Attending church often can prove to be an insightful, enlightening experience. For young Opie Otterstad way back when, it proved to be a life-determining event.
Only 3 years old in 1973, he happened to be biding his time during a sermon, as toddlers often do, by drawing. Attentive enough to focus on what was going on around him, Otterstad produced a piece worthy of a positive response from his preacher father. Inspired to realize he could communicate through his art and portray what he witnessed, the youngster opted to develop those talents.
While most kids his age were consumed with playing, he’d spend time watching and studying and then take to canvas in trying to share with others his “vision,” all the while able to wrap himself in comfort and confidence as his grandmother, herself a painter, blanketed him with compliments and ideas.
Fast forward 42 years and today Otterstad is well-known for his artwork, especially that which deals with sports. In 2006, the United States Sports Academy recognized him as its Sport Artist of the Year.
Baseball has been his primary bread and butter, him having produced the official painting for the past 13 World Series champions. But he certainly has brushed up with other sports, and has created Los Angeles Lakers NBA championship artwork.
He’s dabbled in the college game, too – although dabbled might be understating things a tad considering Otterstad worked as the official painter and program cover artist for the NCAA’s 75th anniversary of March Madness. The project required him to paint 75 separate, story-telling portraits depicting each championship before they were assembled as one single artistic installation that spanned 30 feet in length. The daunting task took up a year of Otterstad’s life and saw him gallivanting across the country to visit coaches, unveil works at colleges, present at the Final Four and eventually unveil at the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City, Mo.
The 45-year-old Texas native also was commissioned to create a painting to commemorate the University of Texas football team’s BCS championship victory against the University of Southern California at the 2006 Rose Bowl. That 17-panel, confetti-colored montage will hang permanently at Royal-Memorial Stadium at the university’s campus in Austin, Texas, where Otterstad currently resides.
A graduate of St. Olaf College in Minnesota, where he earned bachelor’s degrees in both Studio Art and Psychology, he later went on to earn his master’s in Psychology.
With that, psychology has entered the equation with some of his works and how he does his business of creating them. Still, it is art that focuses on sports that distinguishes him from others, especially when it comes to baseball.
Long a fan of the game, Otterstad will travel to Florida each spring for Grapefruit League action, often stopping by the Academy’s campus in Daphne, where he can view several prints of his handiwork. During his travels, he came across Yankee legend Reggie Jackson, he of the “Mr. October” moniker. Well-versed in the importance of nicknames, Jackson indoctrinated Otterstad with one of his own, “Double Aught,” in reference to his initials, O.O.
Some of his more recognizable subjects include Ted Williams and Babe Ruth. But the man stays current, too, doing pieces that feature 2013 American League Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols and the recently retired Derek Jeter.
No matter who or what the subject is, though, Otterstad has mastered the art of conveying what he sees in eye-pleasing fashion … thanks in large part to some early-life insight and enlightenment that helped to pave his vocational path.
The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission Sports University created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy visit www.ussa.edu.