Armando Delgado: Painter of Legends

We are pleased to feature internationally renowned American sports artist Armando Delgado. A native of San Francisco, and now residing in San Jose California with wife Charisse, Armando has always aspired to be versatile; in his own words,” Even as a kid, I wanted to be a Renaissance Man.” The dictionary definition is “a modern scholar who is in a position to acquire more than superficial knowledge about many different interests”. Armando has certainly met these criteria, to the point that his skills in the fields of window painting, studio backdrop design, sculpture, murals, and computer graphics are not even touched on here. Neither is there space to catalogue his commissions from well-known personalities and organizations, nor to relate his personal relationships and experiences with some of the greatest icons in international sports.

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Suffice to say that works by Armando Delgado have been displayed in The White House, have been featured on television, have toured the USA on exhibition, have been used on stamps by the US Postal Service and are sought after by collectors across the globe. Armando has never lost his enquiring mind and comments, “I won’t say no to any project, if it involves something I don’t know about, then I’ll learn it”. He tells all young people, especially young artists, “to keep their minds open”. His motivation for such achievement – the horse.

At age fourteen Armando had already been recognized as a talented young artist. Encouraged by his parents, and schooled in portraits and landscapes during evening and weekend classes by his seventh grade art tutor, he would quickly sketch horses while watching Westerns on television. He considered, for a while, that he would concentrate on Western Art. While exhibiting an early painting of two horses on a hill, he was taken aside by a gentleman who had studied the piece and asked if he would mind “a little constructive criticism”. Armando was informed that the muscles weren’t quite right and that “if you study the horse, you can paint the horse and if you can paint the horse, you can paint anything”. Armando relates spending three weeks as a guest of this prominent horse rancher and established art patron, having to do little but study the anatomy of his favourite subject. “And after that”, he says ”my commissions began”.

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One afternoon, at age eighteen, Armando found himself at the perfect site and situation to motivate an artist with an interest in sport and horses, the finish line at Bay Meadows. You can still hear the excitement in his voice when he describes his first experience watching that wonderful combination of equine and human athlete, resplendent in color and glorious in motion, thundering across the line. To put it simply, he says, “I was really hooked”. Armando has since painted many of the great Thoroughbreds, and in doing so has been at many famous finish lines often in the company of famous people. Who among us would not have enjoyed the experience of being invited to the jockeys’ room by Bill Shoemaker? And then to find him playing cards with Joe DiMaggio. Both of these icons commissioned works and later Joe took “The Shoe” and Armando to Las Vegas to watch a George Foreman boxing contest, this leading to a personal introduction to ‘Big George’ and a whole series of boxing works – but that’s another story in itself. To Armando, his most memorable finish is being on the line at Golden Gate when ‘John Henry ‘with Chris McCarron aboard, seemingly without effort passed the field and broke the Track Record. He holds the record to this day. A close second would be the image of ‘The Shoe’ raising his arm, when, as a supposedly “over the hill” jockey, he brought “Ferdinand” home to victory at 14/1 in the Kentucky Derby of 1986. Both events led to famous Delgado paintings.

More recently Armando was with Jerry Moss on the finish line at Hollywood Park when ‘Zenyatta’ broke that track’s record in The Lady’s Secret Stakes. He had evidently been on the same finish line years earlier when ‘Seattle Slew’ lost his first race. ‘Zenyatta’ was so far behind at the turn that the Press Corps surrounding them were all commenting on her first loss, to the point, that going into the final turn Armando closed his eyes for fear of seeing a repeat of the ‘Seattle Slew’ performance. As he simply relates it, “The roar of the crowd made me open my eyes, she won by a length and a half and I had the great privilege of being in the winners circle with her”. Needless to say Armando has now captured ‘The Queen’ and his painting will be auctioned at Del Mar this summer in aid of ‘After the Finish Line’ horse retirement.

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Armando himself describes his horse works in a manner that we can all understand, “I want to capture the moment in every race that causes fans and bettors to hold their breath for a few seconds”

Like us all, Armando looks forward to a Triple Crown winner, ”especially as we have come so close in recent years”. We asked how he would depict the next champion, and with a laugh he replied, “I have had my paints ready for a long time now. I think on a pedestal, myself in the background with arms in the air, and there would have to be some champagne corks in there somewhere”. Should you be interested in spending a pleasant and relaxing hour, go to the website below, and then you will be bound to agree that Armando Delgado truly is a “Renaissance Man”.

You can view Armando Delgado art across a wide range of sports, and see available prints, by visiting the artist’s website

Images courtesy of Armando Gelgado







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