Interview with Rob MacDougall

A candid conversation with sports artist Rob MacDougall about sports, art and life and his words, “the things that make me tick and the things that make me talk.”

Robert Langley sat down with MacDougall at Rob’s studio in Oakville Ontario however confesses that the interview has been brewing and was born over 10 years ago on the night they met in a former studio of Rob's. Langley recalls, “Rob painted and I sat there and watched and his painting was the backdrop to a conversation that has really never ended. It led to us coaching together and most importantly to a close friendship that has lasted 10 years.”

“What’s cool about Rob is that you never have to guess about who he is. There is no public vs. private persona. Rob is transparent.” says Langley. “When you meet him, you always know where you stand. There is no pretense. He does many, many things and does them all well. But what Rob does best is just be himself.”

But what few people really understand is how much Rob MacDougall has given of himself to others. So much is behind the scenes and Rob prefers it that way. But trust me when I tell you that there are few people who take action as quickly and as willingly as Rob MacDougall when there is need from a friend or a cause that is worthy.

About Art

Langley: When did you discover you had talent?

MacDougall: I don’t know that there is a “eureka” moment when you say I am talented. I mean, there was a time when the only art I knew was “Art the Barber” between Perdue High School on Rebecca Street and Kerr Street, but I think there are these hints and clues along the way.

Langley: What were those hints and clues for you?

MacDougall: In public school. You know you have something going when all of your buddies want you to draw our grade 2 teacher, Miss Proux, naked. Another came when I sold my very first painting. It was to a teacher named Vern Lucyk. He liked a painting I did which was sports related. I think I made a whole $20…but that convinced me that art was just “way” too easy to make a buck for not even breaking a sweat. So you know there are these moments that grab your attention and make you take notice to a gift you might possess.

The truth is that in my world art came to me naturally, but I identified early on more as an athlete and sports fan than an artist and I didn’t make my desire to be an artist too public in high school. It was a secret of mine, because an artist was considered "flaky", I was a sports guy.

Langley: Is it true that you failed grade 12 Art. How did that happen?

MacDougall: It is true. Apparently for being lazy. Not that I couldn’t draw or paint worth a lick. Just thought I was too far advanced for Mrs. Boyer and the horse shit she used to make us do. In retrospect, I learned a lot from that setback. It fueled the fire later on in life because at some point I truly recognized my abilities and committed to them. Sticking to it when others doubt you is a big part of success.

Langley: When did you really decide that you were going to be an artist?

MacDougall: Well I lived off the land and also a couple of living room floors before I made my big decision to actually be an artist. However the day I decided to become an artist was the day I found my whole purpose of being. I was now retired no matter what happened from that point on. It led me to the Ontario College of Art.

Langley: What was your time like at OCA

MacDougall: I decided that my 8 years at high school was enough to prepare me for the world but I wasn’t going to go to college or university until I truly knew what I was going to do and could commit to it with everything I had, and it was a good thing too because the Ontario College of Art was a revelation. I discovered that I was a 2 out of 10 when it came to artistic proficiency amongst my peers. If this was going to be my life’s passion, then I had better get my shit together…I made a pact with myself and devoted the next 4 years to being the best I could be.

Langley: Did you fulfill that pact?

MacDougall: I think I did. I graduated with honors and also walked away with the PFD Award for art direction. It was an award that came with a job. I went to the job interview but in the end I decided it wasn’t for me.

Langley: Why was that?

MacDougall: They figured that creative advertising and commercials was where I should be devoting my time but I enjoyed painting and drawing more. Plus I didn’t want to start off making $13,000 dollars a year when I was already pulling down an average of $ 3,000 per month doing advertising commissions while going to school. In the end I followed my own path.

Langley: Which was?

MacDougall: Hitting the pavement on a regular regimen visiting art directors on a weekly basis. I embarked into very exciting world. My goal was not to set the world on fire but just to keep my ass warm. In the end I discovered my best breaks were from fellow graduates…which means it’s not always what you know but who you know.

Langley: Tell me about your relationship with Don Cherry?

MacDougall: I graduated from Ontario College of Art in 1985. I embarked on my career trying to tie into things that I could relate to. I love sports and sports art seemed to follow me around. One day I had heard on the radio that Don Cherry was in the midst of creating a book about his life. I immediately sought him out in hopes of possibly illustrating his book cover. I sourced out a fellow by the name of Gerry Patterson who was representing Don. I met Gerry and left him some samples of my art. That night when I came home I listened to my messages on my machine and low and behold was that familiar voice I had come to know from Coach's Corner. "Hello, Rob...This is Don Cherry here. Love your work. I want to set up a time for us to meet". Well, I felt euphoria! Wow, Don Cherry called me. I met with Don and Gerry. Don told me he didn't know where I had heard about this so called book that he was going to write but he had another idea. Don had a T.V. show called The Grapevine featuring NHL hockey people that he would interview in a bar setting. Gerry suggested that I do caricatures of the guests on the show and then present them to the guests at the end. At that time I wasn't big on doing sit down caricatures like those street buskers. What I agreed to do was full colour caricatures of each guest that would be used as floaters when the show went to a commercial. I was told that I would get tremendous exposure but little money for the gig. I was going to get $35 a caricature. Hell, I was now getting exposure on a show I knew every hockey fan watched. I agreed.
I did caricatures of guys like Dale Hawerchuck, King Clancy, Ron Duguay, Chris Nilan and Walter Gretzky. I remember getting a call from Walter Gretzky because he liked my caricature of Wayne in his Oiler uni sitting on Walter's lap taking instructions. I told him that I would give him the original if he would give me a tour of his house in Brantford. I had heard many great stories of the Gretzky home that I thought it would be like going to a museum. I remember arriving on Ash Wednesday, the day lent begins. Walter had gone cold turkey that day on cigarettes. When I met him he had the shakes. His wife was a smoker so that wasn't helping matters. The tour was great. I was caught off guard in the basement when I saw all his NHL miniature awards were on the floor in the laundry room. Weird to see the Art Ross peeking out from under a pair of dirty socks. Wayne bought his dad a huge television screen similar to the old movie screen with the ceiling lights shooting on the screen. There was a satellite dish that looked like something you would find at NASA in Houston. Water was able to pick up all of Wayne's games on the road and in Edmonton. Walter presented me with a Wayne Gretzky autographed Titan that wasn't game used but pretty sweet none the less. I still have that stick but the autograph has faded to the point where I may need to hunt down Wayne again. Other moments on the show that come to mind was the day I showed up to the taping and Grapes came up to me and asked me to stand at the bar and wave to the fans when I he introduced me. I stood up at the bar and sure enough I was introduced to the people at the taping and of course on television. That was pretty cool. Well, that night we were doing a double tape. There was another guest for the second taping who happened to be Red Story. Grapes came up to me and asked me to be at the bar again. I said sure. Gerry Patterson then came up to me and told me that under no circumstance was I allowed to talk on the show. I agreed because why the hell would I be talking in the first place. Don then told me that if I said anything the show would have to pay me...and that they were on a very tight budget. The show starts and Don once again points me out at the bar and I give a wave. Next thing you know Don has Red Story at the bar and they are both conversing while I am leaning on the bar drinking fake beer. Grapes then asks me a question...I look at Grapes dumbfounded and quickly responded..."You do realize this answer is gonna cost you...?” Well that show got aired ...and I never got compensated but what the was a lot of fun. I did many projects with Don. I would be called up by Rose his wife and told to come to the house and sit in the kitchen with Grapes and brainstorm. I designed the logo for his bar. I designed t-shirts. I wound up illustrating 3 Rock'em Sock'em covers for his tapes. I met many influential people in sports. I was never too shy to pick up the phone and call athletes or agents to do commissions for and with them…I learned that it’s best to call to the top and then work your way down. It’s much more efficient that way and also in time management.

Langley: Tell me about the Hockey News.

MacDougall: I started working for the Hockey News as their on-call illustrator doing assignments for Bob Mackenzie, now TSN hockey analyst.

Langley: And the Toronto Sun.

MacDougall: I was then hired by the Toronto Sun. I worked under Sports Editor, Scott Morrison. He was the best boss because he never told me what to do until I stepped out of line. He went on to become the next sports guru on Sportsnet.

Langley: What’s been your strangest assignment?

MacDougall: I’ve had some crazy assignments, but some fun ones too. I did a painting for Geddy Lee from Rush for Alex Lifeson’s 40th birthday years ago. That was fun to meet them. Big baseball and hockey fans as well.

Langley: Why sports art?

MacDougall: Well you paint best what you know best. For me that was sports. I loved sports and it had been a part of my life ever since I can remember. I just naturally gravitated towards it. My youth was spent playing road hockey where the only way you could tell the time was when Mrs. Atwater would ring the cow bell from her back veranda on Sheldon Drive to let everyone know its lunch time…and when Mr. Klein’s security whistle was blown from the front porch on Tansley Drive meant it was time to get home for dinner.

On Saturday nights the Getty family across the road from my home would deliberately leave the drapes partially open so that the lads and I could watch the Leafs and Canadiens play on a color T.V. The Getty’s were the first to have this new gadget. I was always amazed at how fast Montreal was on that T.V. because they would leave a red blur behind them as they skated across the screen.

Langley: I can’t help wonder if it goes deeper than that. I read somewhere that you said that you felt a ‘calling’ for sports painting, capturing the spirit of an athlete doing what he or she loves to do well. Where did you believe that calling came from and why is that important?

MacDougall: My love for sport and athletics started it. Sports have always struck me as magical. There is something within sports that captures us, and at the very centre of sports are the athletes themselves. Like any great story at the heart are authentic and compelling characters. Myself, I am particularly fascinated with the energetic drive and aura of athletes...but I think the calling part of it comes from knowing that the combination of my own sports background with the artistic talent I possessed uniquely qualified me to not just paint but to authentically capture the spirit of an athlete doing what he loves to do. I think that only someone who has experienced athletic competition from the trenches can bring that to the viewer. As a coach and an artist I know what to look for in an athlete. I look for something authentic and unique. Something that only this player uniquely possesses and I try to bring that to the surface. I would hope that these qualities come through in my paintings and I hope that they are able to feed the aspirations of young athletes and remind some of the old ones of the legends they grew up watching and admiring.

Langley: And its importance?

MacDougall: It’s important because sports are important. I think sports fans have deep connections with their sports heroes. What young boy hasn’t played road hockey pretending he is his idol? When you are dealing with someone’s hero you have to get it right. Fans buy their favourite players jersey and wear it whenever they watch their team play. I think it starts there.

Langley: You have been commissioned to paint many commemorative paintings of some of sports greatest legends. What makes a commemorative painting so special?

MacDougall: There is a celebration of someone’s life or accomplishments going on. There is meaning behind the art. It serves a purpose. When an amateur or professional organization commissions an artist like me to paint a commemorative, it is to honour and celebrate the memories, contributions and historic moments that athlete has made in a manner that matches their contribution. I like to think that the personalities and efforts and accomplishments of any athlete are one-of-a-kind and therefore they should be honoured with a one-of-a-kind. I think people get that. Commemorative art is a unique and novel way to both celebrate and honour our sports heroes and revisit experiences that have had great meaning in our lives.

Langley: Do you have a favourite painting that you have done?

MacDougall: The next one. My favourite is always the next one.

Langley: How is that?

MacDougall: Well, when I look back at all of my work from the beginning I can see a progression of sorts. I look back at some of my work and even though others may like it I might be so-so on it. But over time I do see a progression and I believe that my best work is still in me and ahead of me. So my favorite is my next one.

Langley: Is there somebody that you would like to do a painting of and haven’t?

MacDougall: Ya, there are a couple. I used to do paintings for the Conn Smythe Celebrity dinner in Toronto. This one year I had contacted Muhammad Ali in Kentucky and worked out a deal to do a painting of him fighting George Chuvalo as a commemorative from 1966 when they fought in Toronto. I thought it would be a great painting. I got the agreement from Chuvalo and Ali to sign 100 prints for the dinner, but unfortunately George Chuvalo’s son had passed away and within a week George’s wife had decided she didn’t want to live anymore. So, after that happened, that deal was off. I’ve always thought about resurrecting that again, but who knows?

I’d also love to do my own version of the ’72 Paul Henderson goal. You know. In life there are what I call “eureka” moments: 911, the JFK assassination, FLQ crisis, Bobby Kennedy assassination, the day Elvis died. For Canadians, whether they were avid hockey fans or not the ’72 Paul Henderson goal was such a moment and I would like to paint it. I have an idea for how I would like to do it. I can’t tell people what it is. But I have an idea. Let’s just say it won’t be surreal it will be “my real.”

Langley: Have you ever painted one of your former players?

MacDougall: Yes, I recently did a painting for John Tavares.

Langley: In your mind what are the qualities that make a great painting?

MacDougall: One you want to keep coming back to look at. There is a Rockwell painting that does that for me. No matter how many times I look at it I find myself going back to it and finding something in it I had entirely missed before.

Langley: Which one of yours do you think most has that quality?

MacDougall: I don’t know. You got me on that one. I really don’t know. Like I said, for me in my own work I am trying not to look backward at all but to look forward. I want to create my best work in the future and that is what seems to be the idea or thought that I am continuing to come back to at the moment. For me it’s that idea, not a painting that I continue to come back to.

Langley: What would you like someone else to say about your work?

MacDougall: I don’t think like that. If you like my work, thank you. I have come to the realization that you can’t please everybody.

Langley: How do you define your personal style?

MacDougall: It really depends. I have painted both realism and caricatures. The caricatures reveal something distinct in my style and personality. I like to exaggerate personality traits to bring attention to the viewer or to magnify what I think makes this athlete who and what they are. In that way I think my style is provocative.

Langley: I know that one of the things you do is illustration; I looked up the definition of illustrator. It says to clarify or to explain. What is it that you try to clarify or explain or make clear in your paintings?

MacDougall: I think a couple of things. First, I am trying to capture the essence of the person. Everybody has something about them that makes them unique and distinguishes them from everybody else. Call it character or aura or essence. But it’s there and it’s in each of us. I believe all of us are one-of-a-kind. Second, I try to show that person doing what they love to do.  When I am finished a painting I hope those truths are made clear.

Langley: What themes or patterns do you think have revealed themselves in your work over the years?

MacDougall: Athletes doing what they love, following their God given talent is the theme and the message that runs through my art over the last 25 years.

I also think there is a strong Canadian theme that runs through my art. I paint Canadian hockey and lacrosse athletes and I use Canadian maple leaves in some of my art. I have used real maple leaves as backgrounds in art pieces of hockey players, lacrosse players and awards. My next venture is called True Canuck. There is just something in me that wants to promote Canadiana, the values and what is best about being Canadian. I want to create work that is Canadian and I want the product to be made by Canadians.

Langley: What do you think your artwork reflects?

MacDougall: I would like to think it reflects my belief that we should all pursue in our life what we love. For me that is art and sports and I hope that my art reflects that reality.

Langley: What do you like best about what you do?

MacDougall: Art has provided me a venue to making a living doing what I love using the talents and abilities God gave me. Whenever I am asked to speak to young people I always encourage students to follow their God-given talent, have fun with what they're doing and to stick to it.

Langley: If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

MacDougall: A coach.

Langley: Where did things begin to take off for you?

MacDougall: I hit some real homeruns in the art world especially when the Blue Jays were winning the hardware. I did quite a few successful prints that put my name out there. I was also making a good name for myself in the advertising industry.

Langley: Is there another artist who you admire or you think has influenced your work?

MacDougall: That would have to be Sebastian Kruger because he sees the world in such a way that I don’t. I like to stay open to new ways of viewing and doing things, and Sebastian definitely makes me look at things differently. I try to do that in my own work to help people see things differently, or to notice a certain quality of characteristic in an athlete through exaggeration or distortion to bring a characteristic to their attention.

Langley: An artist always puts a little piece of himself in every painting. What little piece of Rob MacDougall finds its way into your paintings?

MacDougall: Hmm. In the commemoratives I think you will see the piece of Rob MacDougall that simply loves sports and athletes and what they stand for. But for those who know me well they will recognize that part of me that has my own slant on things and likes to poke fun and sees the absurdities of life. As I have said I like to exaggerate and distort, to emphasize and bring to the surface the less obvious and if I can make someone giggle along the way, well that’s a home run.

A lifelong junkie of all things quirky, whimsical and eccentric I’ve a storehouse of associations vying for expression. I work in bemused contemplation of the battle between reverence and irreverence which occurs in every piece.

In sports art and in life there is a secret to ultimate success. Love what you do. It is that secret that is the hidden message embedded in my art and that I try to express each day of my life. For me painting is a passion, a job and a hobby.

Langley: Take us through the process of doing a commemorative painting. For starters, where does the initial inspiration come from?

MacDougall: I am drawn by what is going on in life and what people are drawn to and try to give fire to that. When the Blue Jays were winning the World Series there was such energy around it and to capture that energy and bring it to life in art was fun. It’s true of all my work in that regard. Ultimately it is the athlete’s life, their story that is the real inspiration. I try to learn as much as I can about that athlete and to research them before I ever pull up to the easel.

Langley: What is the process you use in developing your painting?

MacDougall: In many ways I am Fred Flintstone in the world of the Jetsons. As an artist and illustrator I am still a purist. I draw and paint; there are no computer assisted enhancements in any of my work. I paint from memory, from photographs and sometimes from video. I start with a foundation drawing, strong design layered images, storytelling montages that either tell the story of a single moment in time or capture an athlete’s essence at different times of their career. Most of my art tends to include a profile of the athletes face up close and personal. It represents the man. The second feature is the man in motion. Doing what he loves to do, playing the game he loves to play. Then it’s a process of layering in colour and taking out colour to reveal highlights.  When people see some of how it happens it freaks them out a little. 

Langley: What technique do you use that is unique or original?

MacDougall: Well, I do this thing I call “Max Media” as opposed to mixed media. Oil and water aren’t supposed to mix but I’ve proven you can do it.

Langley: When are you satisfied that a piece has turned out really well?

MacDougall: When I start a painting I usually have a vision of what I think it should look like. There are a lot of windy roads on the way towards that vision. There are moments when I am terrified to proceed for fear I am going to fuck it up. But I have to jump into it. There are other moments when I get into a flow and follow it and ride it out. But there does come a time that there is something authentic about the content and the way it is presented and what was in my mind’s eye has found its way through my hand onto the canvas. When I know that whatever was in me emotionally has been laid on the canvas. I always know because it’s at those points that I am able to put my signature on it. That is the moment when I am content with what I see.

Langley: What was your most fulfilling project or painting to do and why?

MacDougall: Of my children, for obvious reasons.

Langley: It appears that so many of your paintings have been commemoratives and have been vehicles by which to raise funds for worthy causes?

MacDougall: Ya. It’s true. Somewhere along the line a few people discovered that doing commemoratives and auctioning them was not only a cool way to commemorate and honor an athlete but could also serve as a vehicle to raise funds for a worthy cause. I really started to involve myself in charity work, particularly Easter Seals. I liked the lime light; I particularly liked the fact that my work was making a difference in someone’s life. I liked it as it gave the art a higher purpose and it was fulfilling to know that my art could make a difference. It’s been a real pleasure and honour to be associated with such charitable organizations.

About Coaching

Most people know you as Rob MacDougall the sports artist. Perhaps fewer know of your involvement in the sports scene both as a coach, a promoter and a builder of sports at so many levels, specifically in Lacrosse. Think Rock, Buzz, Edge, and Bardown. In the segment I would like to explore that part more.

Langley: When did you first get involved in coaching lacrosse and how did it happen?

MacDougall: Well I played both hockey and lacrosse from the time I was around 7 years old to my mid 20’s ...and on and off ever since. I suppose I got into coaching both, like so many fathers do, to support my own kids dreams.

When Dylan was old enough to play organized hockey and lacrosse, I made a commitment to not only make sure he could be the best he could be but also every player around him. I spent 9 seasons with pretty much the same boys in lacrosse which resulted in 2 Ontario Provincial Championships. I have to say that coaching is the most enjoyable and rewarding experience I have ever had. I now have 16 children besides my own.

In 2002 was an incredibly eventful year. Dylan was given a dream opportunity to attend a Prep school in the USA so that he could pursue his passion of lacrosse and hockey. The school covered 95% of his education cost. I didn’t feel I was losing a son. I felt that Dylan was being taken under the wing of our brothers south of us. Today, I think it was one of the best decisions I have ever made since being on this planet.

Langley: How many players have you coached that have gone onto professional careers?

MacDougall: Currently there are 5 players in the National Lacrosse League that I personally coached: Dan Dawson, Chris Corbeil, Dan MacRae, Jordan MacIntosh and Scotty Johnston.

In the N.H.L. there are: John Tavares of the New York Islanders and Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets. There are currently 4-6 others still pursuing their NHL dreams in the AHL and ECHL.

Langley: Your own son Dylan was a pretty good Lacrosse player. I assume he has finished playing lacrosse. So I guess you are now officially a non-parent coach. Given the commitment required, why do you still do it after so many years?

MacDougall: Lacrosse is a character builder, it teaches courage and sacrifice and teamwork. It’s food for life; everything you need to survive on this planet.

Langley: You have co-founded several Lacrosse clubs both professional and amateur. One of those was Toronto Rock. Tell us the back story.

MacDougall: Well, iIn 1999 I get a call from my buddy Bob McKenzie, who is at TSN and was one of my first employers when I graduated from O.C.A., telling me that the Ontario Raiders of the National Lacrosse League had just folded its franchise which played for 2 years out of Copps Coliseum in Hamilton. He then told me there was a group in Toronto headed up by Bill Watters, General Manager of Toronto Maple Leafs, who were attempting to purchase the team and move it to Maple Leaf Gardens. They were looking for a guy who was a risk taker who was creative and could execute big picture. Bob told me he recommended that Bill and I meet. I thought for about a second and said, “I'm in!” I got a call from Mr. Watters shortly after and was asked to attend a meeting. The ownership was going to be comprised of 25 shareholders. Some of those shares would also be considered money put in as sweat equity. That was my in. I was going to be a little bit of everything that the group would need. I was to design the team logo and uniforms. I would pool all my sources and arrange all the equipment and sticks be provided through channels of contra and promotion so it didn't come from the team's pocket. I would approach my editor at the Toronto Sun and see if the paper would promote the team in that paper for one share in the team.

I had a couple of days to play with the logo. I knew that music was a must in this logo. I also felt we needed a Toronto landmark in the design to give it distinction. I was also big on metallics in my logo. I just thought it gave things that extra punch. It looked more expensive. My tendency to design toward the whimsical got me taking the CN Tower and turning it into a rock ‘n’ roller turning it into a funky bending character with a lacrosse stick in its hands. The stick was signifying a guitar as opposed to its real purpose. I put in a maple leaf in the background and the ROCK type looked metallic. I presented the logo to the group. The first reaction was very receptive but Bill Watters immediately said that there may be a problem using the CN Tower in our logo. That was a gut dropper for me. He made a couple of calls and found his way to the top man at the Tower. Bill did the pitch on the phone and within minutes we had the green light to move forward. I then started to finalize the art. I got the logo done. My colours were Navy Blue, Red, Orange and metallic silver...oh and a tad of metallic gold in the name Toronto for corporate logo.

I was told by an old Lacrosse Hall of Famer named Ron Groucho MacNeill that the best jerseys he ever played in were jerseys that were all one colour, especially when branding it. The trend in 1999 was sublimations which meant you could print patterns all over the jersey and make them look so busy you don't even know what number the guy was wearing. I got the board to agree to follow my theme and keep the jerseys KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). I went sold navy and solid white. Once we had the jerseys completed we did our press conference to introduce our new franchise to the City of Toronto.

Opening night was pretty amazing. I got to MLG in the morning watching the carpet go down over the ice. I remember going on to the floor by myself with my lacrosse stick and firing the ball against the boards. I looked up to the rafters and got this really cool willy's kind of feeling that I was in some type of a temple. This was a very special moment for me. I walked over to the exact spot where Bill Barilko scored that winning goal in OT in 1951. That night the Buffalo Bandits were our guests. I remember sitting there in the stands during the national anthem. I could literally count the fans in attendance. My thoughts of Led Zep were creeping in. I thought this could be the biggest bust in TO history. Once the game got under way, Johnny got us to go around the outside of MLG and just invite people off the street to walk in and watch for free...that's how bad it got. All I can say is that by half time we seemed to find 10,000 people to have a gander. The second half was a real nail biter. At the end of the game you would have thought that there was a WWF style of staging going on because the Bandits went ape shit on the Rock players. There were scraps on the floor and the benches. Some fans got into it too. Bandit players were climbing over the glass to get at those particular non-paying customers. It was actually the best thing that could have happened. The people that showed up for that game became our core fan base from that point on. One interesting note that was made to us by a Molson rep who supplied the Gardens with beer; there was more beer consumed at one Toronto Rock game then a Leaf game, Raptor game, Blue Jay game and Argo game altogether. We made the championship game and because we finished first over all, we got home floor advantage. We won the game 13-100 against Rochester Knight Hawks in front of a capacity crowd. That was so cool to sit in that old museum looking around at all the chaos and happiness knowing that I was part of something that special.

About Art and Coaching

In the first segment of this interview we discussed art; in the second segment we discussed coaching. In our final segment I would like to discuss where these two worlds converge for you.

Langley: Why do art and sport matter? In general how have both enriched your life?

MacDougall: I think sport is art. For those who know me best they know that I do not go to the artsy fartsy place too often with my thinking. I can only answer why art and sport matter to me. They are both things I love to do. So many people wait their whole life to do what they truly want to do and I have been doing that my whole life. They matter to me because I love them.

Langley: What qualities skills and talents are required to succeed as both a coach and an artist?

MacDougall: Attention to detail the ability to jump all in at points that scare you the most and struggle through.

Langley: How has art made you a better coach?

MacDougall: To be a good artist you have to pay attention to the details. It’s all about the details Taking the time to do it right. I think to be a good coach you need to have that same skill and art has taught me that.

Langley: How has coaching made you a better artist?

MacDougall: When you are coaching a team and a player you start off with something fundamental and keep building upon it. Each player and season has a potential in it you are trying to manifest. The same is true in art. In art I start off with an initial sketch and then I strategically put paint on it. I continue a process of taking something foundational and keep building on that. Coaching has taught me that and it is reinforced every time I sit down to paint.

Langley: You recently went on what could be called a pilgrimage of sorts; a pilgrimage that seems to reflect your own world of sport and art. You went to New York to see the play about Vince Lombardi’s life, and you also went to the Normal Rockwell museum. Can you tell us what prompted that journey?

MacDougall: It was my birthday and since I turned 50 I treat all them like they are going to be my last and so decided that I want to celebrate by doing something memorable. I’ve always been a real fan and study of sport and what motivates people. Lombardi was interesting to me for his ability to get the most out of people so I decided to go to New York and see the play.

Rockwell I discovered by coincidence. The town where Rockwell lived is about 15 minutes from where my son was going to school and so when I went to visit my son I decided to go the museum. Both were great experiences.

Langley: What did you come away with from that pilgrimage?

MacDougall: I came away thinking how charismatic Lombardi was and how he put the team before anything else.

Visiting the Rockwell museum I caught the last fifteen seconds of a video that was playing in the basement and Rockwell was saying that he was finally getting it all together. He was 82 at the time and I was there thinking there is still time for me. It inspired me to do my best work in the future.

Langley: Could you see similarities at all between Lombardi as a coach and Rockwell as an artist?

MacDougall: Both were shaping the people around them. Lombardi shaped people into greater men and Rockwell saw the people he lived around and shaped them into an ideal he saw in them.

© 2011 robmacdougall