ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — At some point, Gabe and Luke Richesson's paths diverged before they drifted back together. The brothers had grown up in Missouri, played high school football together and both went off to play at the collegiate level, but Gabe became focused on an art career and Luke concentrated on athletic training.
Fast forward to the present — Gabe's an artist and Luke's the Broncos Strength and Conditioning Coach, making it seem like the similarities in their youth stop there — but that couldn't be further from the truth.
While Luke helps build and strengthen his athletes, Gabe helps to preserve the memories they've made on the field through his art. Considered the 'Artist to the Athletes', Gabe has created paintings for Broncos including QB Peyton Manning and OT Ryan Clady, as well as 49ers TE Vernon Davis, the Boston Red Sox's Pablo Sandoval and former UFC Champion Brock Lesnar.
The talented Gabe Richesson has been creating stunning artwork for over a decade. Here are select pieces of his work from his Instagram (@Richesson).
All images by Gabe Richesson // Gabe Richesson.com // @Richesson
Gabe has been creating paintings for elite athletes and businesses for a decade now, but like any artist or athlete, he started small. He says he's been drawing for as long as he can remember, sketching his favorite Royals players, or even just anyone he saw, in his notebooks.
"I started drawing and especially had a knack for faces for some reason," said Gabe. "I loved drawing faces, whether it was out of my own brain or was looking at someone – I can capture it with super detail or caricature form. I was just fascinated by it. I would just kill hours and hours during church or whatever, school… anything."
Gabe's affinity for creating lifelike artwork didn't go unnoticed by Luke. After watching his older brother sketch anyone, anywhere, Luke and his family immediately recognized Gabe's talent and potential.
"I remember as a boy if we had to do anything — Sunday Service, church — him bringing home art projects," said Luke. "He would always be doodling or drawing, usually cartoon characters or local sports people like George Brett and it would just be dead on.
"It was just him picking up a pen and paper and going at it. And my mom kept all of [his artwork] to watch him evolve. The family really [hasn't] been surprised because they knew he was special early. He really is a prodigy when it comes to the arts."
But while Gabe was constantly filling notebooks with sketches, he was also active in football. Despite the immense talent that he possessed in the arts, he says his true love was for the game.
So after graduating from high school, he decided to attend William Jewell University in Missouri where he played football for the Cardinals while pursuing a degree in art.
After spending his college career splitting time between the practice field and the art studio, Gabe realized how difficult it is to make it to the highest level in football and decided to give art his full attention.
Even though Gabe moved on from playing football, the passion he had for the sport and everything he learned was evident in his artwork. Given his background, he knows and understands the intricacies of what his clients want.
"I do think it gives me an advantage," said Gabe. "[It's] a natural fit, as far as sport to art. Once you're into both of those… I think it gives you an advantage because you know what it's like to run and have your helmet jerking around on your head, what it's like to smash into someone full speed and what that takes."
After college, Gabe worked as a graphic designer doing cover designs for sports magazines. But Gabe's path changed again when Luke gave then-Atlanta Falcon DeAngelo Hall a piece of his work while working as his strength coach in the offseason.
While working with Hall, Luke showed him artwork that Gabe had done in his spare time. What Luke showed Hall impressed him so much that he asked Gabe for one of his own.
"DeAngelo saw some of his lowbrow work and said, 'Do you think he could do something of me?'" said Luke. "And Gabe put a sketch together of DeAngelo… [and] he ended up doing five pieces for DeAngelo and really the rest is history. DeAngelo was outstanding about helping spread the word and that first summer I don't know… something around 20 paintings were commissioned. It's only picked up from there."
Looking back, Gabe says this was the turning point of his artistic career. From then on with help from word of mouth, Gabe became the go-to artist for athletes across all sports.
Since his first piece for Hall, Gabe has created murals and pieces of work for not just athletes, but also for rapper Riff-Raff, the Sprint Center in Kansas City, CNN president Jeff Zucker and many more. Currently, Gabe is working on a mural for the ESPYs encapsulating the 2014 sports year.
"The most fun was, without a doubt, doing some of the murals I've done because those are stories," said Gabe. "Brock Lesnar, that was just awesome. He'd pick me up every morning and tell me, 'Here's what I'm thinking.' He would come up with these crazy things and I would just paint them that day."
Though Gabe has made a name for himself, Luke remains one of his biggest supporters and proudly displays Gabe's artwork in his office at the Broncos training facility at Dove Valley.
Not only does Gabe's work add color to Luke's office, but they also attract new fans. Recently, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. commissioned a painting from Gabe after admiring the pieces in Luke's office.
"…Chris Harris just got a painting from him - and he sent me a text saying he was blown away by the painting and that's the response he gets over and over," said Luke. "Whenever I introduce him to someone, there's never a fear of, 'Oh I hope my brother knocks it out.' These people are going to be blown away and he just continues to push the envelope and grow. I couldn't be prouder of him."