Somewhere there are no -skulls, so Trevor Lawrence took a grapefruit instead.
In July 2019, a few months after leading Clemson to the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship, Lawrence was persuaded by his older brother Chase and sister-in-law Brooke to paint a series of life-size oil paintings for them from models. Trevor is now 21 years old and has not missed a career opportunity since he was a teenager. His only guide in doing so is his unique relationship with Chase, a free spirit, deep thinker and talented artist who to the outside world may seem the opposite of Trevor.
But they really are best friends, Brooke says.
When Chase, who is almost 5, explained the dark, baroque religious painting, he imagined a monk staring at a skull, then asked his younger brother to help him. Trevor liked to slip into the Monks’ wardrobe, even after learning that the piece was destined for a collector who also happened to be a Georgia Bulldogs fan.
The brothers set up a makeshift studio in a dark room in the kitchen of their parents’ house. Trevor pulled the hood over his face until hard shadows covered his pale chin and high cheekbones. (Chase, who has the same facial features and beautiful family mane, posed like a monk for the second photo in the series). And just as Trevor grabs the grapefruit and cheese and leans menacingly toward the candle-lit fireplace, the boys’ mother storms in, stiffened from the posh scene.
What are you doing, some kind of weird ritual? Amanda Lawrence shouted as everyone laughed.
It was hilarious, like a moment straight out of a sitcom, Brooke says. It was the perfect scene to go to: Chase does something strange and creepy, and Trevor relaxes beside him. The two inspire each other and have a positive influence on each other, and that’s nice to see. I don’t know if it’s possible to bring all that talent together as a family, whether it’s athletes or artists, but it’s a fun, tight-knit group, and that’s one of the reasons why Chase and Trevor are both so successful.
Especially if they work together.
And as the NFL Draft approaches, the Lawrence brothers have once again teamed up to combine their unique talents and provide a taste of one of the best draft prospects in decades.
Without the capes and skulls, of course.
Trevor was the model for Golgotha (Skull Hill), the work of Chase and Brooke Lawrence. Courtesy of BCLawrence.art.
IN JANUARY, after he finished 34-2 as a starter and what Mel Kiper Jr. calls the fourth-best quarterback since 1979, Trevor reported for the draft and signed with an agent. One of his first decisions as a professional followed two major trends in sports: the recent boom in the sports card industry (fueled by the pandemic) and a growing group of young sports stars who demanded a more personal approach. Trevor has signed an exclusive deal with Topps for a 50-card set to be released just before the game, featuring 20 cards created by Chase and Brooke. This is a first for an NFL rookie and a first for Topps, and it builds on the Project72 and Project70 formula of pairing well-known artists with baseball stars.
I’m excited, Trevor said. Chase and Brooke are very talented artists, and it is special to work with them on these unconventional projects.
Chase says the point was that we were going to work together on something we both cared about, which the agent says had never been done before.
Another factor for Chase was the chance to follow in his idol’s footsteps: Alex Pardee, who was one of the artists in the Tops Project70 series.
Growing up in Chartersville, Georgia, Chase was even less interested (if that was even possible) in his father’s minor league basketball games years ago during his athletic career. Amanda, who now works as a nurse, and Jeremy Lawrence, 5-foot-8, both finished high school. But after Chase was found sleeping on a team bench at a youth basketball game, his distraught parents gave up: no more sports.
I was a wild child. Trevor was always good at sports, Chase said. We knew he wanted to go somewhere since he was in high school. My whole family loves sports so much, but back then I didn’t mind.
Tall but thin, Chase was more inclined to draw dragons, lizards, and monsters, which he never thought would be his thing until he discovered Pardee, who was promoting a kind of colorful, creature-filled pop surrealism – like Ralph Steadman meets stranger things.
Alex Pardee is the reason I became an artist, Chase says. It was the coolest, weirdest thing I’ve ever seen, it was edgy and disturbing, and if you’re a slightly angry teenager, you think it’s super cool. But it led me to other artists and opened a new world for me.
More importantly: When Chase was in ninth grade, at a time when living in the shadow of his superstar brother could have led to a life of resentment or alienation, Jeremy did something that opened a window into the secret of their talented, close-knit family. (Chase and Trevor also have a sister, Olivia. After getting his license, Chase drove himself for the first time to take Trevor to the hospital to meet his little sister (the memory still makes Amanda cry).
Jeremy, the head of a steel company in Georgia, doesn’t quite know what he’s getting into, but agrees to go to a seedy gallery in Atlanta so Chase can meet Pardee, his version of Tom Brady.
My father knows nothing about art, and I know what he says all the time: It’s so weird, but he did it for one reason: to support me, says Chase, who only went to college after Jeremy encouraged him to study art. I had so many questions for [Pardee]. I showed him my drawings and he asked if he could have them, so we exchanged drawings. I still have it in my parents’ house. The way all this has gone down is too crazy for words. Trevor and Pardee’s connection, I mean, it’s such an encouragement.
Chase and Brooke needed everything for the Topps project, as they had less than two months to make 20 original pieces. If Trevor lacked creative courage, he attended the distant Heisman Trophy ceremony in the Clemson football meeting room on 5th. January right behind him. Although Trevor finished second to Alabama’s DeVonte Smith, Chase’s outfit – a chic beige suit with a green floral shirt, necklaces and a white carnation pin – won on Twitter. In mid-January, Chase, Brooke and Trevor met again in Clemson to discuss ideas, color palette and aesthetics for the card series.
Lawrence’s brother and sister-in-law drew inspiration from graphic novels and concert posters, among others, to design their Topps card series. Polished Tops
When they were younger, we were worried that Chase and Trevor wouldn’t have a good bond because of the age difference and because they are so different, Amanda says. But they are closer than ever, and that has evolved over the last six years or so. It’s great that with this project they were able to bring their two worlds even closer together.
The first thing they did was sift through photos of Trevor Clemson’s career and retro sports cards from the ’60s and ’70s. (Think: massive shoulder pads, dramatic mustaches, and stiff Heisman-like arm poses).
Chase and Brooke, who met while studying at Kennesaw State University, created together as one artist (they took turns working on the canvas) and developed a style Chase describes as impressionistic realism, heavily influenced by Dutch painters of the Renaissance. The approach tends towards the macabre and esoteric, and is often filled with theological symbolism.
While the creativity is effective and moving, it’s not exactly a style that lends itself to football cards or, say, the typical Jacksonville Jaguars fan who has already seen his share of grotesque performance art on the field.
But after Trevor posed in various outfits for a series of reference photos and videos, Chase and Brooke were inspired by the bright colors and authoritative cosmic pastiche of the pages of Watchmen graphic novels. They were also drawn to the psychedelic, Jimi Hendrix-inspired concert posters and the layered, textured oil paintings of the digital portraits.
They were a little overwhelmed at first, until they showed the Topps guys the first three cards they had produced, and there were: God, you got it, just keep doing your thing, Chase said.
Trevor was a little more convincing, especially on the Art Deco and Nouveau cards, including one with shorts surrounded by wildflowers.
We shared a lot with Trevor, but not everything, Brooke said. When sharing works in progress with people who are not artists, it can sometimes be difficult for them to see the vision. … But Chase kept trying to push him out of his comfort zone in a positive way: Come on, you’re a rock star, you gotta do it! Sometimes he liked it, sometimes he didn’t.
Because Brooke has more experience with digital media (and, as Chase admits, is probably a better artist), she focused on Trevor’s portraits for the first ten maps, while Chase designed all the backgrounds. And then, after their trial, they polish each other. In the next 10 cards, they switched and Chase took the lead in the portraits. The day before the project, they took a deep breath and sent Trevor a message with the entire collection. We used our phone because he’s so focused on football that he’s literally not good enough to handle computers, Chase said.
A few minutes later, Trevor wrote his review:
Duuuuuude, they are great, I love them, you did it!
I was so excited, Chase said.
Chase is seen looking over Trevor’s shoulder during the 2020 Heisman ceremony. The audience was delighted with the artist’s outfit. Kelly Backus / ESPN Images
, if not at the height of his Heisman Trophy presentation set, Chase sits on the wide-open porch of his new home near Williamston, South Carolina, his hair in a bun. Sports shoes, camouflage socks, several necklaces, a leather belt, and a ripped purple t-shirt with a portrait of the jester in the tarot cards.
They had just moved into this house, which had belonged to the town doctor, who treated his patients in the current room on the ground floor, which still had a small round window in the middle of the door. There is a natural spring and a dilapidated two-story dry barn with tobacco leaves in the background. The fact that the pipes under the house are insulated with what looks like human hair scares everyone except Chase, who of course loves it.
In a football world filled with skulls, screaming pundits and coaching platitudes, Chase is a breath of fresh air. That afternoon he effortlessly covers topics ranging from atheism to working with the homeless in the Alphabet Street neighborhood of Anderson, South Carolina, to Atari, Monet, dragons, the golden number of flowering shrines by the porch, and even Chuck E. Cheese Range.
By having a character like Chase as his big brother and confidant, Trevor was equipped with the most basic armor of the franchise’s quarterback: thick skin and total indifference to haters.
I don’t know how all that talent comes together as a family, whether it’s athletes or artists, Brooke says, right, with the Lawrence siblings, but it’s a fun, tight-knit group, and that’s a big reason why Chase and Trevor are both so successful. The Lawrence family, very polite
We don’t care what other people think, Chase said. I’ve never been interested in that kind of thing. I’m not going to sacrifice my happiness and all the fun things I can do with my life because I worry about what other people think.
Last week, Trevor caused a stir when he dared to tell Sports Illustrated that there’s more to life than football or Super Bowl rings. A refreshingly healthy prospect that predictably sent most selectmen into hysterics. But if you’re wondering if Trevor was worried about the reaction to those comments or about his unconventional path to the NFL – skipping the Medical Combine, not participating in the draft, turning down most interview requests – think again.
Between the Topps project and Trevor’s wedding on the 10th. April on the South Carolina coast (where Chase was the best man), Brooke and Chase had little time to unpack. In a maze of shifting chaos, Chase has momentarily forgotten where the family’s dogs are, but when asked, he knows exactly where the paintings are that he would have saved if the house had caught fire.
With the exception of the upstairs art studio, which is already filled with materials and easels showing the beginnings of oil painting in landscape style, most rooms remain full of cardboard. Many are filled with texts about Chase’s fascination: the intersection of theology and philosophy, especially when it comes to the original language and context of Scripture, and how it is often misinterpreted and manipulated.
We talk about it all the time, Chase talks about him and Trevor. That’s another reason we get along so well, because we have common interests: We know that there is more, and we want to know what it is, and we value that research and that knowledge above all.
Four days before the wedding, the wide red brick porch, framed by pink azaleas and purple wisteria, is alive with the buzzing of insects and birdsong. And even though Chase is completely new to this house – the local cable installer is hooking up WiFi inside – when it comes to Trevor, Chase speaks in a way that makes it seem like he’s lived here, in this place, his whole life.
The first pick in the NFL Draft, especially as a quarterback, remains a lousy deal at best. Despite all of the experts and resources invested in the most important position in the sport, there is still no magic formula to predict how a college quarterback, even a 6-foot-4 fast general like Trevor, will respond to the speed, violence and impossible expectations of the NFL.
But if there is a common denominator among those who survive Sundays, it is of course a strong group of family and friends who can provide unfiltered, unwavering support and perspective (i.e. truth) in the distorted, fun, mirror-like alternate reality of professional sports.
Listening to Chase, Trevor seems to have a lot going for him.
Brooke describes them as a couple with a humble heart.
The biggest difference is simply the appeal, Chase says. By the way, we are very similar, we have the same sense of humor, the same stupidity, the same personality in general. He’s also very creative, artistic even, and we both solve problems, and we both search. We are always looking for the truth, whether we want to hear it or not. And we disagree in many ways about things like faith, religion and dogma, but we agree on this, if nothing else. But he’s young, so he’s still figuring it out.
We’re so close. The biggest difference is just the appeal, Chase Lawrence says of his brother Trevor, who is on this Topps card. By the way, we are very similar, we have the same sense of humor, the same stupidity, the same personality in general. Polished Tops
Finally, Chase checks his phone and sees that the antique marble console he bought is ready to be picked up. The art dealer is also interested in a solo exhibition in Texas this summer and another on-card collaboration with Brooke and Trevor, possibly as part of the NFT series. Chase and Brook have an assignment, at least for the next year.
Chase is still thinking about his speech as a witness, which listeners say will end with a sweet and profound lesson about balance and unity in life, especially in marriage (and maybe even in NFL franchises), where if you honor or hurt someone else, you honor or hurt yourself.
This world is fleeting, and one day you can be at the top of a mountain and tomorrow people will turn their backs on you, Amanda says. If Trevor is going to be more important, he needs a real sense of self. And with all the press and hype, it’s nice for him to just be himself with Chase, who doesn’t really care about being a celebrity.
Before heading to the rental car, Chase is asked to imagine a scenario in which he and Brooke find themselves in a New York gallery, filled with their own famous works and adoring fans, while Trevor, who has just arrived after yet another Jags game, wanders around in relative anonymity, constantly asking the artists what exactly he does for a living.
The thought makes Chase cry with laughter as he steps off the porch.
Oh, my God, Chase says Trevor would love this.
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