Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I Want My Fuel TV!


Fuel TV
Eyerus + Visual Communication Studio (the agency)


In homage to early-80s montage-style TV Guide covers, this art is the cover for a faux TV Guide-style publication promoting network programing and personalities found on Fuel TV.


Create something wild and wacky, with as many visual detours as possible, and a kitschy 70s vibe. Include personalities of 3 of their main shows: Captain and Casey of The Captain and Casey Show, James "Bubba" Stewart of Bubba's World, and Laban Phiedas and Ted Newsome of American Misfits.

Also include the network's 6 core action sports: snowboarding, bmx, motocross, surfing, wakeboarding, and skateboarding.


Research I spent some time digging into Fuel.tv, the client's website, learning what makes the network tick. I also went through each represented show's vast photo galleries to pluck potential reference.

Compositing Time to start laying things down and see what kind of grayscale compositions I could flesh out. Montage illustrations are a different breed of animal. Of course, basic principles of 2D black and white composition come into play -- value, weight, shape, movement, and space -- but other challenges, inherent to the montage, present themselves...

Space One can't simply slap figures and objects onto a montage illustration without forethought to their relationship to each other in space as well as their light source, otherwise one has a recipe for a disparate cut-out mess. The twist -- figures now become the landscape, and not only need to work together in space, but also define it.

There are 2 planes of reality, here. First, the large background figures. They provide weight and define overall movement, due to their large size, shape, and visual importance (both to the network and to the crux of this illustration's story).

The second plane of reality lies with the smaller figures, in front. Since they are of a relative size, they need to all work together, perspectively -- larger in front, smaller in back, and with a consistent vanishing point and light source. If they don't work together or relate to one another in some decipherable way, we'll have confusion.

In a montage, there are already lots of elements with which to cause potential confusion, if not planned carefully. Without a believable sense of space, the viewer is guaranteed to be confused. Unintended confusion equals an unsuccessful illustration.


My first sketches were sparse. I mistakenly thought the 6 core sports could be hinted at without including all.

The client liked the direction, but wanted to be sure to include all 6 sports.

A preferred composition was chosen and I added the missing sports.

This was a step forward, but I needed to up the humor and wackiness quotient to properly reflect the sensibility of the network as well as the concept of the cover. Think 70s kitsch -- Cannonball Run.

Real close, but lose Mr. Stewart's Rick James 'do and put the gals in "Token Hotties" shirts (integral to one of their shows).

Done and done. Here is the approved sketch.

Now, step-by-step through the final. But, first...


In addition to a 5 in. x 7.5 in. periodical cover, the art would be used as a 5 ft. tall poster for a client presentation. I produced the illustration with that large final output size in mind, creating the underpainting on a sheet of 30 in. x 40 in. gessoed illustration board, scanning at a high dpi, and finalizing the art at about 4 ft. W x 6 ft. H at the dpi required for the printing device.

The final "underpainting."

Scanned and tidied up with values complete.


Quality people make it easy to go the extra mile. My client is happy, which, in turn, makes me very happy. When coupled with the art's fun subject matter and uniqueness to much of my portfolio, this turned out to be one of my favorite illustrations I've done.

Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
View more of his work»
Sign-up for his newsletter»
Purchase prints»

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.
View more of his work»
Sign-up for his newsletter»
Purchase prints»