An impressively detailed Kobe Bryant portrait made by Ontario-based woodworker Steve Thomson has gone viral on social media after the five-time NBA champion’s former teammate Pau Gasol posted a picture next to the art on Instagram.
The 52-year-old Thomson has always been an artist, and obtained a degree in graphic design in college. He took on woodworking three years ago after building a shed for his backyard and was a natural. “I first started out building some smaller things like cabinets and shelves, and then I built an armoire,” Thomson said.
While Thomson can skillfully put together gorgeous pieces of mixed wood furniture, from tables to chairs and armoires, what sets him apart from other woodworkers are his intricate puzzle-like works.
Gasol’s Instagram post went up on Oct. 23. Since then, the post has amassed over 120,000 likes and more than 600 comments, all raving about the piece.
“The comments were such great validations, and the DMs… I’m getting around 10 inquiries per day,” Thomson said.
While not all inquiries result in bookings, Thomson is overjoyed to be working on pieces for a few actors and a celebrity makeup artists that saw Gasol’s post. And these bookings could not have come at a better time.
Gasol’s post went up on a Friday. Three days later, Thomson was unexpectedly laid off from his job as a marketing director for a financial service company. While getting laid off felt like a devastating blow at the moment, he now feels like it’s exactly what he needed to focus on woodworking full time.
“Getting laid off catapulted me into saying, ‘I want to do this for a living’,” Thomson said.
How the portrait reached Pau
When Thomson told his good friend and now former coworker, Ryan Phillip, about making a portrait in honor of Kobe Bryant, Phillip knew he would do everything in his power to get it to someone close to the deceased NBA star.
Although Thomson has only been woodworking for three years, last year he developed his unique realistic style that incorporates sanding, carving, sculpting and gluing different woods together.
Thomson didn’t let anyone see the piece until it was done, and once it was, Phillip was in awe.
“I knew it was going to be good, but not this good. Once I actually saw how well it actually turn out, I realized I had to keep my promise,” Phillip said.
With Thomson’s permission, Phillip posted it on his Instagram story, tagging Gasol. This prompted Gasol to share it. Then Gasol messaged Phillip, asking if it was possible to get his hands on the piece.
At first, there were talks about Gasol purchasing the piece from Thomson, but he ended up gifting it to the former Lakers star. Thomson said that Gasol plans on personally giving the portrait to Bryant’s daughters, and wife, Vanessa Bryant.
“Knowing that this could end up in Kobe Bryant’s house, with his family…I’m on cloud nine,” Thomson said.
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