After a successful career in marketing, Steven Lester (B.V.A. ’75) rediscovered his passion for painting. He’s now one of the most celebrated sports artists in the country.
On the night of April 8, 1974, Steven Lester was painting in the Art & Design studio on campus when he tuned his radio to hear the Atlanta Braves take on the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lester knew Braves’ slugger Hank Aaron was just one home run away from breaking Babe Ruth’s record, so he put down his paints and made the short walk to Atlanta Stadium in hopes of witnessing baseball history. In the fourth inning, Aaron sent the ball soaring into the left field stands, and Lester took in the moment before heading back to paint through the night. Today, his painting of “Hammerin’ Hank” swatting his 715th career homer is on display in his personal studio.
The United States Sports Academy’s 2019 Sport Artist of the Year, Lester has earned accolades for how he captures athleticism — from baseball to fly fishing — on the canvas. He calls his style “representational expressionism,” and his paintings portray movement in bold colors and with expressive brushwork.
Lester spent most of his career in marketing. He was the creative director for Turner Broadcasting System and a vice president and a creative director for two international advertising agencies.
“I tell people I have been an art professional all of my life, but I’ve just recently become a professional artist,” Lester said. “I used to hire and work with artists and illustrators and think critically about the aesthetic choices. Now, I find myself among them, and I’ve brought all of that experience with me.”
Since re-emerging in the art world just two years ago, he’s produced more than 200 paintings, illustrated two children’s books and shown his work in four states. His painting of a packed Georgia State Stadium hangs in the President’s Suite at the stadium.
In addition, his watercolor painting titled “Upon Further Review” — which features five football referees conferring on the field — was recently added to the permanent collection at the American Sport Art Museum and Archives in Birmingham, Ala. — a dream come true, Lester says.
He’s also been invited to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, where he’ll capture the action as it happens as a live-event painter.
Photo by Steven Thackston