passion: art. Sullivan, 30, is carving out a very specific niche for himself, as he combines his love of sports and art to create watercolor portraits of baseball heroes, legendary boxers, famous football stars and, yes, even hungry horses galloping to the finish line.

After graduating from Ballard High School in 2005, Sullivan attended the Savannah College of Art & Design, where he was able to hone his artistic skills and also play on SCAD’s baseball team.

“John Smoltz” by Richard Sullivan | Courtesy of SunTrust Park

Although the school no longer has an athletic program now, Sullivan and his teammates garnered lots of attention for their skills on the field, and in 2008, the left-handed pitcher was drafted by the Atlanta Braves.

That’s when he put his art on the back burner and focused on baseball full time. But deep down, he knew eventually he would return to the canvas. After six years in the Double-A league, Sullivan was released by the Braves and ended up going back to SCAD to finish his degree and brush up on his art.

That’s when he decided to start painting his favorite baseball players and teammates — it was a way for him to stay connected with sports but also express himself through watercolor.

In the short time he’s been back in Louisville, Sullivan has made quite a name for himself. Most recently, he contributed 16 paintings and 20 prints to SunTrust Park, the Braves’ new baseball stadium. His art hangs in the Champions Suites and depicts the Braves’ three World Series wins.

And this month, he participated in the Kentucky Derby Museum‘s Fan Fest Day, where he featured a painting he made of Charismatic running in the 1999 Derby.

“Charismatic and Field” by Richard Sullivan

Sullivan tells Insider he was keeping up with Louisville’s growth from afar, and he was particularly interested in the revitalization of Portland, which is where he chose to locate his studio — with the help and suggestion from local film producer and entrepreneur Gill Holland.

“I moved back because I wanted to be a part of this growing art scene,” he says. “It’s exciting to see so many people embrace artists here. I think Louisville has come a long way. There is so much potential, and I hope it continues to flourish.”

“Bobby Cox Mound Visit” by Richard Sullivan | Courtesy of SunTrust Park

And after renovations on his studio space are complete, he plans to push himself into learning how to transfer his watercolor style to oil paint and create more large-scale equestrian pieces as well.

“Louisville has so much sports history, and I want to continue to paint what I am passionate about,” says Sullivan. “I would love to get more involved with the community and help other artists and athletes continue to grow.”

But first, we caught up with Sullivan to ask him some very important questions …

What’s the most surprising thing on your Bucket List?

I’ve always wanted to live in Europe for a year or two and travel to all the art galleries, explore the cultures and see the architecture. I feel like that is a necessity for an artist.

Randy Johnson was a left-handed pitcher for the Seattle Mariners, among others.

What poster was on your wall in junior high?

Randy Johnson was my favorite pitcher growing up, so I would have to say it’s a picture of him.

If you were mayor, to whom would you give the key to the city?

I would have to say Gill Holland. Having a studio in Portland and seeing all the positive things he is doing for the city of Louisville is truly inspiring. I’ve been in Portland less than a year and I can already see incredible differences in the neighborhood. There are so many unique people moving their businesses to Portland. It feels like we are all pioneers in a way.

What are your preferred pizza toppings?

All the meats!

If you could be any age for a week, what would it be?

I would probably go back and be 23 again, because I was playing baseball with the Braves and still having fun with the sport.

Here’s looking like you, kid.

What famous person do people say you resemble the most?

Some people have said Christian Bale.

Who would you most like to be stuck with in an elevator?

This is such a tough question! I would probably have to say Ernest Hemingway. He’s one of my favorite authors and he lived quite an extraordinary life. I would want to hear about all of his adventures when he was younger.

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