KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Home-grown Kansas City Sports artist Anthony Oropeza has painted some of the city’s biggest superstars, including Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce. 

He started small, but he’s making a big name for himself…even drawing the attention of current and former Chiefs players.

When you step into Anthony Oropeza’s art studio, located inside the InterUrban ArtHouse in downtown Overland Park, it’s small. About the size of a parking space. 

But it’s chalked full of talent. It’s hard to fathom that it is only a side hustle. It began 10 years ago as a dream that his paintings would make enough money to cover the cost of his daughter’s high school tuition. 

It was either to give his art a shot or become a barista. The devoted, single dad chose art.

“My back was against the wall. I wanted to get a part-time job to help pay for my daughter’s tuition,” Oropeza said.

His first painting was actually of Mother Teresa. Then, he took a leap of faith and started painting his passion.

“There’s nothing better than being able to paint your hometown heroes,” Oropeza said. I grew up a Chiefs fan, a Royals fan, a Comets fan, and even a Kansas City Kings fan. To be able to use what talent I have to produce the work that I’ve done. There’s nothing better,”

Oropeza has ridden the Kansas City sports wave. In 2014 and 15, it was all about the Royals.  And then, he heard about the new quarterback draft phenom from Texas. 

Back when it was a financial risk for Oropeza to even spend $50 on a canvas to paint — you know him. 

The original piece still hangs in his studio. But before long, it was clear Mahomes was headed for stardom. 

“I apologize. I did not know how great this person was going to be,” Oropeza said. 

That piece appeared in the New York Times during the Chiefs’ 2019 playoff run.

Since then, he’s done live paintings at charity auctions that have sold for thousands.  He’s shipped commissioned work for his fans around the country and he has designed and painted special pieces for the Royals and the Chiefs.   

In October, Travis Kelce himself paid a surprise visit to Oropeza’s studio.

“It was kind of amazing because he was the first athlete to ever show up to the studio and see the work,” Oropeza said.

One of the pieces Oropeza is still working on is a painting of Kelce during the 2022 AFC Divisional Round Playoffs.  You remember that famous 13 seconds that lead the Chiefs to a near-miraculous victory. 

“That was the actual catch to take the lead and win the game that he made with 13 seconds left,” smiles Oropeza as the memory taking shape on canvas floods back. 

Believe it or not, it’s still just a side hustle. 

Oropeza has a full-time job as a graphic artist. He needs insurance for his family. That means he often works nearly 80 hours a week to keep his dream alive. A barista job might have been easier.   

“What I do with every piece is trying to tell some sort of story Oropeza said. “Try to get a nice image and try to get some good graphics and hopefully, it will tell a story that will evoke some emotion.”

 He still hasn’t achieved all of his goals. It hasn’t always gone according to the plan he mapped out ten years ago.  But his paintings paid for his daughter’s high school tuition.

Her first two years of college are also debt-free.  So that leap of faith Oropeza took 10 years ago is paying off. 

The images created by a home-grown, self-taught artist, born and bred in the land of the Royals and the Chiefs evoke joyous memories for fans of the best sports moments in Kansas City’s recent history. 

With a slew of new ideas and championship-caliber athletic inspiration all around him, the best is surely yet to come.

Oropeza is planning paintings for the NFL draft and the World Cup in Kansas City. He also wants to expand his work to include paintings of high school and college athletes. 

If you are interested in seeing more or contacting him directly, you can visit his website at AO – AOART5