Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pope John Paul II for the University of San Diego

On the fast track to sainthood, Pope John Paul II is not only one of Catholicism's more popular Popes, he is also one of 16 illustrations I was commissioned to create for the University of San Diego's President's Report.

The theme of 2009's report highlights people, places, and things that serve as influences to the school's mission and heritage. Reading the contextual clues, one can correctly deduce USD has a strong foundation in the Catholic church.

This president's report is a beautifully designed work of art in itself. Bound as a leather printed cover, many of the illustrations accompany their own month in an included calendar, and double as removable, collectible prayer cards.

The challenges

•Compose an illustration that not only fits the format of a 3.5 in. x 5.25 in. space, taking into consideration an elaborate border treatment which will cut into the art, but also produce an illustration that commands attention at a smaller size.

•Establish a color palette which complements warm tones of the document's layout, and brings depth and interest to the scene.

Light and depth through color

Where light hits an object most directly, color is most intense. As that object recedes in space, and falls into shadow, color cools and loses intensity. Color theory 101, to be sure, but these principles were key in helping me create a sense of depth. Without such depth, this scene would quickly turn uninteresting (not to mention flat).

To also keep interest up throughout the illustration, it was important to make sure shadows and highlights kept some color and didn't become too gray or white, respectively (After all, the thing needs to be pleasing to look at, right?). That sounds like a simple thing to do, but it takes planning. Notice how the white stripe on his robe is warmer at the shoulder where light hits and turns cooler as it moves away from the "hot spot." Squint your eyes and notice the value doesn't change too significantly. His position in space is largely aided through color.

Using color like this is helpful to add complexity to a small, seemingly non-complex, picture.

A strong picture starts with a strong composition

This is especially true for a smaller illustration. There's not as much real estate to grab viewers' attentions. Plus, being small, people don't have much patience to squint their way through a scene to pick out intricacies. Hence, the simply-composed but easily-recognizable posture of the 264th Pope.

Here is the illustration in its final layout.

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

Really nice portrait, you captured the moment!

Allan Burch said...

Thank you, Laura!