Most of my career I have been doing a lot of small spot illustrations, working larger than reproduction size. But recently it's been the opposite, a pencil sketch that started about 5" wide ended up being 78 feet long! Soon after another measured out at 35 ft. and now I finished one the size of a box truck, literally. Of course this just doesn't happen by scanning something at 50,000 %. There is a lot time, and I mean a lot time, and drawing and redrawing and sitting at the computer. This first project was a mural commissioned by Highmark and installed at the Consol Energy Center, home of the Pittsburgh Penguins. In a section of the arena called Hall of Champions, Highmark advertised on all the wall space with blue hand prints and healthy people. But it was time for a change and they wanted to show how Highmark was a big part in a Pittsburgh panorama. I was contacted by Mullen, a design group with a few locations across the country. The process of securing the job, research, sketches, approving roughs, finalizing artwork, revisions and printing and installing took about 6 months. I worked on other projects as well, but it was the majority of the time.
It really did start with a 5" pencil sketch , the composition has to work even at a postage stamp size. I enlarged that 200%, redrew it, getting building and river and bridge positions a little better. Enlarge again, redraw again, this time adding a few more details. Combination of photo and map references to get the lay of the land helped throughout this process. The sketch I presented to client measured almost 4 ft. I was able to scan it at FEDEXoffice, saving a pdf file for me and a printout copy for them. A normal amount of changes took place. Then I started the finish. I approached it like any other other illustration, open the rough in Illustrator, add a new layer for the black line work, and start drawing in the upper left hand corner and work my way across. The file was at a 10:1 ratio, so 78" across. But I was drawing with a 1 or 2 point size pen, so a lot of details and zooming in and out. Some things are skewed, like the size of the Highmark building is exaggerated, but heck, they were the ones paying for it. Color layers were made for everything. sky, land, buildings, people and logos and such.
A lot of love and effort went into this project to create a memorable piece that was fun and engaging for everyone. Thanks to the people at Highmark, and the people at Mullen and to my family for putting up with my long hours. I hope the next time you are down at the Consol for a game or a concert, check it out.
You can try to find a few of my favorite details. Including my wife Patricia in her Mini Cooper racing along in the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix or the sunken bomber in the Monongahela River and of course all the tunnels are clogged.