Wintering Summer Sports
posted: January 24, 2008
It's winter here, damn! January in the northern hemisphere, but down south, or the other up, it's summer. The Australian Open is underway, and the final rounds are closing in. Being from Canada, and married to a tennis addict, I've watched more than my fair share of matches. One of the big assignments in the world of sports I've had is the honor of working on the art for US Open in New York. Watching the power of the contemporary players, it becomes apparent that tennis today has definitely left it's genteel roots. For a while American players really changed the game especially in the women's division. It was back in 2001 that I was approached to do sketches along with others for the potential of working on the US Open. I was not awarded the assignment. Then a year later the opportunity presented itself again. On reflection I felt that I had let the opportunity intimidate me somewhat the first time round. So I focused on the power element that I felt was so much a part of the American game. I presented my sketches, and was picked for the final. The resulting odyssey from my sketches to the finish was episodic, akin to struggling with a multi-headed hydra. Needless to say that in the world of professional tennis egos are large, and the US Open is not a small affair. I was educated in the game of power.
Sketches from the first round in 2001
Second round of sketches for the 2002 US Open
After chasing my tail, I was told that actually my old sketches from the first round held more promise. I was directed to develop a new direction based on the passed over group from a year early. Yeesh, at this point I was not feeling the joy. Still you dig down deep and give your best. Second serve is never as strong as the first.
One of the uses for the final was the cover of the program guide. Also huge banners were printed up, T-Shirts, and many other usages. It was exciting and frustrating to have had such an honor. At the moment down under Serena, Venus, Roddick, and Blake are out maybe a symbol of the present American game. Federer resides as a god, he makes it look so easy. It's summer somewhere out there.
Peter Cusack January 24, 2008
Great post. I love the drawings and studies that you did. What power, exciting design, so inventive! I love your drawing style as well. I can surely see the difference in the two round of sketches. I'm responding to both attempts. On the second set it looks like you had a good time depicting the figures and their powerful gestures. I know nothing about comic book work. Just wondering: Did you have comic covers on your mind when you did the second set? I like this look a lot as a fresh and assertive look for the Open's imagery. Kudos? As they say, I've been schooled.
Chris Buzelli January 24, 2008
I've been going through a similar process with ad work lately. It's very re-assuring to see that one of the top dogs in the industry has to go through the same hoops. I'm on my 5th serve. Congrats on the finished poster!
Leo Espinosa January 24, 2008
I guess it saddens me to hear that you can loose the joy on a project like this one just because all those rounds of revisions. Of course the strong stuff was always in the first round of sketches (you crazy client, you!). PS: I had an image if you doing that first round literally destroying marker after marker, pen after pen, drawing like a mad man grrrrr!
Jim Paillot January 24, 2008
The work and crafting of these sketches is inspirational. While I dig the final solution, I do like the power of some of the figures in your later sketches.
Brian Stauffer January 24, 2008
I really appreciate what you reveal here about the never-ending process of being challenged and even a bit intimidated by the potential of a "big" opportunity. It never stops regardless of your place in the field, that is, if you are a seeker. nice post.
Nancy Stahl January 24, 2008
Oh, wow... that was yours? I don't envy you getting chosen. I've worked with them, too (on redesign of their logo) and the tangled direction drove me mad..! I didn't do anything worth showing because of that generic yet powerful figure they wanted... looks too much like a man, looks too much like a woman... can it have flames?... too much like a robot... Do you think Tsonga could beat Federer? Nah. Djokovic is looking good but I don't know if he can do it either. Sharapova will win the women's, I'll bet.
Cathleen Toelke January 24, 2008
I'm exhausted just reading about this! I'm with Jim about the figures in the second round. That first figure is gorgeous. Still, I love the simplicity of the colors in the final art and the striking background. Great story.
Doug Fraser January 24, 2008
Good Morning, thanks for looking. Peter, I've always enjoyed the graphic nature of Jack Kirby's work, and other comic legends. It's the graphic purity of black ink that still gets me, as well as the exciting over the top composing. Chris, thanks for the compliment. Leo, yes grrrr was definitely a part of my vocabulary, and more! Jim, I agree. Brian, thanks as well. Nancy, "generic yet powerful figure they wanted... looks too much like a man, looks too much like a woman... can it have flames?... too much like a robot" you nailed it. Plus my Tennis addict wants you to know, she agrees with you about it being Federer, and Sharapova. Cathleen, at times I just wanted out.
Paul Rogers January 24, 2008
Doug, Every one of these sketches are fantastic and would have made great posters too. I did some sketches for the US Open years ago and I remember dealing with the problem of showing a player without making it either male or female. My sketches were horrible. Some projects sound great when I first get the call, then about halfway through I start looking for someone to blame. This post shows how to hang in there and still produce work that looks fresh. You are the master.
Doug Fraser January 24, 2008
Paul, the struggle to keep any figure gender neutral usually is a big fat compromise. I'm ambivalent about the final piece. It was difficult to stay in the assignment. Your own experience is very much mine as well. The committee aspect to an event of this size does lead to compromises. In the end it was a feeling of not leaving the art director holding the bag. I do believe in a certain level of professionalism.
Peter Cusack January 24, 2008
I can see what your talking about in your sketches. You know now that I think about it, I see a similarity to my own work in the way that you think about and build sculptural form in your drawing. I first noticed it in the collar of the skeleton man with the helmet and even in the way you simplify shadows that break across the form, rhythmically, in to the light. I wonder if that made any sense. LOL
All images copyright Douglas Fraser