Richard Watkins, a sculptor known nationally for his award-winning work depicting stylized and whimsical athletes and animals, has been named the United States Sports Academy’s 2017 Sport Artist of the Year, Sculptor.
Watkins was presented the honor by Academy Trustee Jack Scharr at the Academy’s 33rd Annual Awards of Sport celebration held recently on campus in Daphne, Ala.
Watkins, who is based in Atlanta, Ga., attended design school at the University of Cincinnati and spent 25 years working in the toy business, where he designed and developed toys for several large toy manufacturers. He began to work professionally as a sculptor after his retirement from the toy business.
His work is known for capturing the energy, dynamics and balance of amazing athletes at that single moment of intense action: the slam dunk, the long pass into the end zone, the double play. He exaggerates the physical proportions to an extreme, giving them incredible action and an engaging quality.
The Sport Artist of the Year Award is part of the Academy’s Awards of Sport, which each year honor a wide range of accomplishments in sport and serve as “A Tribute to the Artist and the Athlete,” in conjunction with the Academy’s American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA). The awards recognize these men and women through the Sport Artist of the Year, Honorary Doctorates, Medallion Series, Distinguished Service Awards, Outstanding Athletes, and Alumni of the Year awards.
Watkins grew up in West Virginia, where he enjoyed drawing and sculpting with whatever materials he could find.
“Throughout my school years I concentrated more on doodling cartoony sports figures than I did paying attention to classwork,” Watkins said. “I did manage to pay enough attention to get accepted into the College of Design, Architecture, and Art (now Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning) at the University of Cincinnati.”
After college, Watkins worked in several design studios in Cincinnati before making his way into the toy design business. After 25 years designing toys, Watkins began to turn his old sketches and models into larger, more finished pieces of art.
“I love sculpture and I love sports. My work is an attempt to mix the two,” Watkins said. “Once I retired I began to look through all those old sketches and models and tried to turn them into larger, more finished pieces.
“I know they don’t look realistic, but I’m not going for realistic,” Watkins said. “I’m trying to capture the dynamics and balance of these amazing athletes.
“The exaggerated poses and proportions are how I see the human form. After all, what are athletes but real humans with the most extreme physical proportions making them capable of the most incredible action? So maybe my work isn’t so exaggerated after all.”
An award-winning artist, some of his most recent accolades include being named Best in Class at the 2017 Chastain Park Arts Festival in Atlanta. He also earned first place honors at the 2017 Metro Montage XVII at the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art in Marietta, Ga.
Founded in 1984, ASAMA is dedicated to the preservation of sports art, history, and literature. The ASAMA collection is composed of more than 1,800 works of sport art across a variety of media, including paintings, sculptures, assemblages, prints and photographs. The museum is open free to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. For more information, go to www.asama.org.
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.
The Academy is based in Daphne, Ala. For more information, call (251) 626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu.
By Eric Mann
Eric Mann is the communications assistant at the United States Sports Academy.