This is an excellent piece of work created by one of my favourite illustrators at the moment, Dan Matutina, entitled ‘Amateurs’. The image was created for a magazine to advertise a club night entitled ‘Friday Night Fist Fight’, and I’ve had it set as my desktop for a while and still can’t stop looking at it.
The first thing I really love about the image is the way that the figure is depicted. Drawing the figure is something I really struggle with, and generally stay away from because I don’t feel I have a strong enough visual language to create the figure in a way that isn’t realistic, but on the flip side my lean towards realistic never looks right either, hence I try and give it a wide birth if possible.
In this image however, I absolutely love the way Dan has depicted the two boxers. He has a unique style of creating the figure that isn’t realistic, but gives more than enough information to make them recognisable as people. His use of strong angular lines and shapes to build up the form works really well, and he mixes it with smaller shapes and lines on the face to represent the facial features and the bruises and cuts the boxers have sustained. I think that the mix of straight lines and shapes, and some curves and circles, to create the people makes the images more fun and interesting to look at than if they were depicted in a more realistic manner. This is something that definitely inspires me and makes me think more about how I could tackle the human figure myself, and about how to utilise elements, line and shape to create imagery that isn’t necessarily realistic, but has enough information to be recognisable as a person.
Secondly, one of the major things I love about this piece, and Dan’s work in general, is his fantastic use of texture, lighting and hand drawn elements and marks. Mixing together digital and handmade elements and textures is something I’ve tried to do in my work, but Dan does it such an extent in this piece, and so well that it could almost look like a painting. The speckled texture used as a background to highlight the figures, suggests the hazy and smoky atmosphere surrounding a boxing ring, and the circles used in the foreground to suggest dust a drops of sweat flying toward the viewer, highlighted by the lights above really bring the atmosphere to life.
The use of what looks like handmade marks, created with ink or paint, help to build more of the picture of what it would be like to be in the boxing ring. The quick swipe used to show the speed and force of the punch, and the splatter of the blood/spit to show the impact, bring the piece to life.
One of the things I really have trouble with is how to get the impression of depth and perspective in my work, rather than just a flat image. Despite using a lot of straight lines and shapes in this piece, rather than flowing lines and curves that naturally can make an object look more 3D, Dan has cleverly used the angles of the lines and sections of shadow to create perspective, and therefore create the impression that the blue boxer is in the foreground and the red boxer is in the background. He has also crucially used the cube shapes for the head guards which make the boxers look 3D.
I emailed Dan a while back and he talked about how film is a big inspiration for him and his work, and you can definitely see it coming through in his work. Film is a big inspiration for me, and I always admire the cinematography and tone created visually in films, but I don’t think it’s something that I often let bleed through into my work. Sometimes I forget that illustration and film aren’t mutually exclusive visual arts; there’s a lot of crossover and tings I see on screen can work equally well in one image; the use of colour, shadow, perspective and composition for example. This is something that I’d like to work on I think.
I definitely think that his work created in this way has a unique look about it, and the successful blend of digital and hand-made elements I think will appeal to a broad range of people. I think what always catches my eye when I see work like this is the attention to detail, and the little extra bits that set it apart from the work of others. For example, in this piece I love the addition of the tattoos, the lines in the hair and even the little string ties on their shorts. It’s finding the balance adding bits that enforce the message or the idea behind the image without overcrowding it or just adding bits for the sake of it.
In conclusion, I think there is a lot I can learn from looking at this piece of work, and I definitely wish I’d done this.