Sunday, July 10, 2016

Serena Williams



THE ASSIGNMENT

A portfolio piece, featuring professional tennis champion, Serena Williams, to showcase my sports illustrations.

THE CHALLENGE

Create a rich, colorful, action-packed (and flattering) illustration of the dominant Ms. Williams, in the heat of an on-court point, while telling the story of her strength, focus, and beauty.

GETTING STARTED

Sports illustration is a favorite genre, of mine. My style and vision seems to mesh with the energy of sports. So, I decided to create a series of sports portraits, to showcase my latest stylings, in the genre.

First up is tennis superstar, Serena Williams. As I write, she just captured her 22nd major singles title, at Wimbledon 2016. This win ties her for most women’s singles titles, in the open era. If you don’t follow tennis, all you need to know is, she is, arguably, the greatest women’s tennis player, of all time.

My goals, heading into this illustration, were to capture bold color, texture, and motion. I wanted to give your retinas a feast.

As I gathered reference of Serena, in action, I was reminded how odd and contorted our faces can be, during the heat of a sporting event. That can look interesting and truthful, in a photograph. And, while I’m all for truth, I wanted to do so with a face that stated “focus” and “beauty” along with "intensity." Those snarling mugs don’t hold up so well, illustratively; for me, anyway.

As any connoisseur of Serena knows, she is a style icon, on and off the court. I chose a colorful US Open outfit, for her. The palpable energy and vibrant color of the US Open, held in New York City, encapsulates the energetic and color-rich vibe of my vision. So, I chose to sample my color palette of blues and reds from this one-of-a-kind sensory experience of a tennis tournament.

Since I was after movement, I decided on a moment, during the rally, as opposed to the serve or a moment, after the action. This would provide me nice shapes and angles, as well as a good vantage point for her face, and the sense of immediacy I was looking for.

THE FINAL ART

After crafting a pose and composing it to the page, I dug out the paint. With bold strokes, I gave myself plenty of texture to work with. This stage is like creating a skeleton for the refinements, to come. I’m, almost, sculpting the shapes of the body, to, hopefully, capture the flow of her shape and movement. I’m also looking for a few “happy accidents.”

Here’s a sneak peek into my underpainting process…









At this point, it goes into Photoshop, where I close my eyes and hope for the best. Actually, I go back and forth between tidying it up and layering and enhancing its texture.

For my color palette, the blues and reds were leaning toward a triad color scheme. So, I incorporated some yellow-green, as the third color. A triad color scheme is one in which three colors are equally-spaced, on the color wheel. As such, it becomes harmonious, and, it tends to please the eye.

I hadn’t, originally, planned on using type, but, upon completion, I felt the urge to give it a whirl. The no-nonsense sans serif “SERENA” embodies strength, while the delicate “Williams” script embodies class, refinement, and artistry — just as she does.



Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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Monday, May 30, 2016

Dean Martin Katz for Denver Law Magazine



THE CLIENT

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

THE ASSIGNMENT

A cover illustration to honor Martin Katz, the beloved dean of the University of Denver’s law school, who is stepping down from his position.

THE CHALLENGE

Tell the story of Martin Katz – his deanship at the University of Denver, his interest in aviation, and his status as a highly-regarded figure, at the school and among the nation-wide law school community.

GETTING STARTED

I participated in a conference call, with my art director as well as the assistant dean of Sturm College of Law, to discuss what they wished to portray for this cover illustration, honoring Dean Martin Katz, and thanking him for his time of positive service, to the school and its students.

Among his achievements, Dean Katz instituted a strategic plan, focusing on experiential learning, which helped bridge the community, academia, and the law profession. The success of his vision helped rocket the school up 22 places in the US News and World Report rankings of best law schools. At his peak, Dean Katz was listed as the 4th most influential person in legal education, according to The National Jurist, a premier publication devoted to law school news, trends, and rankings.

Symbolism would be an important instrument in the story of this illustration.

Among his avocations, Dean Katz performs search and rescue missions for the Civil Air Patrol. His interest in aviation will serve as a tool to bridge the personal story of Martin Katz with that of Dean Katz, the educator. His eye is always on the horizon, whether in flight or in educational vision. Aviation should, naturally, play a role in the illustration.

In addition to aviation, the natural surrounds, of Denver – namely, the Rocky Mountains – would seem to be beautiful visual tools, to consider, as I set forth with preliminary sketches.

PRELIMINARY SKETCHES

I started with Mr. Katz in a stately pose, with the viewer looking up, giving him a larger-than-life, heroic presence. A natural starting point was to depict him with rolled-up sleeves, looking like he is ready to get to work. After some experimentation, and photo shoots, of myself, in various poses, I felt this pose would communicate the story and fill the space, best.

A colorful sunset sky seemed like, not only a beautiful addition, to the scene, but, also, a symbol of the sun setting on his time, as dean.

The other devices I chose were the school, itself (interior and exterior), the Rocky Mountains, and the campus bridge, as a symbol of his bridge-building reputation.

A Cessna airplane, toward the horizon, is also prevalent.

I provided 5 options.







REVISIONS

After review, my client liked number 2 and 4, but with some requests.

1. A less-menacing sky, on both.
2. Lighten the landscape on #4.

I re-submitted the following:




THE FINAL ART

My client chose sketch #2, with the sky revision.

The magazine cover was a success and very well-received, by Mr. Katz, which is the icing on the cake.



My thanks to the folks at Denver Law Magazine for the opportunity to honor Dean Martin Katz.



Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Prince Hall for American Legacy Magazine



THE CLIENT

American Legacy Magazine

THE ASSIGNMENT

A full-page illustration for a feature article on Prince Hall, who, in 1784, was one of the founding members of the first African-American Freemasonry order.

THE CHALLENGE

Create a beautiful, accurate, historical portrait of Mr. Hall, with the stateliness of “one of the first black organizers, in American history,” according to the feature article.

On the eve of the Revolutionary War, Prince Hall, and fourteen free black men, risked their lives, and their freedom, by taking a boat to the enemy’s fort, at the entrance to the Boson Harbor, in an attempt to join Freemasonry. After being rejected by colonial Freemasonry, these men, determined to join, were accepted by the Grand Lodge of Ireland, Lodge No. 441, on March 6, 1775. After the British evacuated Boston, the African-American Masons were left without a lodge. The departing Irish soldiers gave these Masons a permit to meet as African Lodge No. 1. However, without a lodge, this permit provided limited provisions. A petition for lodge was sent to the Lodge of England. In 1784, the petition was granted, and African Lodge No. 459 was founded — the first African-American fraternal order, with Prince Hall as its leader.

Today, the nationwide branch of African-American Freemasonry is named Prince Hall Freemasonry, in his honor.

GETTING STARTED

The direction would be a head and shoulders portrait with the Masonic symbol, behind. My task, now, would be to gather reference, showing what the man may have looked like. There is a bit of leeway, when it comes to historical figures, for whom no good reference exists. No one is around to dispute. I also needed to be sure and gather historically-accurate clothing and hair styles. This includes general Revolutionary-era attire and powdered wigs.

The Freemasonry symbol is the square and compass. As with many aspects of Freemasonry, these items are rooted in symbolism. There are no concrete, consistent meanings, behind them, however, they are, often, to be reflective of lessons in conduct. The square is to remind members to square their actions and the compass is to remind members of their bounds with all of mankind. The letter, “G,” is often found, in the center of the logo. It is generally believed to represent God.

PRELIMINARY SKETCHES

I provided 4 options, in various configurations.






THE FINAL ART

My client chose sketch #3.

My sketches are based on other sketchy artistic renderings. So, a photo shoot was in order. Matthew was my subject and a combination of a nondescript sweater and a Revolutionary War-era costume from the costume shop, was our wardrobe.

This is the photo composite reference I used for the final art...



Acrylic paint with Photoshop is my medium, of choice, for color work.

Unfortunately, the illustration did not see publication, as the magazine, unexpectedly, went through some restructuring. However, Prince Hall is still a popular figure and the illustration has taken on a life of its own, since its creation:

• It was accepted to Illustration West 50 annual and exhibition, in 2012, sponsored by the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles.

• As mentioned, there are not many depictions of Mr. Hall, and those that exist are not very detailed. As a result, it caught the eye of the leader of a California Freemasonry Lodge who licensed it as part of Prince Hall Day, at their Lodge.

• It will also be seen at the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center, in Bloomington, MN, as part of an educational exhibit.

My thanks to the folks at American Legacy Magazine for the opportunity to learn more about Prince Hall and to bring him to life, in this way.



Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Frederick T. Gates For the University of Chicago



THE CLIENT

The University of Chicago

THE ASSIGNMENT

A black and white illustration of Frederick T. Gates for an annual academic service award. Mr. Gates (1853–1929) served on the school’s board, for many years. He was also a close advisor to John D. Rockefeller, Sr., who founded the school.

THE CHALLENGE

Create a portrait of Mr. Gates, while also telling the story of his academic roots with the school, for this, aforementioned, academic award.

GETTING STARTED

After a discussion, with my art director, about the direction the portrait should take, we decided on Mr. Gates against the backdrop of the University. They wanted to include a background of some sort, instead of, simply, a silhouetted portrait.

Along with images of Mr. Gates, I rounded up reference of the school, thinking about iconic buildings, interior vs exterior, as well as angular vs squared views. I wanted to try a variety of options to achieve the best composition.

PRELIMINARY SKETCHES

I provided 5 options, including a basic, nondescript background, in order to cover all bases.



THE FINAL ART

My client chose sketch #4.

The hard work and major decision-making is done, in the sketch phase. All that’s left is execution.

Charcoal on paper, with a hint of Photoshop, is the recipe, here.



Once and a while, I like to re-visit illustrations, after they’ve been published. This was one such case. Because of its historical nature, I decided to try a monotone color treatment, for an extra visual punch and an added layer of historical feel. I think the color fits, nicely.

Many thanks to the University of Chicago, for the opportunity to work with you on this fantastic project.



Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Arthur J Simms, for Eyerus Visual Communication Studio and The Arthur J



THE CLIENT

Eyerus Visual Communication Studio and The Arthur J steakhouse

THE ASSIGNMENT

A portrait of Arthur J. Simms, patriarch and pioneer of the Simms’ Restaurant Group — the family venture behind some of Southern California’s hottest eateries — for their newest Manhattan Beach steakhouse, The Arthur J.

THE CHALLENGE

Create a portrait reflecting the colorful character of Mr. Simms, while illustrating a timeless piece of art with Mid-century Modern styling, to reflect the vibe, color, and decor of this brand new restaurant.

GETTING STARTED

Arthur J. Simms was quoted in his obituary as “wanting to leave no tread on the tires by the time I’m done.” His colorful fashion style reflected his flamboyant personal style. According to those who knew him, Mr. Simms' tires were threadbare upon his passing, in 2000. The Arthur J is a celebration and homage to the man. Decked out in Mid-century Modern colors, shapes, and spaces, the restaurant takes patrons back to the time when Mr. Simms was at his most powerful, and gives diners an experience as delicious as their meal.

I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with Eyerus Visual Communication Studio on several occasions. It’s always been a fun and rewarding experience. Being part of Eyerus’ branding of this important South Beach steakhouse would be no exception.

My first step was to review the reference provided me, about Arthur J, his story, and the restaurant Eyerus was helping to brand. The portrait would hang in a very visible position, greeting visitors, upon entering. It should complement the warm colors of the decor, and blend with the bold styling of the 1950s-60s Modern design, gracing the restaurant’s interior. Equally important, the portrait should reflect Arthur Simms’ style and personality.

He was no stranger to vibrant fashion. But, we also want something that people can look at, every day, and still capture the essence of his atypical style. His signature pink jacket was my choice, because it provides a sense of presence with vibrance. A yellow sweater and pants complements the pink, as well as the decor, and reflects his warm personality.

For the art's visual style, I took some cues from the art and design of the period, often perusing the wonderful collection of Mid-century Modern art found at Shelby White's blog. I wanted to keep the strokes graphic and somewhat simplified, while maintaining the general illustration style my client expects from me.

SURPRISE!!

The luxurious three week deadline? It has been tweaked a bit. It’s now three days. Can we make it happen? Of course we can!

PRELIMINARY SKETCHES

My client wanted something standing, head and torso. As I tend to do, I utilized the services of myself, as test model, to work out the best poses.




I always like to cover the gamut and provide several options for my client. These were the preliminary sketches...





Since color is so important to this piece, I knew it would be helpful to include a color comp. This helps minimize any surprises, for the client, with the final art



THE FINAL ART

My client chose sketch #1.

Shifting into high gear, it’s time to race forward and show our new deadline whose boss. West coast client vs midwest illustrator = two hours extra, for me, before they get into the office. This is important for wringing every last second out of my workflow.

Deadline day comes. A jpeg version is sent for final approval. Everything is a-okay! Time to upload the high-res file. One day, high-res file transfer will be instantaneous, but, on this day, it still took what seemed like forever. There I sat, confirmation email composed, ticking down every last byte, my cursor on the “send” button. Will the power go out with one byte left? Will my system corrupt, spontaneously? All possibilities, you know? But, not today! Upon full transfer, I click “send,” and the talented folks at Eyerus complete the framing and presentation of this portrait in time for the eagerly-awaited opening.

Many thanks to Eyerus Visual Communication Studio, for the opportunity to work with you on this fantastic project.




Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Brian Grazer for Hemispheres Magazine



THE CLIENT

Hemispheres Magazine/Ink Global

THE ASSIGNMENT

A full-page illustration of Hollywood super producer, Brian Grazer, for a Q & A feature about his new book, A Curious Mind. It is a book chronicling the conversations Mr. Grazer has had with some of the best and brightest minds on the planet, and what he has learned about the power of curiosity.

THE CHALLENGE

Reflect Brian Grazer’s distinctive style and personality, while communicating the theme of the article, which is his conversations with amazing people.

GETTING STARTED

I was very excited to receive this assignment, having admired Hemisphere Magazine’s stellar use of illustration, over the years. I was extra-excited after learning more about the nature of the article.

Brian Grazer is a partner, and co-founder, with Ron Howard, at Imagine Entertainment. Doing a Google search on Mr. Grazer will turn up the biggest names in show business. One day, he decided to seek periodic discussions with extraordinary people, all for the purpose of learning about them and their world. Over the years, these people have included, Steve Jobs, Andy Warhol, Carl Sagan, and Barack Obama, among many others. These conversations have fueled many of his creative projects, and, in the process, taught him about the hidden power of curiosity. In his new book, A Curious Mind, he shares insight to these conversations and what we can all gain by living a curious life.

Tracy Toscano, Art Director with Hemispheres Magazine, sent me a draft of the article, to help me get a feel for the tone and content. When doing a portrait, I like to get a clear grasp on my subject, in order to best portray him or her with authenticity.

My first step was gathering photos and searching YouTube for interviews, to hear him speak and observe his mannerisms. I learned that Mr. Grazer is not often shown, wearing a tie. He is also a creative, free spirit, with a great sense of humor. His trademark spiky hair is not only part of his memorable style, it helps to filter out people who can’t see beyond it. It’s a big part of his persona, and should be a significant part of the illustration.

One of the many projects with Brian Grazer’s name attached, is, A Beautiful Mind, for which he won the 2002 Academy Award for Best Picture. Because his book's title is influenced by this movie's moniker, I took an evening to see what else I could learn about him, from this film, as part of my research.

I took away some visual cues that I utilized in my sketches...

PRELIMINARY SKETCHES

My client wanted something, generally, head and shoulders. They also wanted to enhance the spiky hair aspect. In addition, they wanted to explore the possible superhero vantage point, to reflect his stature in his industry and the wisdom he has gained in his discussions.

I always like to cover the gamut and provide several options for my client. These were the preliminary sketches...





Light is magic. In this instance, I like how it draws attention to his hair and adds a graphic element. It’s a device I use for several of our sketch options. In case you are wondering, sketch #5 includes photos and writing superimposed in the sky, reflecting the many stories he gathered in his conversations. This visual device also loosely mirrors one used in A Beautiful Mind.

To help attain the right pose and light, I used myself as a model, as I often tend to do.



THE FINAL ART

My client chose sketch #3 — the smiling, conversational pose. They also wanted to be sure there was plenty of warmth, in the scene. I proceeded, making sure the lighting would provide ample opportunity to inject warm tones into the illustration.

I utilize a mixed-media approach, combining acrylic painting and Photoshop. It’s a technique that allows me to maintain a traditional, painterly look, while giving me unlimited control over every part of an illustration — color, tone, texture, and content — in a way that traditional painting cannot. Each aspect is manipulated, independently, and allows me incredible versatility, should a change be required, in either a client request or in my artistic vision. Several years, ago, a change would necessitate laborious re-painting. Today, it is a much more streamlined, exact approach.

Here is the Hemispheres article about Brian Grazer and his new book. It is well worth a read.

Many thanks to my representative, Paulette Rhyne, and to Hemispheres Magazine and Ink Global, for the opportunity to work with you on this wonderful assignment.




Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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