Athlete-Inspired Art: Dave Hobrecht and Garth Milan

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Champion of Charcoal

Dave Hobrecht’s 12-foot painting of Floyd Mayweather was on display in Las Vegas during the boxer’s title fight in May.
Dave Hobrecht’s 12-foot painting of Floyd Mayweather was on display in Las Vegas during the boxer’s title fight in May.

Dave Hobrecht has made a career out of capturing iconic athletes during their most exciting, memorable moments. And he does it all in black and white, or occasional sepia tones.

Owner and operator of Hobrecht Sports Art on South Coast Highway, the father of three (with one more on the way as of press time) uses a mix of charcoal and pastel to produce black and white sports paintings that are infused with excitement and energy, yet maintain a sense of timelessness. Dave has worked with some of the sporting world’s biggest stars, including Willie Mays, Derek Jeter, John Elway, Bill Walton, Pete Sampras, Tony Hawk and more; earlier this year, he completed a 12-foot painting for boxer Floyd Mayweather documenting his illustrious career. The piece was then displayed at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas during Floyd’s title fight in May with Manny Pacquiao—Dave got to sketch ringside during the much-hyped bout.

“It was ridiculous,” Dave says. “It was like a sea of stars around me. It was my tribute to LeRoy Neiman, who also painted ringside.”

Growing up, Dave was an athlete—he loved surfing, baseball and other sports. A car accident at age 13 crushed his legs, however, and left him in the hospital for weeks. “It was a total life changer,” he recalls. “I wasn’t supposed to barely walk again. Playing sports was basically out.”

So Dave turned to art, with a focus on sports. “I basically never stopped,” he says. “I sat there and drew all day.” And he hasn’t stopped since, most recently completing a series of all 32 National Football League teams’ helmets for Original and limited edition prints of each were released online, and the entire Hobrecht NFL Licensed Helmet Series will be on view at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., during Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7, 2016.

Dave’s artistic process has also taken on new methods in the last few years, incorporating Major League Baseball field dirt, pieces of Floyd’s hand wraps and training gym ring, and a section of a Kelly Slater surfboard into his work. “I feel like the painting comes alive a little bit,” he says of the materials. “You wouldn’t even know it’s there. But it brings the work alive just a little bit more.”

Extreme Inspiration

Garth Milan captured this photo of action sports athlete Travis Pastrana.
Garth Milan captured this photo of action sports athlete Travis Pastrana.

Garth Milan will hang outside a soaring helicopter or a zooming airplane to get the perfect shot. An award-winning action sports photographer who travels all over the world to capture extreme athletes, Garth’s subjects include off-road motorcyclists, dirt bikers, parachuters and wingsuit jumpers, in addition to skateboarders, surfers, snowboarders and X Games participants.

“I’m after the one shot that you know you can get but hasn’t been done before,” says Garth, who also serves as photography director at Costa Mesa-based advertising, design, photography and videography studio The Medium Creative Group. “I like taking it to the next level. I really try to strive for a different way to shoot things.”

Some of Garth’s subjects have included Travis Pastrana, one of the biggest stars in action sports, Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, Golden State Warriors small forward Harrison Barnes, San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum and rapper Snoop Dogg. In addition to capturing action sports extravaganza Nitro Circus’ live show at the Honda Center in November, Garth recently shot Australian motorbike stunt rider Robbie Maddison in Tahiti, as the athlete sped his motorcycle atop crashing ocean waves.

But the quest for insane action shots is not without danger. Earlier this year in Pennsylvania, a motorbiker lost control of his vehicle and landed on Garth, sending him flying about 30 feet. “It fractured my arm and my heel,” Garth says. “I had to get some stitches. I got pretty banged up.”

For a reprieve, the 39-year-old photographer retreats to his Canyon Acres home in town, where he lives with his wife, Valerie, a local real estate agent. “I love mountain biking in the canyon,” he says. “I love the nature mixed in with the creative stuff. It’s a cool, little small town. It’s peaceful and relaxing.”

—Written by Richard Chang

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