The Art of the action

Chad Martin is taking sports art to the next level.

by Loyd McIntosh

Chad Martin

Real sports fans know that those championship seasons are rare. A lot of intangibles go into making a good team great, helping them make that transition from a collection of individuals into a true team. A little luck, a whole lot of chemistry, and a generous helping of talent are all pieces of that big, dreamy sports jigsaw puzzle. Even more rare are champions who reach the mountaintop victorious, arms in the air, after a single, defining moment: Alabama’s goal-line stand in the 1979 Sugar Bowl, Brandy Chastain’s game-winning goal in the 1999 Women’s World Cup, the grounder through Bill Buckner’s five-hole in the 1986 World Series (maybe that’s not such a good example)—you get the idea.

More often than not, the accomplishments of our favorite teams and athletes are formed from a complex arrangement of events, and our memories of those lightning-in-a-bottle seasons follow suit. Sure, maybe one play might stick out in your mind more than others, but surrounding that moment are other moments and emotions, all creating a mosaic in the mind. The sound of the crowd erupting in excitement, the sight of the scoreboard as the seconds tick away, and the inspiration we draw from our team’s achievements are all part of the picture we paint for ourselves.

Capturing those moments visually in true artistic fashion is a tricky business. There are dozens of artists out there creating some really good work, but they mostly focus on a single person or a particular moment in time. However, one local artist gets it, capturing the moments, people and emotions of sports at its best on spectacular works of art that defy description. His name is Chad Martin.

A graphic designer by trade, Martin has spent the majority of his career supporting local architects with his renderings of proposed buildings and structures. However, when a friend asked him to create a special piece, it sparked a new artistic method, as well as a new business model.

“My friend Jeff has a teenage daughter who plays soccer and he wanted to give her something different,” Martin says. “So he asked me to create something that was a piece of art. Her number on her soccer team was nine, which was also Mia Hamm’s number. That was the first subject that I did, and with it I created this new process. After it was finished, my partners and I thought we might be on to something and that maybe we should patent that process.”

Auburn all in

In 2010, Martin, along with business partners Jeff Dungan, Louis Nequette and Cort Harwood, founded Action Sports Art, quickly growing the company into a major player in the sports art and memorabilia market. Launched from the genesis of single, simple idea—to create compelling artwork that would enhance a home or office—ActionSportsArt creates customized pieces of art celebrate the spirit of sports at its best.

The tradition of historic teams, players of extraordinary talent and unforgettable games are captured—often in one piece—using the best imagery available and creative ability in conjunction with the highest quality printing techniques. These pieces bring the power and passion for sports into one compelling image.

“People are gravitated to a team when it wins championships,” Martin says. “We all want to celebrate those champions, and these pieces of art do just that.”

Martin calls the technique a “chalouje.” Each piece the artist creates goes through a seven-step process. The finished piece is achieved through the careful placement of three to five images on a predesigned layout that have been faded and blended in varying degrees in order to balance the subject matter. Martin may also add an inspirational quote into the design, melding the words and images into a unified whole.

One word that sums up Martin’s hope for these pieces is enduring. These pieces are intended to be appreciated from generation to generation. “It’s all about capturing a memory,” Martin says. “I want them to be timeless for you to want them hanging in your home and to be collected and handed down over the years.

“One of the attractions to them is they look aged,” according to Martin. “I didn’t want them to look too polished.”

Alabama- Red Sea

Barely a year since he created his first sports-themed piece, Martin and Action Sports Art have already caught the attention of the sports community. Original pieces commemorating Alabama’s 2009 BCS National Championship hang on the wall of Head Coach Nick Saban’s office, and Auburn Head Coach Gene Chizik has an original work celebrating Auburn’s 2010 BCS title on his office wall.

Outside the state, Martin’s has created original work for the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team, Florida State University, the Indianapolis 500, Phil Knight of Nike and the Sports Business Awards in New York City. One original piece was bought by Clemson head coach and Alabama native Dabo Swinney for the tidy little sum of $5,000.

In normal circumstances, Martin can create a finished product in two to three weeks; however, there is one special item that took almost two months—a piece depicting Ronald Reagan for the 40th President’s centennial celebration earlier this year.

“It took me eight weeks to complete that piece,” Martin says. “The main reason it took so long is because they gave so many images to use. If I use too many images, the final piece is going to be overwhelmed.”

Titled “Inspired Freedom. Changed The World,” the portrait commissioned by the Ronald Reagan Foundation is a 35-inch by 45-inch celebration of Reagan’s life. The original currently hangs in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library in Simi Valley, Calif., which, in Alabama terms, is only slightly more impressive than the inner sanctums of Saban and Chizik.

To see Martin’s collection of Action Sports Art custom sports art or to order prints, go online to

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