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The San Antonio Spurs logo was created by the well-known watercolor artist Finis Collins

Finis Collins has made a name for himself in San Antonio with his watercolors. But few know that the 93-year-old artist’s most famous work is available in silver and black.

That’s right: Collins created the famous San Antonio Spurs logo.

Collins’ iconic design has been close to players’ chests and fans’ hearts for nearly 50 years, decorated on jerseys, shirts, and any other licensed or smuggled merchandise you can imagine. And in true Spurs fashion, Collins is proud but humble of his contribution to the team.

“It happened like it was another day at work,” she said. “I didn’t know it was really going to take off. You don’t consider it what I would have been known for.

A Spurs logo with the heel band of a spur for a “U” has been a constant since Spurs debuted in 1973. Even after a new 50th anniversary logo and three new secondary logos were unveiled recently, the team made it clear that its “long-standing primary Spurs logo and icon with classic spur design” will remain unchanged, according to a press release.

Collins came up with the original Spurs logo in 1973 while working at the Pitluk Group, one of San Antonio’s top advertising agencies of the time.

That year, a group of investors led by BJ “Red” McCombs bought the Dallas Chaparrals and they needed a new logo to match their new team name and new home in San Antonio. One of those investors included Jack Pitluk, who ran the Pitluk agency with his brother Louis.

The Pitluk brothers met with McCombs and his management team, then assigned Collins to design a logo. He never spoke to McCombs or any other Spurs owners, even though he was told they had a request: he tries to get a spur somewhere in the “sig” or logo.

“It could be in the corner. It could be at the bottom. I could do it in a thousand ways, because they never told me to put the (spur) where it is. It could have been anywhere, “Collins said.

Collins spent two days drawing ideas, then submitted three designs. He drew everything by hand, including the Spurs typeface, which he created as bold 3D text.

Of the three proposals, only one featured a spur for a “u” in the team name. And the artist was sure McCobs would choose him.

“Everything went so smoothly with Spurs that I think I’ve read his mind,” Collins said.

McCombs and Spurs management approved Collins’ design in a single meeting with no changes. From start to finish, the Spurs logo was developed in less than four days.

When it came time to finalize the logo, Collins was already working on another project, so he asked Pitluk artist Bob Welch to prepare the Mr. Spurs camera. Welch retraced and refined the logo in black and white, just as an inker finalizes the drawings of a cartoonist in comics.

“Since I was the creator, I have the credit,” Collins said. “But I want you to know that Bob Welch was a part of it too.”

Spurs have changed the main logo over the years, most notably in the 1990s when stripes of teal, pink and yellow were added behind it. Only silver and black returned in the early 2000s. Yet the franchise has always stayed true to the classic spur design.

David Gallardo, owner of Luna Creative in San Antonio, has worked on the design for other big names in San Antonio such as HEB, Santikos Entertainment and USAA. He praised the Spurs logo for its actual simplicity and credited its consistency to the team’s fans.

“The less you have to memorize, the more memorable something becomes,” Gallardo said. “(T) here’s this very powerful statement he makes by being simple. Smart enough, but not overly complicated.

“In terms of longevity, I’ll attribute it more to the community behind it. It would really be the people of San Antonio who take a lot of pride in our city and in our team that gives it its longevity. “

The work with the Collins logo goes way beyond Spurs.

After joining Pitluk in 1953, he worked his way from what he called “a peon making a mess” to senior art director before retiring in 1988. Along the way, he helped design the main brochure for HemisFair. ’68 and the logo for La Quinta Inns & Suites, which opened its first hotel that same year right in front of the Universal Exposition. Collins also designed logos for Market Square and Zachry Construction.

But corporate branding is only part of its repertoire.

In 1963, the San Antonio native founded the Watercolor Gang, a group of Alamo City artists who traveled together to capture outdoor scenes on canvas. Those painting excursions began with a trip to Big Bend and went on to include the south of France, the Thames, and other places, according to a 2013 Express-News story.

San Antonio artist Nellie Gill has known Collins since the early 1980s, when she first took watercolor lessons from him at the Jewish Community Center. She mentioned that Collins’ skills with brushes range from realistic to stylistic and that such talent served him well in designing the Spurs logo.

“I think no one except Finis could have come up with that project for Spurs,” said Gill. “I think it’s a story to remember.”

Collins says he is simply honored to have done the job and feels he has done his best.

“They are behind the Spurs,” Collins said with a laugh. “I’ve always been behind it.”

And clearly in front of them too.

[email protected] | Twitter: @renegaz

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