Tinley Park artist, teacher to design for New York tennis tournament
By Mike Nolan email@example.com April 30, 2013 9:14PM
Al Sorenson, who is an artist and teacher, poses with some of his paintings including an unfinished work he was selected to create for a big tennis tournament in New York City. He is pictured at his home in Tinley Park, Illinois, Wednesday, April 24, 2013. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 2, 2013 6:03AM
As a kid growing up in Oak Lawn, Al Sorenson had a natural artistic talent, and the sports fan often would draw pictures of his favorite athletes.
He honed his skill, eventually getting to the point where he felt confident enough to offer his pieces for sale online as well as at sports collectibles shows.
The Tinley Park resident and school teacher recently was hired by organizers of the New York Open, a tennis tournament to be held in July just outside New York City, to create a piece that will be used in marketing the inaugural event.
Ironically, while baseball is Sorenson’s favorite sport, and he’s no slouch when it comes to talking about football or hockey, he says he’s “not really into tennis.” He said he looked at pictures online to get some ideas for the painting, which depicts two players engaged in a match.
Sorenson said the piece will be used in posters and other promotional materials, and a limited number of signed copies of the painting will be sold at the tournament being held at the West Side Tennis Club, the former home of the U.S. Open.
Sorenson, 44, said he didn’t begin selling his artwork until the mid-1990s.
His style emulates that of well-regarded sports artist Leroy Neiman, whose work Sorenson first encountered when he was a youngster.
“It was around the time of the 1976 Olympics, and Burger King had some promotion” selling posters using a painting Neiman had done, Sorenson said. He said that after seeing it, he went home and pulled out his crayons and markers, trying to reproduce the vivid colors and motion Neiman infused in the work.
Rather than oils, Sorenson prefers the brighter colors produced by acrylic paints, which he’s used in pieces depicting athletes including Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali and Ray Lewis.
Sorenson said one of the members of the New York tennis tournament’s organizing committee contacted him about a month ago about doing the piece for the event, largely because “he is a big fan of Leroy Neiman” and saw that Sorenson had a similar style.
A fifth-grade teacher at Fulton Elementary School in Tinley Park, the 6-foot-8-inch Sorenson was a center on Oak Lawn Community High School’s basketball team, as well as a center at Ripon College.
He was named one of OLCHS’ 50 greatest basketball players and was inducted into the school’s hall of fame.