Sunday, July 3, 2011

Creator of Canucks logo returns to his hockey roots

A stylized heraldic lion is the logo for the new Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey League. It was designed by the same artist who gave the Vancouver Canucks their breaching orca.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
July 4, 2011


After the owners settled on calling their hockey club the Victoria Royals, the artist Brent Lynch went to work.

“Once you’ve got a name,” he said, “you’ve got to come up with an image.”

Royals is a good match for a city named after a monarch. But how to capture the sentiment in a single, punchy image?

A crown? Too obvious.

Queen Victoria wielding a hockey stick? Too cartoony.

The commission to create a Royals logo for the team’s upcoming debut season marked a rare return to the graphic arts. The 57-year-old artist is more of a painter these days, having moved to Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island three years ago. His works are sold in galleries throughout British Columbia and as far afield as San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. Though he has been widely exhibited, he is not best known for his landscape oils.

Everyone knows his work, though no one knows his name.

His artwork has been likely worn by more people in more places than any other in the province.

It is popular with students and retirees, businesspeople and homemakers.

Brent Lynch
You can find it in baby cribs and gangsta cribs.

Judging by recent unsavory events on Vancouver streets, even yahoos and yokels like it.

Before dedicating himself to painting, Mr. Lynch had a long career as a graphic designer. Among his clients was a certain hockey team for whom he developed an image that was ubiquitous last month.

The breaching orca representing the Vancouver Canucks? That’s the handiwork of Mr. Lynch’s fertile mind.

Logos, he said, are “the ultimate popular art.”

The logo was released 14 years ago, following the team’s original stick-in-rink design (now used as a pleasing shoulder flash) and the uninspiring downward skate. In beating out four competitors, Mr. Lynch settled on the orca, a creature that was “top of the food chain, dominant, and unique to the West Coast.”

The letter C from which it breaches was selected to give the Canucks’ sweater a classic look, as though it was an Original Six team.

The artist also prepared a lumberjack image of a bearded Johnny Canuck character, but the ownership at the time did not care for it.

He has been doodling for as long as he can remember. Family lore has the boy scrawling on floors and bedroom walls as a toddler, once even using as a canvas his baby brother’s bald head. His mother was an artist and his father owned a grocery in Ladner, where he held Hawaiian Days and Cowboy Days sales, the colourful graphics associated with the events inspiring a boy who liked to draw.

In school, Brent cartooned when he should have been listening, his caricatures earning him the admiration of his classmates if not of his subjects.

“A classic Canadian kid,” he said. “Drawing teachers and getting in trouble.”

He attended art school in Vancouver and London, England, before getting a job as an illustrator with the Vancouver Sun, whose editorial cartoonists at the time were Roy Peterson and the peerless Len Norris. Mr. Lynch soon after left to form his own eponymous design firm.

He has designed album covers and advertising campaigns, opera broadsides and sporting posters, beer labels and corporate logos.

One of his more familiar non-sports logos is for the Bread Garden, featuring a baker with fresh bread at the end of a long oven peel. In 2003, he redesigned the White Spot logo, dropping the familiar chicken with a fork and spoon for a circular image containing the words “legendary restaurant.”

For the Royals, he created an heraldic lion. The beast is rampant (rearing on hind legs) and langued (exposing tongue). The beast holds an upside-down hockey stick where tradition might dictate a flagpole.

“I tried to keep it pure and simple,” the artist said. “Lions represent good things like strength, courage and loyalty.”

Sometimes, Mr. Lynch finds a home even for rejected work.

The Johnny Canuck character he designed for the Canucks ended up as the image for the Vancouver Giants junior hockey team. It features a Paul Bunyonesque character carrying a hockey stick, instead of an ax, over his shoulder.

By coincidence, the Giants will travel to Victoria for the Royals’ inaugural Western Hockey League game on Sept. 24. All the skaters will be wearing Lynch logos.

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