The Art of Sports in Kansas City

Former Mavericks, Cole Ruwe had his picture painted by Jeff Barge who is the topic of our article about art in KC. (Photo: Jeff Barge)

In this painting, Eric Berry delivers a crushing blow on an Oakland Raiders quarterback. This image was painted by Chris Sembower, a well known sports artist in the Kansas City Area. (Photo: Chris Sembower)

Art and Sports are two things that people will never let go. Art is unique like sports because anyone can do it, at anytime of any day and enjoy it. Art and sports blend together like ice-cream and OREOS. What happens when you actually mix’s art and sports? What happens when you mix Kansas City Art with Kansas City Sports?  Well, you get someone like Chris Sembower or Jeffery Barge. Sembower is a designer and illustrator who is from Kansas City and has done a lot of art work on KC Sports. Sembower has many billboards and posters appear across the Kansas City-Metro area featuring his sports illustration. Some of Sembower’s work includes illustrations on Sporting KC, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Kansas City Royals and varies other sports clubs in the Metro area.

“I love what I do. I don’t think you can fake the happiness you get from merging your passion with your profession,” said, well-known artist, Chris Sembower. “I like to illustrate people. Moving, or not. Sports illustration is definitely my favorite subject matter… I want them (his art) to be memorable, and charismatic.”

Barge illustrate picture like Sembower, but in a very different way. His photos are well know throughout the Missouri Mavericks community as well as the NFL, MLB, and NBA. Barge has done over 90 graphic designs about varies teams and players. Barge’s artwork is well known, like Sembower, for his unique perspective on sports in art. Barge’s artwork has been used by the Missouri Mavericks, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals. He has done exclusives on Ray Lewis, Mark Mcgwire and Thomas Jones. Barge has had the amazing opportunity to meet many of the athletes that he illustrates.

“When I am laying out a new portrait and everything seems to fit together–seeing balance in a design is important to me,” said Jeff Barge.  “I tend to agonize over the layout, then it falls together– it’s a relief when you start to feel happy with a piece of artwork– that tipping point is when it’s the most fun.  I also love the moment an athlete sees the portrait for the first time– some laugh, or stare at it for a few minutes without speaking… it makes all the hours spent worried about how it’s going to turn out worth it.”

Chris Sembower’s Kansas City Chiefs artwork is extensive and features thirty plus illustrations. All are made by hand and take a month or more to complete but when they are completed they look amazing. They spark in a room and you can tell immediately what his artwork looks like even from a mile away. It has a distinct appearance and is really different from others. Sembower has also had the opportunity to meet various athletes that he has illustrated with his artwork.

Barge’s artwork doesn’t go unnoticed, in fact, he has been used for the Mavericks team photo for all four seasons and has done other designs on former and current Mavericks players: Cole Ruwe, Charlie Effinger, Andrew Courtney, David Simoes, Dave Pszenczny, and Gerry Festa. Barge has also done artwork on Michael Jordan, Adrian Peterson, and Derek Jeter unlike Sembower who mainly focuses on Kansas City.

“I think Jeff (Barge) does an incredible job and does something that is very unique,” said former Mavericks defender, Cole Ruwe. “I believe most of the guys I played with in Missouri left town with there own copy. Its a great reminder of how there are so many great fans in independence. I truly loved my time in Kansas City and hope someday to be back.”


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