“Drawing is the honesty of the art. There is no possibility of cheating. It is either good or bad.” — Salvador Dali
When I saw the portrait, I realized that I was bearing witness to a kind of greatness that only comes along once every 400 years. That I was probably going through something close to what the first beholder of the Mona Lisa experienced upon viewing Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece. Because this picture was evidence of an artistic ability so pure, so otherworldly, that it transcended this plane of humanity and soared toward the divine.
Here it is, the greatest drawing ever drawn, a portrait of me by SB Nation’s own 28-year-old Alex Rubenstein:
You could make the accusation that I’m inclined to love this picture because it’s of me. But trust me, this drawing is bigger than me — it’s bigger than all of us. Especially when you consider that Rubenstein’s day job is to make videos for this very website. He’s been able to become the greatest living artist in the entire world in his spare time.
I was on a train from New York City to Washington, D.C., on Valentine’s Day when this image came through in the form of a Slack message from Ryan Nanni, another one of my colleagues here at SB Nation. I’d seen a few of Rubenstein’s drawings before and admired his work (though I didn’t yet realize the extent of his brilliance). Earlier in the day I’d told Nanni that if he could get Rubenstein to draw a picture of me — so that I could hang on by my desk in place of a name plate — I’d never ask him for anything else as long as I lived.
The trade-off was worth it. I had to get up from the café car and stand in the weird metal space between two of the train cars because I was laughing so hard I’d started to cry, and other passengers were looking at me as though I’d become a physical manifestation of this image. Given the daggers they were shooting my way, you’d have thought I’d turned into a human being without elbows, with gaps between each of her teeth, whose fingers were baby carrots and whose head had been shaved, save for two ponytails poking out from the side. I might as well have been wearing a see-through sweatsuit over a t-shirt the way Rubenstein depicted me above.
But I don’t blame my fellow train riders; there’s no way they could know that I was looking at work by the next great American master. As Henry Ward Beecher, a clergyman, social reformer, and speaker (if Wikipedia is to be believed) once said, “Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.”
That’s exactly what Rubenstein does. Here, as proof, are a few of his most staggering works of breathtaking genius, with commentary from the artist himself. And yes, this is a sports website, but a) art is sports, and b) a lot of Rubenstein’s work is about sports, so it belongs here.
1. Alex Rubenstein, Apple and 3D Apple, 2017, ballpoint pen on sticky note, Collection of Seth Rosenthal, SB Nation
The backstory here is that Alex was told to draw an apple, so he did. Then he was told to draw a 3D apple, so he did.
2. Alex Rubenstein, Bike, 2017, ballpoint pen on sticky note, Collection of Alex Hawley, SB Nation
When I asked Rubenstein about the inspiration for the drawing above, he said that he “merely envisioned” this bike...
...and then “brought it to life. Notice the attention to detail I did, with the spokes and everything like that.”
3. Alex Rubenstein, Football, baseball, bat, and hockey rink, 2017, ballpoint pen on sticky note, Collection of Adam Porter, SB Nation
“Well, see, the football's just magnificent, because I pay very close attention to detail,” Rubenstein said. “It has the proper amount of laces. The baseball and baseball bat speak for themselves for their realism. The hockey rink doesn’t have quite the detail I was looking for, but thats because Porter snagged it out of my hand in the middle [of drawing it].”
4. Alex Rubenstein, Niners Fan Laying Nude On A Jersey*, 2017, ballpoint pen on sticky note, Collection of Ryan Nanni, SB Nation
“Phil [another SB Nation colleague] is a closet Niners fan, so I've been leaving him those sweet nothings for years,” Rubenstein said. “So that he can embrace this secret life of his. And so I leave those gems at his station for comfort.”
*Please note that Nanni is the one who named this drawing.
5. Alex Rubenstein, Baseball ERAs on re-lined lined paper, 2017, ballpoint pen on lined paper, Collection of Jessica Smetana, SB Nation
Here is a previously published review of Baseball ERAs on re-lined lined paper, from the esteemed, high-end art publication, SB Nation Slack:
How does Rubenstein’s family feel about this? They’re as blown away as any of us are, frankly. His brother Dan Rubenstein, who also works at SB Nation, said this about his brother’s abilities:
“For whatever Alex lacks in visual art ability, he makes up for in confidence, which is to say he has way too much confidence, given his complete lack of an artistic eye. Part of me is frightened that he’s actually a terrific artist and replicates a horrific reality that only he can see.”
As for the portrait of me, his pièce de résistance, Rubenstein said, “Well, my work yesterday was geared at drumming up something abstract, as a sort of combination of Picasso, with some elements of Monet sprinkled in there, in an effort to provide you with your greatest V-Day in the history of your life. I don’t provide my art for just any occasion, only for the moments that truly call for it.”
Let’s look at it one more time, as it’s exhibited New York City right now:
It has also given rise to my very own emoji in Slack. This appears when you type in :charlotte:.
Rubenstein began drawing around age 7, but, instead of paraphrasing, I’m just going to provide the transcript of our interview. I think he says it better than I possibly could:
Like any true artistic genius, Rubenstein is a bit of a recluse. He shies away from social media, refusing to use Twitter (besides keeping a few tabs open on his browser so that he can lurk). He is very careful about what commissions he accepts, for fear of over-saturating the market. As a result, the average going price for a Rubenstein original has risen from one lukewarm beer to at least three in one year.
Direct all inquiries for commissions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.