It was Aug. 7, 2016, and the Seattle Sounders were fighting their way out of their now-famous mid-season doldrums, still below the red line separating playoff hopefuls from the rest. Sounders fan Emily Cummings, a 34-year-old print-maker and artist (who works for a local tech giant as her day job), had gathered with friends for brunch and a viewing of Seattle's away game at Orlando City. She decided to bring a watercolors set, and as they were settling in to watch the match, she asked her friends, “Wanna do a craft with me?”
That’s how Cummings happened upon what has since become a way to artistically express her Seattle fandom and engage with fans on social media. She posted her first watercolor-augmented drawings of Sounders players— after deciding to draw a running Brad Evans, on a whim, with her non-dominant left hand — to her personal Twitter account.
That fateful first watercolor of Brad Evans; illustration by Emily Cummings
After that first brush-in-hand match (which the Sounders won 3-1) and those first Twitter postings, a friend suggested she grab the handle @MLSWatercolors, and brand herself "the MLS Watercolorist." Cummings found the idea hilarious, she says, and immediately did so.
Then she happily fielded requests from friends: “Paint Jordan Morris with unicorns and kittens! Paint Brad Evans and Clint Dempsey with a corgi!” From there, her local and online reputation slowly grew.
Though her follower base is still in the modest triple-digit range, several of their drawings have found their way across the MLS internet, including a hilarious depiction of Ozzie Alonso riding a honey badger, wildly flinging yellow cards.
Ozzie on a honey badger; illustration by Emily Cummings
Stefan Frei happened upon her depiction of him with a dog and retweeted it from his account.
Later, during what would become a magical season for Sounders fans, editors at the SB Nation blog Sounder At Heart contacted her and asked her to become a guest contributor. She happily agreed, and her contributions this season have included a 12-panel review of the Sounders’ season, pairing individual watercolor snapshots of the season to lines from the song "My Shot," from the musical Hamilton.
“I’m a big fan of Hamilton,” she says, “and ‘My Shot' had a hype message which fit how I felt about the Sounders. It was a way for me to channel that.” She notes that while she detailed key points of the season, like longtime coach Sigi Schmid’s surprise exit and Nicolas Lodeiro’s midseason arrival, she left the last panel untouched until after the MLS Cup. “I didn’t pre-draw that. I didn’t want to jinx anything.”
Nicolas Lodeiro's arrival; illustration by Emily Cummings
The fateful panel from her Sounders season-in-review project; illustration by Emily Cummings
She’s since modified her approach from using actual watercolors to drawing on an iPad, in part because, she says, she “can post without having to wait for it to dry.” But though the medium has changed, she still brings a sometime-absurd, mostly whimsical sensibility to her art.
While Cummings is still celebrating her team lifting the Cup, she's also eager for the new season to start. And inspired in part by @BadMLSComics founder Paulie Forrester (whose work she admires), she plans to branch out beyond Seattle in 2017 to capture more of the league’s narratives. But fans can still expect lots of Rave Green; her first MLS love remains the Sounders, for whom she fell several months after moving to Seattle from L.A.
“There’s so much electricity in the stadium,” she says of home matches at CenturyLink. “Between the supporters’ groups, and the other fans there who pick up on that, it’s palpable. I remember being at one of those first games, in the 300 section behind the Emerald City Supporters, with the flags and the drums going, and thinking, ‘Yep, you’re all going to be my new best friends.’”