Rebecca Thomson lives in the Scottish seaside town of Kirkcaldy, near Edinburgh. Not exactly a hockey hotbed — but Thomson has been taking in the game for most of her life.
“My granddad’s a massive ice hockey fan so he’s been watching hockey in Scotland since I was tiny,” said the 22-year-old. “And well before that, when my mom and dad, uh, my mom was tiny. So he’s been watching it forever.
“The older I got, the more I got into watching hockey here. Over time, that developed in to me watching the NHL.”
It was about six years ago when Thomson really took a liking to the NHL, despite having to stay up until the middle of the night to watch games.
“I started drawing hockey players,” said Thomson. “And it was the first time I’d really gotten in to actually drawing portraits. I’d done a lot of art before that, but it was mainly like cartoons and stuff like that.”
Thomson even has an illustration book, but hockey is getting her a lot of attention across the pond.
On the weekend, she posted her most recent work — a portrait of Connor McDavid — on social media and it caught the attention of the Oilers organization itself.
“It felt like the most obvious player to draw — he’s just such an incredible player,” said Thomson, who tries to watch as many Oilers games as she can.
“I try and keep up as much as possible, but it can be a wee bit hard to try keeping up with watching the games over here.
“I do stay up a lot to watch games that start at like (midnight), that means staying up and falling asleep at about 3 a.m.”
The NHL has also tweeted some of her other portraits, such as Toronto Maple Leafs’ star Auston Matthews.
A huge nod of the cap came when Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman bought her drawing of him with the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy last year.
It’s the attention to detail that has people talking about her work. McDavid’s portrait was drawn with colour pencil, and Thomson said she makes every attempt to make her work look like a photograph.
“I think one of the most fun parts for me is trying to get the level of detail,” said Thomson, who uses professional photos of the athletes as inspiration for her work.
“It’s a very long process, but I think it’s worth it for the end result.
“For me it’s just trying to pick up the most tiny little details that people might not notice in the original photo.”
In the portrait of McDavid, she used a craft knife to carve off some of the colour she drew to make his facial hair as fine as possible.
She also worked diligently on the details of the shoulder of his jersey. The entire piece took her just over 60 hours.
“It changes for each one,” said Thomson. “So things like the jersey weren’t too long, but the little dots on the jersey that kind of, make the material look realistic is a time-consuming process — just trying to make each one look 3D.”