Recently, Jenna, my daughter-in-law, and I popped into Pappion Artistry, a petite New Orlean’s area gallery. The artist, Christina Pappion brings New Orleans culture to life through whimsical painting. She accents certain pieces with gold flecks that makes them fancy. Christina greeted us. We browsed and read publicity pieces hung on walls and easels around the shop. In addition to painting on coasters and canvas, she paints on football cleats. Not just any old stinky, muddy cleats, New Orleans Saints’ cleats.
Nosy (me) leaned into her studio. While she painted, I asked about the cleats. “It’s a weird canvas, but I researched and figured it out.” She literally creates masterpieces on cleats. Pappion learns the foundation/cause each player supports and incorporates the theme onto the boot (e.g. Brandon Coleman (Alzheimer’s Association) and The Mark Ingram Foundation (Children of Incarcerated Parents).
The Saints wear these decorated cleats during one designated game a season, they named “Cleats for a Cause.” The cleats are auctioned afterwards to raise (a lot of) money for the respective organizations. It’s the ONLY game Saints are allowed to deviate from their standard uniforms.
Naturally, we asked about Drew Brees’ cleats. Not surprisingly, he commissions his own artist but, and this is a BIG but, Drew’s wife, Brittany, contacted Christina, after seeing her “Streetcar” at a fundraiser. She was disappointed she didn’t bid enough to buy it. She had Christina paint another streetcar painting and asked her to paint Drew into the picture for a Christmas gift. (See Drew at the end of this article.)
Christina assumed delivery would be an exchange at McDonald’s parking lot or somewhere neutral, but it was delivered to the Brees’ home. While balancing a baby on her hip, Brittany wrote the check. She then asked Christina to help her hide it. They ran around the house, then up to the second floor to explore potential hiding places. Holy baldy! Christina was running through Drew Brees’ house!
Many years since, Brees’ has commissioned Christina to paint streetcars, incorporating their growing family. One year, she requested the extended family of thirty be featured. “Thirty people! All I had to go on were family photos, texted photos or social media. I didn’t even know how tall people were, in comparison to Drew, so I painted him seated!” Somehow, she managed to nail it.
Pappion shared other victories with us, but also failures, such as rubber boots (i.e. Hunter brand) on which she painted for $200 for a Kentucky Derby dignitary. “These boots were stunning! Until the woman stepped into the rain and onto the race track (not to race, but to pose for photos, haha). The design got wet and slipped right off those boots! All that remained of the $200 artwork was colorful mud. I was mortified.” UGH.
“I cried for two weeks after that disaster. I was sure I’d never work again. But the drippy boot buyer was gracious and commissioned me for further work. I couldn’t believe it!”
Another low point was a large painting for Mrs. Benson, widow of Saints’ owner Tom Benson. First attempt: botched and tossed aside. Take two: flopperino. The third time was NOT the charm. “I could not deliver, but Mrs. Benson’s secretary insisted it would be fine. It was a mess, but she insisted. Amazingly Mrs. Benson LOVED my mess and wrote me a big, BIG, HUGE check. I showed my family the check while dancing around chanting, “We’re going to Disney World!” My kids joined in the dance. And we went. Best trip ever!
My family thinks I’m a busy-body, talking to random people like this. In fact, I’m pretty sure they roll there eyes out loud at me a lot, as in, “Oh noooooooo, there she goes again. We’ll never get out of here!” I can’t help it. People are interesting. Talk to them. Ask about them. Learn about them. You never know what treasures you can discover. In honor of meeting an artist phenom, I purchased four coasters, representing the four major food groups we consumed during my stay at Nick and Jenna’s in Louisiana: shrimp, oyster, lobster and red fish.
Check out the artist at: http://www.pappionartistry.com
Check out Drew Brees and the Family with Streetcar below. How cool is that? bw