The first time he picked up a brush, art changed Tom Mosser’s life. He never expected a simple tennis ball would do the same.
Mosser, an artist in Pittsburgh, can’t deny that now. In fact, along with his dog, Lucas, a tennis ball helped introduce him and his art to people all over the world. It all started in January of 2013, when Mosser was working on a group of paintings he calls the “At the Museum” Series. The paintings were aimed at taking a step inside the minds of museum visitors.
“The point was to explore what goes through someone’s mind when they look at a piece of art,” Mosser said.
One day, he needed a break from the project, and wanted to try something new. Mosser looked across the room to his golden retriever.
“I saw Lucas, and I started to think,” Mosser said. “What would a dog be looking at? What would a dog be thinking?”
Sticks? Squirrels? Then it came to him.
Mosser applied his “At The Museum” idea to Lucas. Immediately, he had a winner.
“I thought, ‘I think people are going to like this,’” he said. “I just wasn’t sure how much.”
His publisher, Alan Smith, had a better idea of what it might evolve into.
“Right away, you could tell it was the type of thing that could take over,” Smith said.
Fast forward a few months, and the image of Lucas staring at a tennis ball was all over cyber space, the news, and everywhere else he looked. Mosser shared it through social media and got an immediate, positive response. His inbox filled with messages from people from Pittsburgh to California to Russia and beyond. The image appeared in a German magazine, and his story was told on the local news in Pittsburgh.
“People just loved it, they connected with it,” Mosser said. “One thing I’ve learned is that people love their dogs, and people love their tennis.”
Mosser is one of those people.
Always a tennis fan, he said he enjoys both watching and playing the sport. It’s been that way since his childhood, when his parents suggested he try the game.
“It’s a sport that everyone can play, and can compete evenly,” he said. “Men and women, it doesn’t matter. You see everyone playing and having fun.”
It turns out that, together, Mosser and Lucas created a piece that’s grabbing the attention of families and individuals across the world.
With popularity growing so quickly, Mosser got the community involved. He began selling t-shirts with the image on it, with the proceeds going to rescue shelters. The shirts sold faster than expected, and helped raise nearly $10,000.
“It’s not just an image of a dog,” Smith said. “It’s Lucas.”
“Lucas is the model for the painting, but the painting represents your own dog,” Mosser said. “I think that’s why people really take to it.”
Even before his image of Lucas and the tennis ball, Mosser was already a very successful and well-known artist. His mural, “ The Two Andy’s,” depicts two of Pittsburgh’s most famous figures – Andrew Carnegie and Andy Warhol – and has become one of the more iconic images of the city. He’s also created work for numerous professional sports teams with pieces in facilities for the Orlando Magic, the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, the Kansas City Royals and the Pittsburgh Pirates, among others. His art will appear in the new San Francisco 49ers stadium when it opens.
Mosser, who is ambidextrous, also has other connections to sports. In 1987, he took a job as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ mascot, the Pirate Parrot. He held that job for nearly 10 years.
“Most people wouldn’t expect that out of me,” he laughed.
Today, Lucas has his own Facebook page, and is a co-star in a second piece, in which he sits alongside other dogs, staring at a tennis ball. The newest work exposed Mosser and Lucas even more, but Mosser said it hasn’t gone to either of their heads.
“We’ll go to the park and I’ll hit serves,” he said with a smile. “Lucas will still chase the ball down.”
This article appeared in the 2013-2014 Winter Issue of NetPLAY Magazine. To read more articles from NetPLAY, click here.