After eight years of working hard on the railroads, Franky Cardona decided that it was time to take a leap of faith.

“I would wake up, and I would just be like a man. All I could think about was art, I was no longer happy at my job just because I knew this is what I wanted to do,” said Cardona.

In 2018, Cardona, a self-taught artist from Houston,Texas, decided to leave his full time job on the rails to pursue his dreams of becoming an artist. Since then, he’s done work for major athletes, teams, and music entertainers including the Astros and the Nashville Stars’ very own Darius Rucker Topps card.

“Every kid has baseball cards, every kid collects basketball, football cards, you know,” he said. “I was like this is insane, my art on a Topps baseball card, it’s crazy. I called my mom and said, ‘I made it.’”

After stepping away from his lifelong passion as a young adult, it was social media that inspired him to get back in the game. Seeing other artists upload their work to platforms like Instagram sparked his competitive spirit. Cardona began to upload his own art as well, which quickly caught fire in the online community. As with any new adventure, Cardona said there have been lots of learning experiences along the way but is nonetheless grateful for the opportunity to do the thing he loves most.

“Since I turned it into a business, sometimes it does feel like work, but I look back, and I’m like would you rather be putting in ties and rails or would you rather be painting?” he said.

Inspired by the raw emotion and intensity that can be seen through sports, Cardona began painting portraits of athletes, such as Andre Johnson from the Texans. The feelings channeled into the painting from his brush have made these portraits some of his most well known masterpieces.

“I think that’s why I continue to do it, because it’s going from nothing to I guess some people say a masterpiece. So that feeling, it’s a good feeling” Cardona said.

Being able to hold his own Topps card in his hand, a tiny version of one of these masterpieces, brought on a surreal feeling for Cardona. As the grandchild of Mexican immigrants, he reflected on the significance that the card represented and the pride that flowed through him looking at it, a culmination of his own hard work and the work that his family did to make it possible.

“To think about my grandparents coming over here…that blows my mind. The fact that they put in work for the country, they didn’t take anything for free, they worked for everything they had,” he said. “Because of their hard work, I’m proud of my Spanish heritage.”

Honoring the hard work of the past and the melting pot of American culture is the reason why he is a fan of the Stars’ push for diverse ownership in the Major Leagues.

“I always tell people everybody’s built differently. Nobody’s the same. So having that diversity is huge because you get to see a little bit of everybody. I think that’s super about what you guys are doing,” said Cardona.