Daniel Mazzone

'Hopefully, through my art, I can teach people to ask more questions in everyday life,' says Toronto collage artist Daniel Mazzone. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

He never trained as an artist and didn't intend to make art his career, but Daniel Mazzone's large-scale, vibrant and intricately detailed collages are being commissioned by millionaire collectors, corporations and baseball stars.

In 2011, Toronto-based Mazzone hung his first piece, a portrait of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy, in a restaurant where he had worked. Though it wasn't listed for sale, a passerby saw the artwork through a window and bought it for $14,000.

Daniel Mazzone

(Daniel Mazzone)

Now, his works have grabbed the attention of high-profile patrons, including Blue Jays players Marcus Stroman and Jose Bautista. 

Not long after Bautista's famous bat flip, Mazzone met with the Jays' right fielder, who ended up buying nine of his artworks, including a commissioned portrait of basketball legend Michael Jordan. 

For the star athlete, it was important to meet the local artist behind the work and discover the story behind each thought-provoking piece. 

"These are pieces I can actually talk about to people when they come to my home and explain where they came from and how he goes about his work," Bautista says.

"It definitely makes you think about how you look at things in life — including people — and hopefully we can learn that details are what makes each one of us unique."

Daniel Mazzone Jose Bautista

Blue Jay Jose Bautista commissioned Mazzone, left, to create a collage artwork of Michael Jordan. The baseball star now owns nine Mazzone works, including Katya (at right), which hangs in Bautista's living room and is one of his favourites. (Daniel Mazzone/Instagram/CBC)

Mazzone credits his current success, in part, to his time on the streets as a teenager.

He left home at the age of 15, dropped out of school and was homeless for five years. Though he eventually moved back in with his family, worked his way through university and became a mortgage broker, he found himself wanting more. That's when he began piecing together collages

Daniel Mazzone

(Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

The goal is to make people stop and notice all the small pieces that make up other people's stories. 

"It's not going to be the type of artwork where you go, oh, it's nice," Mazzone says. 

"You're going to want to look at all the little pieces and question — 'Oh, why did he use this and that? — so hopefully, through my art, I can teach people to ask more questions in everyday life."

Daniel Mazzone art

(Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Mazzone creates his large works by cutting and tearing up photos, painted paper and newspaper articles about the subject of the piece.

The work is very personal, Mazzone says. He puts a small piece of himself in each creation, including snippets from his favourite comics, photos of places where he'd like to travel and representations of artists he admires.

Mazzone also draws inspiration from his mother, who is a stained-glass artist. In his artworks, he creates layers using paper and paint with a resin coating, in order to achieve the effect of light passing through it.

"I wanted to make stained glass cool again."

Daniel Mazzone Babe Ruth Art

Bautista first noticed Mazzone's collages when he saw the artist's Babe Ruth portrait on Instagram. (Daniel Mazzone/Instagram)

Bautista has Mazzone's art all over his home: sport-themed pieces in his office and "artsy" pieces in the dining and living rooms. 

Artists and athletes have a lot in common, despite how differently they're perceived, Bautista says.

"I think the dedication, I think the details and the amount of effort and work that the artist or athlete puts into it" is similar, he explains. 

"But I think they're completely different worlds when it comes to how they're looked at, how they're portrayed in the public and how people accept them."

Daniel Mazzone

Mazzone says it takes up to 250 hours to complete one piece and that he's created roughly 150 artworks in the last six years. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)