The artist Dirk Rozich felt really amazed while painting pictures of the famous sports star LeBron James in Stark County. He was working on three paintings, each about 28 by 20 inches, which would later become big murals at the LeBron James’ Home Court museum in Akron.
When he finished the first painting, he got emotional and realized the significance of what he was doing. He thought, ‘Wow, this is a big deal.’ Even though he felt a bit nervous because LeBron James is such a huge celebrity, he was determined to create a mural that would be fitting for the basketball icon and his museum. “It’s a bit intimidating because it’s LeBron James. I can’t think of any other athlete in the world more famous than him,” Rozich said.
What is mural painting?
Mural painting is when artists create big pictures on walls or large surfaces. These paintings can tell stories, share messages, or simply add beauty to spaces. Artists use various techniques like brushes or spray cans to make these large artworks, which can be found indoors or outdoors, making places more colorful and interesting.
Rozich, along with the foundation staff, had to go through more than 100 photographs to decide which ones would be featured in the collective mural. The chosen moments include James’ draft night in 2003, his first slam dunk as a pro basketball player, Olympic gold medals, and a picture of him outside the I Promise School. Nicholas Lopez from the foundation said the mural truly represents a journey through LeBron’s life.
One special moment for Rozich was capturing LeBron’s championship with the Cavaliers, which held a significant meaning for both the artist and Cleveland sports fans. Rozich felt a strong connection to the emotions of that moment, recalling how everyone in Northeast Ohio celebrated.
The process of creating each collage involved drawing and painting, with each panel going through three to four iterations before completion. Rozich painted a total of 14 portraits of LeBron, the most he has ever done of the same person.
The original paintings were made using watercolor wash with acrylic paint on top. Rozich explained that the vibrant colors were achieved by applying multiple layers of thinned paint. The paintings were then professionally photographed, digitally scanned at high resolution, enlarged, and printed on vinyl. Finally, they were installed as a wrap onto three walls surrounding the steps leading down to the LeBron museum.
Rozich admitted feeling uncertain and nervous about how the smaller artwork would look when reproduced at such a large scale. There were also challenges in basing some of the painted imagery on early photos of LeBron as a toddler, where the resolution and clarity were not as good as in digital photography. Due to construction, painting the murals on-site using scaffolding wasn’t possible, as the museum steps were being demolished and rebuilt to accommodate an elevator.