Artist Frank Mullins has done nine SPORTS ILLUSTRATED covers, and they have had wide scope—from halfback to swimmer, from heavyweight champion to Masters champion. Mullins has played football, is a good swimmer and is an ardent spectator at boxing and golf matches, but as of last January he had never in his life caught a fish, nor had he ever felt at one with the sea. His only seafaring experience had been a free round trip across the Atlantic—on an Army transport during World War II—and it was with some trepidation that he accepted Art Director Dick Gangel's assignment to a week-long expedition to the Bahamas. "The idea sounded fine to me," says Mullins, "but my stomach works on its own frequency. It has long forgotten the screaming shellfire, but it remembers well the misery of our European trip."
Gangel knew of Mullins' squeamish stomach, but he also knew Mullins, who is both red-haired and stubborn. When Mullins pleaded that he knew very little about the sea Gangel simply replied, "I don't like the idea of approaching anything with too many preconceived notions of how to do it." And so Frank Mullins went to sea again. He joined Writer John Underwood in Miami to start the safari to Andros Island (page 80) armed with enough antiseasick pills to silence the stomachs of a Marine regiment, with enough skin ointment to protect an acre of albinos from the sun, with bags of fruit to feed his liver (which was still recovering from hepatitis) and with not a single preconceived notion.
Mullins' large bundle of panaceas worked well. There was little discomfort on Frank's part, and his only regret is that his photographs weren't of higher quality. He uses photographs for some of the detail of his paintings, but he says, "It's impossible for me to adhere to what the picture tells me. It never tells enough. When I get back home after an assignment it's an awakening. Things come to me that I wasn't aware of on the scene."
Mullins calls himself a late developer as an artist. He was 24 before he decided that he wanted to paint. Until that time he had hoped to make a career of football. "The war," he says, "kind of shocked me out of big football ambitions." He returned to his home in Springfield, Mass. and enrolled at American International College, where he played football for fun, then transferred to an art school in New Haven, Conn. and from there to Pratt Institute in New York. Even so, he says he still has the urge to suit up when he is on assignments for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and visits the dressing rooms of football teams.
Now 42, Mullins gets most of his exercise working around his home in Ridgefield, Conn., where he is impatiently waiting for his son, Christopher, 3, to get old enough to throw a football, and for his daughter Patricia, 8 months, to get old enough to hold a crayon without eating it.