Former LSU player Jack Jaubert now paints portraits of top Tigers
The players ran out of the locker room and onto the field. Each had a new set of purple and gold stripes around the bottoms of his jersey sleeves. It was a subtle change, something that didn’t guarantee LSU a Sugar Bowl victory over the University of Wyoming though the Tigers did win by a 20-13 score.
The year was 1968, and Jack Jaubert was watching the game on the television in his Lafayette home. He’d be a member of the team the following year. But it wasn’t the football player inside Jaubert that noticed the purple and gold addition to the players’ white jerseys. It was Jaubert, the artist.
“Even then, I was noticing things as an artist,” Jaubert said. “And those things stick with me.”
Those were the kinds of things that stayed with him when the LSU Athletic Department commissioned him for a large project in 2001. Maybe this is an understatement, because even “large” seems too small a word when considering the task facing Jaubert.
Forty portraits in three months’ time. And the 40 in question weren’t just any portraits. They would be likenesses of people readily recognizable to LSU fans, especially die-hard fans who can name every LSU football player who has won All America honors in chronological order. Or alphabetical order. You pick the way you want the players listed, and they’ll do it.
The LSU Athletic Department chose the latter, lining up LSU’s football All Americans in alphabetical order along the walls of the Lawton Squad Room attached to the northwest corner of the stadium.
Well, back that up for a moment. The alphabetical line-up came about after Jaubert accepted the mission of painting 40 oil portraits on canvas in three months.
“They asked me to do it in the spring, and they wanted the portraits in time for the next football season,” Jaubert said, laughing, “So, yeah, that gave me about three months.”
But that was just the beginning. LSU would field some great teams in the years that followed. Two would even win national championship titles. And with such greatness came more players singled out for honors. So, the list of All Americans grew, and it continues growing.
“It’s fun to sit back and watch how the season develops and predict whose portrait I’ll be painting next,” Jaubert said.
He smiled, then turned to face the wall of portraits. Jaubert stood in the Lawton Room on the Monday before LSU’s Sept. 1 season opener against North Texas State University in Tiger Stadium. The same stadium from which he depicts an emerging Tiger in a mural welcoming people to the room filled with All American faces.
The mural measures about 7 feet by 15 feet and hangs above the entrance way. The piece is titled “All America Tiger Stadium.” It’s also painted in oils; it also was commissioned by the athletic department. As for the Lawton Squad Room, it was named for Bill Lawton, who donated the funds for the state-of-the-art football meeting room. The room provides plush seating for 140 people in a theater-like atmosphere.
The gallery of portraits is located in an events room outside the meeting room. It’s fronted by a lobby with one wall occupied by Jaubert’s action paintings of LSU’s Southeastern Conference most valuable players on one side, and jersey and photograph displays commemorating LSU’s Southeastern Conference champion teams on the other.
“This is me,” Jaubert said, pointing to a photograph of the 1970 team, winners of the 1971 Orange Bowl.
And there he is, No. 50 on the second row. He played center, and his roommate was LSU legend and Crowley ophthalmologist Tommy Casanova. In fact, Casanova’s was the first All American portrait created by Jaubert. It’s also the only portrait in the collection without Jaubert’s signature.
“Somebody pointed that out to me,” Jaubert said. “I’d painted the portrait of Tommy as an example. I’d painted a player before that one. It showed him in action, as well as his portrait. But the athletic department specifically wanted portraits.”
So, Jaubert decided to offer the portrait of his old roommate as an example. The athletic department loved it, and kept it as the first in the series.
The portrait was matted, framed and included a brass plaque, as do all of the portraits in this room. The only problem was Jaubert never had a chance to sign it.
He laughs now. He says it really doesn’t matter, that everyone knows it was created by the same artist who painted the others.
The same artist who has never taken one art lesson.
It’s true. It’s also amazing to think about when standing before all of these faces, their eyes staring back at you. Each is filled with a life that emanates his personality.
And Jaubert painted these without anyone ever telling how to do it. He says he’s a self-taught artist, but it’s more than that. Jaubert has been drawing and painting since childhood. It’s a talent that was born in him, something that made him look at the world differently.
He said later that football players see things differently than do fans.
“In football, players remember practices and fans remember games,” Jaubert said. “There are so many more practices than there are games, and it’s in practice where the great and funny stories happen.”
Then there’s the artist standing in the midst of the players. He’s the one who remembers the details, who notices the new purple and gold stripes on the jersey sleeves.
Flash back to the 1969 Sugar Bowl. Jaubert was a senior at Cathedral High School in Lafayette when he watched the game on television. The school is now an elementary school. But Jaubert earned All State football honors playing for its team when Cathedral was a high school.
He came to LSU on a football scholarship in 1968, first as member of the freshman football team, then moving up to play 24 consecutive games as center in the 1970 and 1971 seasons, including the Orange and Sun bowl games.
Jaubert set out to pursue a degree in architecture. Never mind that advisers were persistent in telling him that, considering the time involved, there was no way Jaubert could both major in architecture and play football.
“I was determined to prove them wrong,” Jaubert said. “I made an ‘A’ in my first semester. There was only one ‘A’ in each section, and I was the ‘A’ in my section. So, then they took all the people who made ‘As’ and put them together into one section.”
The major’s required labs became even more time consuming in the second semester, and Jaubert decided to transfer to another major after the second semester.
“We all stayed in the athletic dorm with the football players together in one part of the building,” Jaubert said. “The coaches would do a nightly bed check, and every once in awhile, they’d come back by and do a second one just to make sure no one had left after the first.”
Charles McClendon was the head football coach, and he kept a close eye on his players.
“He kept us on a short leash,” Jaubert said. “His rule for haircuts was even stricter than the ROTC’s. I remember eating breakfast one morning, and Coach Peavey came up to me and said, ‘Jack, you weren’t in your room last night at bed check.”
His reference is to then-LSU Offensive Coordinator Charlie Peavey.
“I said, ‘Coach Peavey, I was in architecture lab last night,” Jaubert said. “I said I can vouch for it, because my whole class was there. I told him that I had to go to lab, and that if I could finish out the semester, I would get out of architecture.”
Any player missing curfew was required to run laps up and down the stadium steps at 6 o’clock the next morning. But Peavey didn’t doubt Jaubert.
“There were others that had to run the stadium steps, but nothing else was ever said to me,” Jaubert said. “I was really such a Boy Scout back then.”
Jaubert was heavily recruited by colleges while in high school, during a time when NCAA recruiting rules were more lax. Colleges were allowed to invite high school players to each of its games, and LSU recruiters knew that he wouldn’t want to miss the Tigers’ big contest against Bear Bryant’s Alabama team.
“I told them that I couldn’t come sit with them that week, but I’d be there anyway,” Jaubert said. “They said, ‘What?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll be there with my troop to usher the game.’ They said, ‘Troop?’ I said, ‘My Boy Scout troop.’ Can you imagine? I was in an Explorer’s Post by that time, and ushering the LSU games was a big deal for us. We’d board a bus every year, ride down to Tiger Stadium and usher the game. It was a big deal to us, and it was fun. And I wasn’t going to miss it.”
And his Boy Scout duties may have played a part in his decision to sign with LSU.
“I was ushering in the south end zone,” Jaubert said. “I was wearing my letterman’s jacket. My high school’s colors were purple and gold, but our jackets were reversible. They were gray on the inside, but they still had the purple and gold stripes at the ends of the sleeves.”
The jacket didn’t hide Jaubert’s athletic build. His shoulders were wide, and his neck was thick. He also had a full head of blond hair.
“And this girl came up to me,” Jaubert said. “She put her hands on me and said, ‘You’re a football player, aren’t you? Are you on the freshman team?’ I thought, ‘Hmmm, I might go here.’”
He did, and he not only walked away with a degree in environmental design but a minor in chemistry and a commission as a U.S. Army officer. And the athletic department noticed his artistic ability, asking him to create portraits of senior players for weekly football programs after he graduated in 1972.
“There used to be a fold-out section in the back of the programs,” Jaubert said. “You could unfold it, and there was one of the pictures of the players. I did this for three years.”
Still, there was life to be lived, and Jaubert’s truly has been an adventure. He’d planned on a career in the military, but those plans changed with the government’s military cutbacks after the war in Vietnam. So, he used his background in chemistry to land a job in the petroleum industry, working first on oil rigs, then in the technical field of oil field services and finally in sales.
The sales position led him to London, where he and wife, Suzanne, became parents to a son and daughter. He also was a member of the U.S. Army Reserves and was attached to the British Parachute Battalion.
Meanwhile, his sales territory included West Africa, part of Europe, Scandinavia and the British Isles. This is significant, because it gave him the opportunity to visit art galleries and museums in Paris, Amsterdam, Grenoble, Geneva, Madrid, Barcelona, Athens, Instanbul, Munich and Salzburg.
His primary interest? Nineteenth century historical and romantic paintings. This makes sense. Jaubert’s action paintings and portraits bear a flavor of this tradition.
And he started working on them when returning to Baton Rouge in the late 1980s. Jaubert called up an old college friend who urged the artist to create some LSU-themed paintings. Jaubert thought about it, then set to work painting “The Men of Purple and Gold,” depicting legendary LSU football players.
Now, would it be accurate to call Jaubert the official artist of LSU Athletics? Maybe. But word of his work has spread. And it’s in demand.
Jaubert also has painted a mural for the New Orleans Police depicting the history of that department; the history of University of Kentucky basketball for the athletic department there; and the history of Navy medicine for the U.S. Naval Hospital in Pensacola, Fla. He also has been commissioned to paint murals or large paintings for the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame and several schools in the region, including Jesuit High School in New Orleans and Catholic High School in Baton Rouge.
“I’ve also painted group duck hunting pictures,” Jaubert said. “One group wanted me to paint them in their duck blind. I took a boat out to the duck blind with them and took pictures, then painted it.”
But the portraits in the Lawton Room are some of the most gratifying of Jaubert’s art career. LSU had commemorated its All America players with photographs in the football office before this project.
“The LSU Athletic Department has really done a great job in honoring their All Americans in this setting,” Jaubert said. “They deserve to have their accomplishments recognized.”
And Jaubert’s part in it hasn’t always been easy. He sometimes worked on six portraits at a time to achieve the athletic deparment’s three-month, 40 portrait deadline.
Many times, he worked from small, black and white portraits. Sometimes, there were no portraits at all from which to work.
That was the case with player George Tarasovic, who played linebacker for LSU for only one year in the early 1950s. He didn’t pose for a portrait, but there were plenty of action shots.
“I had create his portrait from his face in one of the action shots,” Jaubert said. “It was a challenge.”
But the player fits in with the rest of the All Americans in the Lawton Room, filled with life as if ready to hit the field. That’s how all of Jaubert’s players appear, ageless, eternally ready to play.
He didn’t know all of them, but he does now.
And this is how he sees them through his artist’s eyes.