How NFL will paint a new picture on first-round draft picks

Pop art painter Rob Prior, right, shows his work to Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon.
Pop art painter Rob Prior, right, shows his work to University of Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon. Prior will be creating instant portraits of NFL draft picks as their names are called Thursday.
(Sam Farmer / Los Angeles Times)

A picture is worth a thousand words?

The portraits created by Southern California-based pop artist and painter Rob Prior are worth a lot more than that, some of them commanding as much as $1 million at auction.

For the first time Thursday night, Prior will be on stage at the NFL draft, painting at hyper speed and creating portraits of the players as they’re selected. He plans to be working on three canvases at the same time.

“As they’re coming up, I’m just going to blast through it,” said Prior, 57. “I’m an ambidextrous painter, so I’ll probably have a couple of things up at one time.”

He said his advance notice on which player will be selected is “less than minutes.”

“When the name’s called, the new sheet of paper goes up, and I go to town,” he said. “I’m fast, because I paint with two hands, so I’m lucky enough to be able to buzz through things. But I’ll get the job done. I always do.”


Sports financing expert Marc Ganis connected Prior with the NFL, figuring the league already has strong connections to the music world but that there are opportunities in the visual arts space. Prior won’t have much time; it’s 10 minutes between picks in the first round.

A quarter of the NFL teams don’t have a draft pick in first round, but that doesn’t worry the champion Rams or the other seven teams with alternate plans.

April 25, 2022

The paintings will be sold at auction to benefit various NFL charities, and the players will receive lithographs of themselves. The prospects got a chance to check out some of Prior’s work Wednesday at a draft event.

“I was like, `Wow, he’s really going to make one of me?’ I feel lucky,” said Kyler Gordon, a cornerback from the University of Washington. “… Hell yeah, I’d put that on my wall. I’d put it right in the middle of my trophy room.”