It’s always been about The Hawk for Josee Tellier. Andre Dawson was her first love. He will probably be her last love and every love in between.
The Montreal native was introduced to the Expos as child during Dawson’s 11-year run with the club [1976-86]. While Dawson moved on to Chicago and Boston before closing out his Hall-of-Fame career in Miami, Tellier never got over seeing the 1976 National League Rookie of the Year when she was a youngster.
“When I was a little girl and I saw Andre Dawson on television, I just had a feeling that I had to follow this guy,” Tellier, 46, said. “He was mesmerizing to me. There wasn’t any sports channel in 1984, that hadn’t been invented yet. So, any time I could get a game on TV, I was in front of the TV. I liked the strategy of the game and the talent it took Andre to throw a ball to home plate from 400 feet away was incredible.”
Tellier never lost her affinity for Dawson even after he left Quebec following the 1986 season. She never lost her love for the Expos, either even though they broke her heart when they moved to Washington and became the Nationals following the 2004 season.
By the way, rooting for the Nationals is not an option, never has been and never will be for Tellier.
She simply has too many fond memories of going to games at Olympic Stadium and watching Dawson and his teammates attempt to scale the National League East throughout the 1980s and early 90s, only to have that effort derailed by a work stoppage in 1994. It’s those memories and that affection for the team in general, and one player in particular, that can be seen in much of the artwork for which Tellier has become known during the last several years.
Tellier has become a chief contributor to ExposFest, an annual event in Montreal that celebrates the former occupants of the Big “O” while raising money for research into finding a cure for children’s brain cancer. ExposFest, which began in 2016 and has raised more than $900,000, will take place March 27 and Tellier’s work will be featured prominently.
She recently completed a print of Dawson, Tim Raines and Vlad Guerrero, Sr. that was limited to 30 pieces, all of which sold out in less than 24 hours. The highlight of the contribution to ExposFest this year went well beyond her artwork, though. Tellier’s biggest thrill was when she received a photo of Dawson holding the print after he had signed it.
Tellier screamed excitedly when she saw the photo. She posted the photo on her Instagram page [missjojo76] with the caption ANDRE DAWSON KNOWS I EXIST!
“Andre Dawson is my everything,” she said. “Oh my God. I just had to vent that excitement.”
Perry Gee is the founder and president of ExposFest. He and Tellier crossed paths on social media and it didn’t take long for their love of the Expos to come to light. Gee felt it would be a good idea if Tellier was somehow part of ExposFest and she agreed.
“The big thing about her is her passion, her passion for the Montreal Expos,” Gee, 55, said. “She loves the Expos as much as I do. It was an automatic for me. Plus, she has a big heart. She does a lot for our foundation. She is such a good person.
“I like that her work brings the player to life. You look at it and it’s not like a painting. She is an illustrator and you get a different vibe. The player looks alive. It’s a totally different medium. And she loves The Hawk boy. She loves Andre. He was the first one to sign [the current prints]. We have Vladdy and Raines and they will finish it off.”
Tellier’s excitement over seeing Dawson hold her creation is akin to what her legion of fans feels about her and her work. She has been an artist for most of her life but it was only within the last few years that she began producing baseball-themed prints. Her work in that regard is not limited to the Expos.
“In early 2021 I had just lost my parents,” Tellier said. “I was really depressed and saw this little thing that was a friendly game of doing a Yogi Berra [baseball] card. I did the card I would have liked to have seen Yogi Berra on. The first two cards of the Topps 70 project had just come out and people thought the Berra cards that came out were literally offensive to their memory [of him]. So, they [the fans/collectors] decided to overflow Twitter with new Yogi Berra cards that would be prettier. I did mine not expecting anything and I got hundreds of messages asking to get the card.
“People were asking can you send that to me? I was not prepared for that at all. So, I made 50 copies and they sold out in 24 hours. I thought ‘Oh my God, what is this?’ A few days later was Willie Mays’ birthday so I did another card in the same style and it went even better. It was retweeted hundreds of times. I was super impressed so I decided I was going to print 90 copies because he was 90 years old and they sold out in 24 hours. I thought, okay, so I am going to do this because it works.”
That was the beginning. Shortly after her experience with the Berra and Mays cards, Tellier entered an international competition sponsored by the Josh Gibson Foundation to create a baseball card of the famed Negro Leagues slugger. The card would be part of the Foundation’s push to get baseball’s MVP Award named after Gibson. Needless to say, Tellier won.
“At the beginning of the tournament, there were only 11 artists, it was a pretty close circle,” she said. “But the more that artists heard about it, the more wanted to get in. I decided I wanted to get in and at the end there were 75 artists. I won the best card by a popular vote and I was really excited.
“At the end of the tournament, Josh Gibson’s great grandson, who runs the foundation, invited me to go to the gala and I went. This year I am hoping to do something with the foundation, maybe something about Buck Leonard and Gibson.”
Her victory in the Gibson tournament shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Tellier has been winning drawing contests since she was five years old. She said that drawing became a passion early in life and it never stopped. She would produce two or three drawings every day and realized that this is what she wanted to do with her life.
Tellier was also inspired by the groundbreaking 1985 video by the Norwegian musical group A-ha for their song “Take On Me”. The video featured a woman being pulled into a comic-book world by a young man who had just won a motorcycle race. The pair fall for each other but she is forced out of the comic world when the racers that lost chase him down and mean to do him harm. Ultimately he finds his way out and the two are together.
“One thing that gave me the idea of doing this kind of thing was the A-ha video,” Tellier said. “That video was mix of real people with illustrated people. It was a comic coming to life and that video was a revelation to me. I still have the vinyl [of the album] and I have magazines that talk about the video. I am obsessed with that video. I wanted to be a comic illustrator; I thought it was my destiny.”
Tellier has been illustrating professionally for two decades but her specialty, prior to her baseball-related work, was children’s books. It was during this time that she began creating illustrations for a series of children’s books, which have sold millions of copies worldwide. She also began a series of Montreal Expos nearly three years ago, drawing attention from local traditional and social media.
THE CARD SERIES
The Berra card kicked off a seven-card set that included the Mays, Josh Gibson, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Roberto Clemente and Mickey Mantle. Tellier also produces baseball-themed stickers, many of which are related to the subjects on the cards. She also produced a large print as a compliment to the card and sticker.
Each portrait on the cards takes between eight and 12 hours to create but only after Tellier has done several days researching the subject. She markets her work Etsy. Each card sells for $30 Canadian [$24 for her “American friends”]. The 10X14 prints are also available, as are the stickers, so “guys can put them in their man caves”. The 2022 Series launched recently with a card depicting Cardinals Hall-of-Famer Bob Gibson.
“In my first series, Clemente and Aaron were the guys,” said Tellier, who has yet to put an Expo in her card series. “I have an endless amount of admiration for Hank Aaron. When he broke [Babe Ruth’s] the record there was tremendous pressure on him to not break it and he was tremendously courageous to go through all that. This guy Hank Aaron is second to Andre Dawson in my heart. I still get chills when I see the video of him breaking the record. It’s just so emotional to me. I just hate the fact that I was not alive to see it then.
“I have a list of players that I look at [for cards]. I’ll choose maybe two or three players and Google pictures of them. At one point, a picture will catch my eye. It’s interesting because of the lighting or the angle or the smirk on the player’s face. I’m trying to get more candid pictures than official pictures. There’s no philosophy beyond having a crush on a picture that’s a good picture and I want it.”
Tellier says she has a strong customer base that includes “about 100 super fans”.
“I am extremely grateful for my twitter baseball family,” she said.
BASEBALL, BASEBALL, BASEBALL
Tellier’s fans are also grateful for her. Among her fans is rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy fame. Chuck D posted a video on Twitter of the 1971 All-Star MLB All-Star Game in Detroit as an accompaniment to one of his songs. Tellier, who loves old school hip hop, is a big fan of the ’71 All-Star Game and commented on the video. Chuck D replied and began following Tellier on social media.
“That All-Star game was freaking insane,” she said. “The two teams were completely sick with the amount of superstars there.”
Tellier’s love for baseball is evident in her apartment, which is adorned with Montreal Expos memorabilia, including signed baseballs, cards, pictures, drawings, bats and bobbleheads. She also has turf from Olympic Stadium on her balcony. She had a friend who worked at The Big O, and was able to help her get some of, what was at the time, the worst turf in baseball.
“It’s super thick,” she said. “I got a 10 X 14 piece to put on my balcony. So, I own a piece. I wouldn’t scrub my pots and pans with that stuff, though. It’s so scratchy, it’s terrible. I don’t know how someone would jump to catch a ball on that. How did they not break their knees or some bones? But my friend called and asked if I wanted turf that touched the feet of Andre Dawson.”
Tellier has traveled to many Major League cities and seen most of the older ballparks. She’s planning to see some the newer ones this summer, though. One place she probably won’t be heading, though, is Washington.
“I visited all the stadiums except for Washington” Tellier said. “I’m not sure I would be able to visit there. It would be too hard for me. If I did go there, I would root for the other team. The Expos ended in 2004. There was no love after that. I didn’t hate the players; I hated the whole story. They are not ours anymore. That [Expos] move to Washington was terrible.
“The heartache started in ’94 of course. I’m from a small village about an hour and a half from Montreal so I didn’t go to a lot of games. But I moved to Montreal in 1999 and from 1999 to 2004, I loved to go to games. In 2004 when they left, after that last game, I cried for two weeks. It was an incredible heartache. I was heartbroken. Worse than that was the spring of 2005. After that, for four or five years, it was hard for me to watch baseball. It was like when an ex breaks up with you and you just don’t want to see his picture.”
One picture that Tellier will never grow tired of seeing, though, is Dawson’s. And, her fans, it seems, will never grow tired of the art she creates that celebrates the game.