Willie Cauley-Stein isn’t just a pro basketball player. He’s also an accomplished artist.
In his first season with the Dallas Mavericks, Cauley-Stein said he has been dabbling in art for 17 years. So much so that in the summer of 2017 while he was playing for the Sacramento Kings, he traveled to Vietnam – where he took a painting class – and also painted the mountains of Vietnam.
Cauley-Stein even knows how to distinguish fine art from regular art and how it can become an investment.
So, how did the 7-foot, 240-pounder get bitten by the art bug?
“I was always a doodler,” the Mavs’ center told Mavs.com. “I loved coloring books when I was a kid growing up, and my grandmother used to give me all types of coloring books and boxes of crayons and markers.
“Just from that, it sparked my creative mindset. And then she put me in art classes early when I was in the fourth grade. That kind of just sealed it for me.”
What also sealed it for Cauley-Stein is when a close friend of his joined the art class. In Cauley-Stein’s mind, that made being an art aficionado sort of a hip thing to do.
Cauley-Stein, 26, has used his notable creative juices to paint photos of late musicians Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley. He even had a portrait of himself painted as the hero – instead of Michael Jordan — from the popular 1996 movie, Space Jam.
As of yet, Cauley-Stein hasn’t painted any of his teammates. But that could be coming.
“The only people I’ve done is Noritell characters, Batman and the Joker,” he said. “I started a portrait of my grandfather.
“I want to do a Kobe (Bryant) piece, and I want to do a Jordan piece. I would like to do a whole series – just a bunch of great legends that inspired me when I was growing up. It’s in the works.”
As a man who makes his living in the paint, art has been a rite of passage for Cauley-Stein. It’s an oasis of sorts that he leans on when he wants to express himself in other ways than on a basketball court.
“Art’s an opinion,” said Cauley-Stein, when asked about his favorite paintings. “I don’t necessarily look at any of them as the best. There’s no best. It’s just an expression of yourself or an expression of a feeling, or it’s something that happened that day.
“There’s so much stuff that goes into it. I’ve got all types of stuff that I’ve done. My favorite so far is these big walls that are nine-by-four feet wood panels that you use to put together a wall. Those are probably my favorite that I’ve painted just because they’re so big. Using spray cans on a big canvas is a lot easier.”
The Mavs acquired Cauley-Stein from the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 25. It was a move that he believes will not only enhance his basketball skills, but also open avenues for him in the world of art.
With a lot of his art work now available for viewership on social media, Cauley-Stein is extra excited about getting a foothold in the Dallas art scene.
“Now that I’m out here (in Dallas), I’ve got more space and I’ve got some art clubs out here where I can get into a real studio and kind of create at a high level,” he said. “I do all of it.
“You’ve got to draw it first, and then spray it. Or you can draw it with the spray and then you go back through it and add all the layers. It kind of just depends on the piece, though.”
Cauley-Stein is on the verge of showcasing his wares in Dallas.
“I’m going to be at a gallery here in Dallas at the Crescent (Hotel), actually, with the Psychedelic Robot,” he said. “I’ll have a little wall – I think it’s 12 by 12 feet.
“It’s going to be a good little project for me.”
The Psychedelic Robot has dubbed itself as a highly interactive cutting-edge art experience with locations throughout the United States and the world. It is an immersive, multi-sensory experience that combines pop art, contemporary art and street art.
Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, the Psychedelic Robot has been temporarily closed until further notice. Cauley-Stein also wouldn’t mind having his work one day hanging in an art gallery.
Meanwhile, at the age of 15, Cauley-Stein started filling his body with tattoos, which is another form of art.
“You get lost in art,” Cauley-Stein said. “I think that’s the point – to try and lose yourself in it and just go with how you feel and just figure it out and see how it comes together.
“After practice I’ll be in there all day, all night until I finish it.”
Spoken like a true artist.