Behind The ScenesTennis

What do you get with 5K tennis balls, 232 racquets & 7 nets? Serena & Roger!

For ESPN's US Open promo, artist Jessie Bearden produced major masterpieces; here's how she did it

As part of ESPN’s promotion for the US Open, multidisciplinary artist and art director Jessie Bearden used tennis balls, racquets and nets to create unique portraits of two tennis icons, Serena Williams and Roger Federer. Front Row talked to the artist to understand her approach and process of creating these tributes on the Grandstand Court at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.

How did you approach for this project?
Understanding we only had one day to execute the portraits, I knew the planning had to be done with intense precision. I spent about a month designing, measuring, and calculating the pieces. During the week leading up to the shoot, a team of wonderful painters and myself hand painted 5000 balls, picking up each ball one by one. We also painted 232 rackets, seven nets, and other tennis materials with antique gold-colored paint to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the US Open.

How did you get your start? When did you start experimenting with non-traditional materials?
I don’t remember the exact moment when I started working with unorthodox materials in my work. It seemed like a natural progression when I became sick of paint and was looking for more of a challenge.

What’s the most challenging material you’ve worked with? Flowers are the hardest to work with as they don’t last very long and become brown almost instantly if you handle the petals too much.

For more details on ESPN’s coverage of the US Open, which begins play Monday, Aug. 27 across platforms, visit ESPNMediaZone.

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