When you think about it, there are a lot of golfers with animal nicknames. Jack Nicklaus is "The Golden Bear." Greg Norman is "The Shark." Tiger Woods is, well, just "Tiger."
Golf fan David Ryden decided to turn that connection into art. The Savannah painter started the "Nickname Series," 17 animals portraits with signatures from the golfers they represent.
The series will be on display though April 27 at the Karis Gallery on Hilton Head Island.
Ryden, who paints with a palette knife, discusses lions and tigers and bears.
Question. Where did the idea come from?
Answer. Like most ideas, I fell into it. The first painting I had signed was by Arnold Palmer. I live over in Savannah at The Landings. One of the courses was designed by him. There was a palm tree on (hole) 16 that's virtually on the green. I had painted that scene, and he was in town to play there. He signed it. He said, "I've never singed anything so big." I really like golf and golfers. The ones I had met have been great. So, I decided to take a nickname and do something with it.
Q. How do you get them to sign?
A. Some I go to different tournaments. I've gone to the Heritage, The Masters. I usually get them in the practice rounds. Ernie Els signed one at Heritage. We had planned a meeting, but he was running late, so he said, "Just follow me." We talked while he hit balls. ... The ones I don't get to personally, I contact their agents. A lot are responsive through that. No Tiger yet, though. A percentage of the money from the sale goes to First Tee (a youth golf organization), so I always explain that. I FedEx some. I painted one of a lion for Arnold Palmer because he's The King. I sent it to him, and he packed it right up and sent it back.
Q. How do they feel about autographing a painting?
A. Some are a little unsure. With Billy Casper, I saw him at The Legends. He was at the practice range. He's known as Buffalo Bill, so I had painted a buffalo. I took the painting and set it over the fence at the range. He saw it and came over and said, "What are you up to?" I explained, and he said, "Well, turn it over and I'll sign it." I said, "Sign the front." He said, "I don't want to ruin it!"
Q. How long have you painted?
A. I had enjoyed art as a child, but I started painting seriously when we moved to Savannah 18 years ago. I really wanted to start out painting landscapes and golf courses. But I found that everyone was doing that. Someone asked me to paint their pet. I wasn't sure but I gave it a shot. When I was done, I stepped back and said, "That's not bad." One thing led to another and now I can't get away from animals.