Major League Baseball’s playoff season has started and artist Chris Speakman is keeping a very close eye on all the action, to see which teams advance and which wins the World Series. It’s not because he’s a huge fan of any of the teams in the playoffs (although he is a big baseball fan). It’s that he has to begin his planning and design work for the prints and posters he will create that help fans of the championship team celebrate their victory.
Speakman, who graduated from the University of Hartford’s Hartford Art School with a bachelor’s degree in illustration in 1998, is the creator of "Sports Propaganda Art" limited edition prints and posters. Conceptually inspired by the propaganda art of the 1940's, Speakman’s work actively recruits fans to support their favorite team.
Speakman, a lifelong lover of sports who also has a passion for history, began to make these types of screen prints around 2006. Capitalizing on the popularity of the Boston Red Sox following their World Series Championship in 2004, his prints and posters sold very well. “I started doing it just for fun,” said Speakman, who grew up on the south shore of Massachusetts. “Boston was a good market, but it got saturated pretty quickly. So I had to find new markets and find out what sells there.”
It turns out that the concept of being a sports fan and of being patriotic have a very similar resonance with people. “It’s not just about your hometown because sports teams have fans all over the world,” he said. “Each fan base is like a nation unto themselves, and I design my prints to be a ‘call to action’ for fans to support and celebrate their team.”
In less than 10 years, the business has achieved great success. Speakman has branched out from baseball (Major League Baseball hired him to design the program cover for the 2011 MLB All-Star game) to basketball and hockey (he has licensing agreements with the NBA, NHL and MLB). Sports Propaganda has been commissioned by companies such as Dunkin Donuts, Beckett Sports Card Monthly and Topps Trading Cards to create custom work.
Click here to see a video of how Speakman makes his screen prints.
In fact, things have been going so well that last year Speakman merged his company into That's My Ticket LLC in Medway Mass. Speakman said the move, in which he became creative director at That’s My Ticket, was made so that he could go back to concentrating on the artistic end of the business and leave the production side of the business to people he knew personally and knew he could work well with. “So now I’m not sticking posters in tubes four hours a day,” he said.
“I had been working 12 to 13 hours a day for about seven years. That model wasn’t sustainable,” he said, adding that running a business himself made it hard to keep a proper balance between the artistic and business sides of the enterprise.
The success he has achieved is still something of a surprise to Speakman. “I was trying to draw what was interesting to me. I didn’t intend to make a business out of it. It was just fun,” he said. “I had no idea. I thought it was a cool concept, but I was surprised it grew so quickly. But when it did, the ideas just started flowing out of me.”
Although the concept of Sports Propaganda Art came after he had left the Hartford Art School, Speakman said the seeds were planted there. He came to the University to study print making, and the time spent with the Hartford Art School’s professors and his fellow artists/students really helped him blossom as an artist. “I loved being at school there. I had a difficult time leaving,” he said.