Local artist brings Utah Jazz stars from court to canvas

WEST JORDAN, Utah – Inspired by the Utah Jazz’s playoff run, a West Jordan artist is bringing some of the teams most recognized players to life in hand painted, HD portraits.

”I love when you see someone’s face or expression when they’re in the middle of a game… when they’re on that free throw line where it’s the deciding factor whether they win or lose, whether they go to the playoffs or they don’t,” said artist Daniela Lopez, sitting in front of a 4x4 canvas.

“I kind of want to translate that so when people are standing in front of my pieces they’re like, ‘Wow, I can almost read what they’re thinking,” she added.

For Daniela, these larger than life, HD portraits started as an emotional outlet.

”When people look at them they see a portrait, but when I look at them, I see every thought,” she said, motioning a paint brush with her hand in the air.

“Any obstacle, challenge, heartbreak: you name it—it’s always on one of these,” she said looking around at some of her work.

But now, it has turned into something so much more.

”I can’t explain it,” said Daniela. “It just kind of blossomed into something I never expected."

She signs her art, Yella, after her childhood nickname.

“I’m so very proud of Yella,” her mom Dolores Pahl beamed.

”When I was little I was sketching, coloring on anything I could find, and as I grew up and I realized there’s something there, in painting, that I really gravitate to,” Daniela said.

Two years ago, Daniela started a series of portraits starring players from her favorite team, the Rockets—combining her love of basketball with her love of art.

”I’d go to work, work eight hours, come home and paint throughout the night,” she said.

Each of Daniela’s portraits take hundreds of hours to complete. She spends 10 to 12 hours a day, every day, on a portrait for three weeks (sometimes more) until it’s perfect.

”I sacrificed any social life, I sacrificed time with my family… I’d work, come home, and create," she said. "And people didn’t get it. Sometimes I didn’t even get it... I started getting doubtful, ‘why am I doing this?’”

Then… it happened.

”Crazy, unbelievable,” Daniela smiled. “The players started taking note to the pieces I was doing."

Daniela received a call from the Rockets CEO, asking her to commission a portrait of Yao Ming for his retirement.

With just four days to complete her work, she accepted.

”It was the most overwhelming, amazing experience of my life,” Daniela said.

Now, this Utah native is using her gift to bring her favorite Jazz players to life.

”I’m not a mother, but these are my babies,” she said surrounded by her “All-Star team” of portraits, all basketball players with special guest star, Beyonce.

“I have the best seat in the house, I have all of these amazing talented people right in my living room!” laughed Dolores.

So far in Daniela’s Jazz series, she’s working to complete Ricky Rubio and she has finished Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell.

Her work is even capturing the attention of Donovan Mitchell himself.

“He started watching the stories I was posting [on Instagram] of the progress, and I thought, ‘Oh no! I can’t mess this one up! This has to be dead on,” she laughed. "I hope I did [Donovan Mitchell] justice, thank you for having such a great face.”

Daniela does sell her artwork and has received a lot of interest in her Donovan Mitchell piece, receiving an offer over $18,000! But, she’s not in a hurry to sell.

“Ultimately, I decided I’m going to hold off because it is the greatest honor when these pieces go to the players themselves,” Daniela said.

“She has so much prepared for everyone, so stay tuned,” her mom said with a smile.