Kansas Artist and KU Alumna Paints "The Original Six," the First Officially Licensed Jayhawk Fine Art in Decades

Megh Knappenberger used acrylic on canvas and actual Kansas limestone "rock chalk" to add texture to each depiction of the six original Jayhawks

OVERLAND PARK, Kan., Nov. 17, 2017 — (PRNewswire) — The half-dozen iterations of the beloved Jayhawk mascot have inspired generations of students at the University of Kansas (KU) since 1912, including Megh Knappenberger. Now the KU alumna and Kansas artist has captured the spirit represented by each one in "The Original Six" paintings and is among only a handful of artists ever granted licensing for her work from the University. 

An exquisite reproduction of the original paintings, the officially licensed, limited edition set of The Original Six prints by artist Megh Knappenberger

Celebrating the evolution of the Jayhawk icon through the years, Knappenberger paid exquisite attention to the details of KU's colorful history in creating the original paintings and licensed, limited edition prints. She mixed local, ground-up limestone "Rock ChalkTM" with acrylic paint to create a textured and tactile homage to the school's well-known chant. The material comes from a limestone quarry just outside of Lawrence, Kansas – home to KU – where blocks of limestone are cut with a large saw. Running water cools the saw's blade, producing a sort of limestone clay byproduct that dries to a chalk-like consistency.

"Megh, an avid Jayhawk fan herself, added an ingenious, three-dimensional element to the paintings with the Kansas limestone powder. That and incredible attention to detail make the pieces extra special," said Curtis Marsh, director of KU Info and the DeBruce Center – where Knappenberger hopes The Original Six will ultimately hang along with Dr. James Naismith's original basketball rules. "The Original Six Jayhawk paintings tell a unique story, and you notice different nuances every time you look at them – hallmarks of beautiful art."

Each of the six paintings is named for the year in which the icon was introduced at KU. On the five "vintage" Jayhawk portraits, Knappenberger painted the years in which they debuted in the bottom left-hand corner as requested by the licensing committee for brand consistency. Because "The '46/'05" – so named because the current icon was introduced in 1946, but the "KU" lettering inside the Jayhawk was updated in 2005 – is now in use, it does not include a year.

"I photographed the wooden seat numbers in Allen Fieldhouse and hand-made stencils for each year so I could perfectly mirror the style," Knappenberger said. "To create the paintings, I first drew each of the Jayhawks on a grid with the utmost respect for the original integrity of the mark. Then I hand-painted them with a palette knife giving the pieces texture, movement and life."

Knappenberger incorporated some of the style and mood of the era represented by each Jayhawk. As examples, the '29 is darker and more subdued as the depression-era version, and the war-time '41 features feisty color and more movement. The style of the numbers and Knappenberger's nods to the time periods of each Jayhawk are all part of the unique story the collection tells.

The six original paintings are displayed at the flagship Niall luxury watch store on the County Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri. Niall owner Michael Wilson – who collaborated on The Original Six with Knappenberger – holds a license from KU for his exclusive "Fieldhouse Blue" watch. Each one-of-a-kind Jayhawk painting is acrylic paint and limestone Rock Chalk on a 40" x 40" canvas in a half-inch wooden float frame and costs $25,000.

An exquisite reproduction of the original paintings, the officially licensed, limited edition set of The Original Six prints is the next best thing. Each print is hand-signed and -numbered, and every set comes with a hand-numbered keepsake jar of Rock Chalk filled with the same Kansas limestone Knappenberger mixed into the paint and used on the originals. The limited edition is only available in a set that includes all six Jayhawks. Each one is a giclee print on archival fine art paper. Prices are $1,500 for a framed and matted set or $1,200 for only the prints. To learn more, click here.

About Megh Knappenberger
Megh Knappenberger, 35, earned a bachelor's degree in visual communications from KU in 2004. She met her husband, Tory (class of '03, same degree), in the School of Fine Arts their freshman year, making KU even nearer and dearer to her. The couple has lived in Overland Park, Kansas, since 2013, and became parents the following year. Megh, a graphic artist since graduation, closed her successful branding business in 2016 to pursue her dream of working as a fine artist. She took a non-traditional route in launching her fine art career, relying on her knowledge of branding and business versus the conventional gallery route. She primarily uses social media such as Instagram and Facebook to sell work and build her brand, as well as direct brand collaborations like the one with Niall to reach broader audiences. 


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