Sunday, July 10, 2016

Serena Williams


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


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.


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.


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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