Luongo- The Playoff Beard
Things get hairy at this time of year in the NHL, both figuratively and literally speaking. The post-season is physically and mentally grueling, and Winning the Stanley Cup is as much a testament to sheer endurance as it is to skill, probably more so.
One of the superstitions which take effect in hockey come springtime, and one of the most readily visible signs of the playoff grind, is the Playoff Beard. For those who hold to the tradition, the face goes unshaven until one is eliminated from post-season play. Not unlike the warriors in the current hit TV series Game Of Thrones, who only cut their hair when they lose a fight, a big beard in the playoffs is a sign of victory.
If you’re a hockey fan you’ll notice that in this image is Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, playing in the Stanley Cup Final series starting this week. He may seem a strange choice, as goaltenders are not as much known for the Beard due to the inconvenience of growing one under the mask (though his opponent in the Finals, Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins, has been sporting a fine Playoff Moustache). But this is in fact a primary reason I chose him for the image: a goaltender sporting a huge beard is not something we’re used to seeing, which gives the image more punch and highlights the weirdness of this ritual. Also, Roberto was quoted saying that with his Italian genes it would be a dangerous affair to let his facial hair grow unchecked, I thought this was pretty funny and couldn’t resist letting my imagination run with it.
Luongo is, in my opinion, under more pressure than any other player in the post-season. His performance has been under constant scrutiny as the team’s highest-paid player and after some bad breakdowns in past post-seasons. The burden of overcoming the team’s past failures seems at time to be squarely on his shoulders. This year he has carried that burden brilliantly and has come through for the Canucks so far. Luongo’s beard in this image, along with the black eye and bandage, are symbols of all he and the Canucks have been through so far and will have to go through in the coming weeks in order to win the team’s first Stanley Cup.
As I worked on this image and added the swollen eye to the picture, the news leaked that star centerman Manny Malhotra, sidelined for much of the season with a brutal injury to the left eye, is making a near-miraculous recovery and may in fact play in the Final series. I’ll be taking this little coincidence as a good sign for the Canucks.
If my previous Canucks portrait ‘The Twins’ can be considered a sort of good-luck charm for the Sedin twins’ scoring production, this piece is a similar kind of invocation: for determination, focus and solidity between the pipes for Bobby Lou. And we’ll throw a little of that good voodoo in for Manny as well.
Inking in progress, before the decision to add the swollen left eye.
Flat color areas dropped in under the ink drawing in Photoshop. The color choice is nearly random, the purpose of this stage being to establish the separate color areas. I choose colors in high contrast to adjacent colors in order to facilitate selecting and adjusting individual color areas with the Wand tool.