What role can illustration play in the representation of sport?

The sport is dynamic, lively and full of tension. Watching it live, on TV, or even through photography, you can feel the emotion and power, but how do you convey that same energy when it comes to illustration? It doesn’t move, it’s often stylized and that forces the artist to work much harder.

To find out how it’s done, CR spoke to illustrators Chester Holme, Kelly Anna and Maxime Mouysset to find out what kind of sports commissions they work on, how they communicate the same tension you find in action sports reality and why in fact capturing sport in illustration can be more liberating than photography.

Above: King of the Mountains. Above: Occasional illustration for Caricom magazine. Both pictures: Chester Holmes

Chester Holme is from South East London and has worked for a variety of clients over the years including Facebook, Nike, Twitter, House of Van and Red Bull. He booked commissions based on sports, especially football, early in his career and although it was not a conscious path, as he is a sports fan, he decided to run with it. His very first commission was a wrap-around cover for independent football publication Pickles Magazine.

The illustrator’s style lends itself well to sports-based illustrations as his simple approach allows him to draw the line between realism and exaggeration, allowing him to portray the heightened atmosphere of matches, games and players. These days, Holme says he works less with publications and more often directly with brands and sports teams. “Part of that may be because my portfolio and profile have grown quite a bit over the years, but I think the larger entities in the sports world have started to realize that illustration can help them connect to fans much more directly than some dry, corporate photography,” the illustrator explains.