Dustin Watson doesn’t subscribe to the theory that talking about a streak will end it, at least not with the run he’s currently on.

Members of the Suns might feel otherwise once they hear the details of Watson’s impact on the outcome of their games – athletes are a superstitious bunch, you know – but the illustrator has full confidence in the ability his Free Throw covers have had recently.
The threat that a little superstition poses doesn’t affect his confidence in the least.

“I do not think talking about this will affect the streak at all,” he said. “I think it’s a solid streak.”

Now that his favorite team has won 11 in a row when his original artwork graces the cover of the team’s in-game program, Watson is hoping his work will propel the Suns to one more win – his latest Free Throw cover will be on display during Saturday’s game against Denver – and maybe even a playoff appearance.

The victories started piling up after his first cover, an Amar’e Stoudemire piece that was printed on March 2, 2007, for a Suns-Pacers matchup.

“I’ve been drawing and doodling my entire life,” Watson said. “I went into college for graphic design, and that’s when I did my first cover.
“It’s great because I can do something that that involves my love of sports, and that has driven most of my illustrations.”

Watson plays with coloring and uses some effects to a lot of illustrations, which usually focus in tight on a player’s face, and he has an uncanny attention to detail when he portrays a subject.

Just this season, he has provided a stoic Steve Nash and a smiling Grant Hill – well, at least half of Hill’s face – for the January 6 and February 19 editions of Free Throw respectively. Jared Dudley made an appearance on April 1, and a determined look on the guard’s face was enhanced by a grainy effect that Watson specifically had in mind for the way Dudley has been playing.

“It’s only fitting that an illustration of Dudley be a little gritty,” Watson said on his website.

In fact, his personal site (dustinpwatson.wordpress.com) features all of his illustrations, including recent ones he did on Suns rookie Markieff Morris and center Marcin Gortat.

Perhaps the most impressive collection that Watson has completed, however, is his “Face the NBA” project, in which he created an illustration of one player per day over the course of a month. The 30 images, one per NBA team, were also combined into a poster.

The passion he shows for the artwork is obvious; the success the Suns have on nights when Watson has the cover of Free Throw is just icing on the cake.

This season, Waston thought the winning streak was in trouble right out of the gate. The Portland Trail Blazers started off the 2011-12 campaign winners of five of their first six games, including wins over Western Conference frontrunners like Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Lakers.

But the illustrator struck again in convincing fashion, as the Suns trumped Portland, 102-77, on Jan. 6. The next biggest threat, the Lakers, fell victim to the streak, as well.

Perhaps Watson’s winning ways will serve the Suns well, as the team tries to build upon its remarkable second-half run toward the playoffs.
For Watson, the streak just serves as an interesting and fun feat intertwined with his two favorite hobbies: drawing and Phoenix Suns basketball.

Check out all the covers of Free Throw from this season here.

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