Diamondbacks Thing of the Week: Brandon Webb Oil Painting

via www.toportraits.com

The relationship between fans and ex-players is complex. It's not just based on what they did during their time here, though this is a factor: Russ Ortiz could cure cancer, solve world hunger and rescue an entire sanctuary of kitten from a burning building, and we'd still hate him. But in Brandon Webb's case, it's what he did when not pitching which is the problem. While a Cy Young win and two runners-up spots should be solid-gold,  subsequent events - which I needn't rehash here - turned things sour. It was like dating a supermodel...who then emptied your bank-account, slept with your best friend, drank your beer and set your apartment on fire before leaving for Europe.

Which is why I think this Thing of the Week has a very limited market:

Brandon Webb - Arizona Diamondbacks MLB Oil Painting

$429.99, with free shipping. So which artist, slaving away in an unheated garret in the Latin Quarter of Paris, decided this would be an appropriate medium of artistic expression? Not so fast. As the description tells us: "ToPortraits-Studio was founded in 2001 in Xiamen, China, as a small art studio. Since that time, we have become one of the largest manufacturer and distributor of handmade oil paintings in the world." Yep. I think we can safely say this one was almost certainly produced by someone who had never seen Webb play, and whose sole interest in him was the photograph from which they were copying his image.

This is what ToPortraits do, and they possess absolutely no artistic scruples at all. Whatever canvas monstrosity you can imagine, they'll deliver, on receipt of your credit-card information.

We can also make changes to any old master painting you might be interested in. We can insert your face into a famous painting, or repaint you in a particular style. Imagine your daughter's image as the dancer in Pierre-Auguste Renoir's painting, The Dancer. Or your wife as the subject of Alexander Molinari's painting [They don't say which one...]. We can even paint your family, wedding party, car, or house into an existing old master painting. The possibilities are endless.

Why, yes: they are endless. If I had $500 to burn, I would probably commission a Diamondbacks-themed version of Da Vinci's The Last Supper, with Jerry Colangelo as Jesus, presiding over the members of the 2001 World Series team. Or Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, with a naked Trevor Bauer rising from the half-shell [sorry if you're eating lunch]. For we are dealing with the five-dollar whores of the painting world here, folks: nothing's too degrading for them. Though the makers have a wildly-misplaced pride in their work that, I have to confess, is somewhat endearing.

We guarantee that all of our portrait oil paintings are entirely hand-painted from start to finish by the finest artists. Our portrait oil paintings are NEVER machine generated, are NEVER photos reproduced on canvas (canvas transfers), and are NEVER computer generated copies made to look as if they are textured... Our portrait artists have years of training at some of the finest art academies, specializing in the medium of oil on canvas. Every tiny detail in your photo will be captured in each exquisite brushstroke, until each completed portrait is a true masterpiece!

And to their credit, it has to be said that ToPortraits has impeccable Ebay feedback, with 127 glowing comments, such as "This is an AMAZING piece of art,flawless in every way and perfect A+A+A+A+". So there's clearly a market for this kind of thing. The selection of items to be found in their store is a surreal hodge-podge of sports figures, pop icons (Elvis, The Beatles, Abba.... Coldplay?), film stars (Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Scarface and, er, Darth Vader)., copies of famous paintings and what could be original pieces, but I wouldn't bet on it. Their store currently contains 1,848 items, so there's bound to be something for everyone. Or not.

The SnakePit lawyers have advised me against the use of the word "sweat-shop", but I note that "ToPortraits-Studio gladly accepts wholesale orders," offering discounts for bulk purchases of their 'fine art'. Every one of their paintings is also tagged, by default, with the initials T.P. - as in ToPortraits. So it doesn't even appear that the artists even get to sign their works, despite their "years of training at some of the finest art academies." Let this be a lesson to liberal arts students everywhere. This is what your effort and thousands of dollars in student loans will get you. Slaving away in anonymity, while smart-asses make fun of you on baseball sites.

Really, there are few less appropriate paintings for a Diamondbacks fan to have. Maybe the aforementioned Russ Ortiz, perhaps - though I like the idea of paying to insert him into Edward Munch's The Scream. But never mind hanging in "your home, office [or] game room", the ultimate would surely be to have a large painting of Randy Johnson on the wall above your child's bed - perhaps pointing menacingly. Read 'em a bedtime story, and finish with "Now go to sleep, or the scary man will come to life and eat you." Child Protective Services might disapprove, and surely even ToPortraits wouldn't go that far, would they?

Would they?

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