What role can illustration play in depicting sport?

Photography may be the more commonly used medium to showcase sport, but illustration can bring humour and a fresh vision to the subject. We speak to three illustrators about the trends they are observing in sports commissions today

Sport is dynamic, lively, and full of tension. Watching it live, on TV or even via photography you can get a sense of the emotion and power, but how do you convey that same energy when it’s an illustration? It doesn’t move, it’s often stylised and that means the artist has to work a lot harder.

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

Top: King of the Mountains. Above: Spot illustration for Caricom magazine. Both images: Chester Holme

Chester Holme is originally 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 sports-based, specifically football-based commissions, early on in his career and while it wasn’t a conscious path, as he’s a sports fan he decided to run with it. His first ever commission was a wraparound cover for indie football publication Pickles magazine.

The illustrator’s style lends itself well to sports-based illustrations in that his simple approach allows him to tread the line between realism and exaggeration, allowing him to depict the heightened atmosphere of matches, games and players. These days Holme says he’s working less with publications and more often with brands and sports teams directly. “That might just be partially due to my portfolio and profile increasing a bit over the years but I do think that the big entities in the sports world have started to realise that illustration can help connect them to the fans much more directly than some dry, corporate-feeling photography,” says the illustrator.