When the Cincinnati Reds “Big Red Machine” of the 1970s was getting its start, Chris Felix was only 7 years old.
Baseball was a passion of his, and his entire family listened to the Reds games on the radio out on the front porch. That front porch was only five miles from where Pete Rose grew up on the west side of Cincinnati. During the day, young Chris would hit tennis and whiffle balls pitched by his mother.
“I would take a break for dinner but was always asking to get up from the table before anyone else so that I could get outside again to play ball,” said Felix, who now lives in Park Hills, Ky. “I had a hard rubber ball that I would throw against the neighbors rock wall so I could practice fielding ground balls and pop-ups.”
Now the artist fields questions about his acrylic paintings of the greats from the Big Red Machine: Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Dave Concepcion and company. “Cincinnati Reds Legends” will be presented at the Mayflower Arts Center in Troy from April 15 to May 25.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for baseball and Reds enthusiasts to see Felix’s exquisite artwork in Troy first. Once the exhibit closes here, the artwork will be moved to the Reds Hall of Fame & Museum in Cincinnati for display this summer, and then on to the Louisville Slugger Museum in Kentucky,” said Mayflower Arts Center owner/director Lisa Bauer.
The gallery will feature 12 of Felix’s large-scale sports paintings. His passion for baseball is quite evident in his artwork.
“After cleaning up from dinner, mom, dad and grandma came out to the front porch with the newspaper to read, a transistor radio to listen to the game, and dad usually had a pipe full of tobacco to smoke,” remembers Felix. “The memories of that scenario … and watching the reactions of them cheering and clapping to the excitement of Pete, Joe, Johnny, Davey, Tony, George, Ken, Cesar, Sparky and all the rest … during the game is what I remember the most from those Big Red Machine days.”
Felix indicated that Pete Rose and Dave Concepcion were his two top favorite players.
“It was natural for me to emulate [Pete’s] game and thrive on hustle. I believe that attitude has carried over into my artwork, as well as help me to excel on the baseball field,” said Felix.
He has been playing competitive baseball since the age of 7, with the exception of one year in his late teens when he played softball while attending art school. He has been a shortstop and pitcher all of his life. He has also been a baseball coach for 12 years, garnering two national championships (Select baseball age 11-12 USSSA World Series in Owensboro, Ky., and Select Baseball World Series, age 14-15 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada).
In addition to his fine art paintings, Felix will be signing copies of Mike Shannon’s book, “Cincinnati Reds Legends,” which he helped to illustrate with Scott Hannig and Donnie Pollard. The book features 13 images of his paintings. Shannon will also be at the gallery on April 18 at the book-signing.
Felix received recognition for his art as a sixth-grader at St. William School. He won a Cincinnati Reds autographed baseball in a local department store’s “Draw Your Favorite Reds Player” contest with a pencil sketch of Johnny Bench. He went on to graduate from Elder High School and the College of Art Advertising in Cincinnati.
During his career, he worked as a graphic designer, an amusement park scenery painter and a toy prototype painter for Kenner/Hasbro and Warner Bros. He has concentrated on fine-art paintings since 1997.
“Baseball is a passion of mine; fine art is a passion; life is a passion,” said Felix. “Know what your passions are, and follow them.”
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Contact contributing writer Pamela Dillon at firstname.lastname@example.org.