Q&A – Muralist Mike Sullivan

©2014 Billie Weiss/BNP Paribas Open

The BNP Paribas Open has chosen muralist Mike Sullivan for an art beautification project at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Sullivan has created award-winning murals His murals grace stadiums at UCLA, USC, and other college and professional sports venues around the country. With his work here at the tournament, the Southern California resident and self-professed tennis fan turns his focus on the sport for the first time.

BNP Paribas Open: Tell us how you got involved with this project.
Mike Sullivan: 
My friend Merle Bolton (CEO of the Annenberg Center) introduced me his good friend Raymond Moore, CEO of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and that is how this all came about.

This is my first tennis project and it’s exciting and I’m very proud of it. Every year we’ll do a brand new mural in Stadium 1 and name a gate after a tennis legend. We’ll also unveil portraits of the defending champions and then take the old portraits and display them around the stadiums. A repeat champion will get a new portrait the following year.

BNPPO: What was your relationship with tennis before the commission?
I am a recreational player and a huge, huge fan. I love the legends, the history of the game, and I watch it on TV when I can. I love tennis because it’s just you and your opponent; you don’t have any teammates to rely on. It’s the ultimate competition.

BNPPO: Can you tell us about your technique and process?
I use acrylic on canvas and I treat my brushes and cut my brushes in a certain manner to get the effect I want. The original paintings take approximately 1-2 weeks each to do. We then send it off to Images in Tile in Joplin, Mo., and they transfer it on the titles — all weather-protected, maintenance-free. You can come back in 20 years and these tiles would look like they did on the first day. They take one week to make the tiles and then we install them out here.

BNPPO: Who is on your dream list of tennis players to paint?
There are so many great players in the world today. Obviously for my first project, to be able to start off with Rafael Nadal andMaria Sharapova is a very good start. It was amazing to do John McEnroe’s portrait.

Bjorn Borg would be a cool one to do. Roger Federer, too. I look forward to [painting] other champions down the road.

BNPPO: What has been the response from players about these murals?
 I do a lot of commissions from players in different leagues, team owners, family members, agents, and so forth. Mr. Nadal has asked if we could do one for his academy in Mallorca. Ms. Sharapova seemed to really like her mural, so we are trying to pursue something with her. We are just beginning to explore those opportunities.

The Mike Sullivan Art booth will be open for the duration of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Visit his website at www.mikesullivanart.com for more information.