Basketball star discovers new way to 'dribble'

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
After dribbling several different colors of paint, Eric Cutright, a sophomore at MCC, blows on it to create unusual designs. Purple and green are his favorite colors to use, he says. (Lorri Sughroue/McCook Daily Gazette)

Eric "Cutty" Cutright, 20, a stand-out basketball recruit at McCook Community College, is dribbling paint nowadays instead of basketballs.

The imposing yet soft-spoken sophomore from Louisiana can be found more often in the art room than the gym, although he recently earned first-team all-Nebraska Community College Athletic Conference honors, averaging 12.0 points and six rebounds per game.

But in high school, he steered clear of art. In fact, Cutright had never even taken an art class until he came to MCC.

That's because for him, art usually meant a lot of drawing. Although his large hands can deftly turn a basketball, they were useless with paint brushes and pencils.

His aversion changed when he took an art structure class at MCC, to fulfill the humanities requirements.

The introductory class explained the basic elements of art, such as line, shape and structure. Simple projects were created and MCC art instructor Rick Johnson noted Cutright's quiet demeanor as well as his creativity. He encouraged the basketball star to take another art class.

In fact, Johnson said student athletes usually have a non-biased view of art that long-time art students have lost. "They soak everything up," he said. "They are more creative and free in their artwork, while sometimes traditional art students agonize over every little thing."

Cutright agreed to another class and while learning Art History, he was introduced by Johnson to "process painting," a form of abstract art.

Unlike traditional painting which relies on the fundamentals of art, process painting emphasizes and justifies the design process, Johnson said.

"There's no spoon feeding the viewer,"' he said. Instead, process painting leads the viewer in and out of the painting by using line, color and repetition.

It starts with an acrylic piece of glass, where paint is applied using a variety of methods: rolled, dribbled, swirled, sponged. Other pieces can then be placed on top of that for depth, texture or shape: wire mesh, powder, coffee grounds, string. The whole piece is then spray painted, or an acrylic glass gel is used. A canvas burlap is laid over the piece and when it is dry, the entire project is lifted from the glass onto the canvas. That's when surprising combinations of color and shape turn up.

"We call them happy accidents," Johnson said.

Recruited from the small town of Zwolle, La., Cutright said he uses some of the same skills on the basketball court as he does with his painting, like sustained focus and creative thinking. "You have to like it," he added. "And you have to follow through, you can't quit."

After MCC, Cutright wants to further his education at a university, using his basketball skills. Johnson easily sees Cartwright working with kids at summer camps, given his patience and composure.

As for his art, Cutright doesn't claim to be great at it, yet is still surprised that he likes it so much.

"You get to do what you want to do," he explained. "You go with it. And you get to make something out of nothing."

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