If you’re online at all as a K.C. Chiefs fan and following along with others on social media, you’ve likely run into the excellent array of artists who celebrate our favorite team. We love seeing the work of various painters, designers, and mixed media artists who capture key moments and profile the team’s star players, and we thought it would be fun to find out more about some fans in particular this offseason with an occasional Chiefs fan profile. For our first one, we thought we’d wade into the creative side of the fan base to chat with Cynthia Burris.
If you’ve never seen Cynthia’s work, you’re missing out on one of the most incredible artists in Chiefs Kingdom. Chiefs fans are privileged to have several artists to admire, and Cynthia is definitely one whose player portraits are so striking with abstract ideas and imaginative processes that come together in such striking ways. She seemed like an ideal fan to to profile and we recently asked her to tell us more about her journey to fandom, her artistic inspiration, and where she goes from here with her creativity.
What first drew you to root for the Chiefs in the first place? Do you have an earliest memory?
I do! I wasn’t really into football when I moved to Kansas, but I kept hearing the name Alex Smith on TV. That’s actually my father’s name. So it caught my attention every time, and I finally decided to watch him play. One of my earliest memories is the Chiefs vs. Chargers game in 2016. The Chargers were ahead and then, in an instant, it seemed like Alex really turned on the gas and his passes were incredible. He threw to [Spencer] Ware, then [Travis] Kelce, then [Tyreek] Hill—it was just one amazing play after another. That was also the first game that I really became a big fan of Travis Kelce. The man is a beast! And I’ve been a Chiefs ever since then!
What about the beginning of your art career? How did you get started there? Is that an early interest for you as a kid?
I started dabbling with art when I was about seven years old. I used to fold paper in an accordion fashion and make my own picture books. Then I studied graphic design in 1988-1990. Back then all I had to use was a t-square and a triangle. I worked for Josten’s American Yearbook in the paste-up department for a while. At 26, I moved to New York and became a tattoo artist. After that, I stopped doing art altogether until I moved to Kansas and became a Chiefs fan. I was seeing all of this amazing Chiefs art on Facebook, and I began to ask myself what I could make. I had Photoshop, so I made my first Mahomes piece. It took forever and it was a huge learning process, but once you get over the hurdle of learning, it’s pretty much just a lot of fun from then on.
What inspires you to create art?
I find abstract artists like Michael Lang and Yayoi Kusama very inspiring. I’m fascinated with shapes and bold color choices, how light flows, and how it all ties in together. Other Chiefs artists also very much inspire me. I love Caitlyn Snelling‘s attention to detail. She inspires me to try and do the same. Anthony Oropeza‘s paintings take my eyes on an adventure, and I love looking at his brush strokes and the way he does shadows and highlights. That gives me the urge to experiment a little more with my own art. Corey Jones encouraged me to paint again, which I hadn’t done in about three years. There are so many really amazing Chiefs artists, but they’re all very different, so I get a different type of inspiration from each one of them.
Outside of making art as a Chiefs fan, are you busy with art for other subjects or dabble in other media?
I am pretty busy, yes. I’ve had requests for custom pieces. One will be of an MLB player who just recently made his debut. I’ve also had requests to do family photos. Past that, I’m turning my first Mahomes design into a massive diamond painting that’s made from around 180k tiny gems. I’m about 37k gems into that project.
I have an acrylic painting I’m working on that’s also of Mahomes, and it’s the first painting I’ve done on canvas in about three years. I’m trying a bit of everything and sometimes it’s necessary to look away from a project and do something else for a bit so that you can return to the other later with fresh eyes.
Have you been able to show your work to any Chiefs players? Or have you had any meaningful or fun interactions with other fans because of your work?
Yes, I got to talk to L’Jarius Sneed on the phone very briefly. A relative had shown him my artwork, called me, and handed him the phone. He told me he saw my artwork and he thought it was pretty cool.
The fans have been incredible. They’ll tell me things like “I’m totally making this my wallpaper!” Some use my art for a profile pic. Perhaps the biggest interaction I can think of would be with Randi Mahomes. I posted my most recent art of Patrick and I just really wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep it. I thought it was a little weird, perhaps too far out there. So I tweeted it and basically asked if I should keep it or toss it. Randi commented, “Keep!!” Then I thought well ok, I guess if it’s mom-approved now, I have to keep it!
We’d love to hear more about what else takes your time outside of making Chiefs-related art.
I’m really enjoying cooking lately. I love trying new recipes. That’s usually what I do when I need a break from art. I binge-watch shows like The Walking Dead or Outlander. I always have something playing on the TV. Now and then I put on headphones and listen to music. I’m also a gamer. I love games like Assasin’s Creed Valhalla. I used to work in home care and hospice, but I quit to pursue art full-time.
I would also definitely say my community and charity are important to make time for. My husband and I have been involved in greyhound rescue and adoption and have attended KC REGAP fundraisers. We have four greyhounds and they’re amazing! I’ve gotten to cook for a local homeless shelter a few times and toured the facility. I also had my small neighborhood rebuilt which was very under code and that was a year-long project I did with the City of Olathe. I haven’t taken on a big project since then, but I’m hoping that charities will reach out to me about art and maybe we can raise money for a good cause and help people in need.