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OKC Thunder: Artist Ray Tennyson opens a window to Thunder's soul

THUNDER ART — The most important part of Ray Tennyson's art is the process. That should be familiar to Oklahoma City fans, as should the subjects of his portraits.
by Jenni Carlson Published: October 29, 2012

Ray Tennyson isn't on the Thunder payroll.

He only sounds like it.

“To me, the process is the most important part,” he says. “That's where you're got to focus to learn how to make the right strokes.”

And by strokes, he doesn't mean jump shots.

Tennyson is a painter, and a darn good one at that. His passion is pop-art portraits, and earlier this year, he started painting Thunder players.

It changed his life.

What used to be done around a part-time job is now Tennyson's full-time vocation. People are paying good money for his work, which is featured throughout this section.

“I never thought I'd be living off paintings,” he said.

He shook his head.


Tennyson always drew and doodled as a kid, but becoming an artist was never his dream. After graduating from Midwest City High School, he went into the Army wanting to be an engineer. Drafting and designing were his goals.

Instead, the Army sent him in a different direction and Tennyson found himself living at Fort Polk in central Louisiana, biding his time until he put in his three years of service.

In late 2010, he decided to try painting.

He devoted every spare moment to it, gravitating toward a graphic style and adopting a method where nothing is shaded. All the colors are separate, something that is noticeable up close but that appears more blended from a distance.

He showed his work to no one. Not his family. Not his friends.

“You don't want people to see your faults,” he said. “If I know it's bad, you won't see it until it looks good.”

Finally, after a year, he felt it was good enough to show.

The positive response reassured him that he was onto something. He returned to Oklahoma, moved to Moore and threw himself into his paintings even more, though he was still working a part-time job to pay bills and make ends meet.

A few months later, one of his followers on Twitter suggested that he do a portrait of Russell Westbrook. Tennyson is a basketball fan, so he jumped at the suggestion. But as he looked through photos trying to find the perfect shot of Westbrook — Tennyson usually combines images to get the look he's after — he realized what an interesting subject he was capturing.

“His attitude,” Tennyson said of what made Westbrook so intriguing. “I think it's because he's more aggressive than other people. He's more of a risk taker.

Continue reading this story on the...

by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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Want to own a piece of Ray Tennyson's work?

The Oklahoma native has originals, prints and T-shirts for sale on his website, He paints commissioned pieces upon request, too.

He regularly posts videos of his paintings in progress on his YouTube channel, Ray Tennyson TV. He's also on Twitter and Instagram (@raytennyson).

His can be reached via email at


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