This image was recently completed for the good people creating the Kampion Football Cards Project. The brief required a portrait of a famous footballer to be used for their range of football cards. Once invited to contribute, I decide to depict Abel Xavier as he is such a flamboyant and visually distinctive character. As always, I experimented in both Adobe Illustrator & Photoshop - employing numerous textures, patterns and backgrounds to move the image along. A lovely project to work on and many thanks to Lourenço for inviting me to contribute.

The progress of the project can be followed on the  Kampion Facebook page where all of the images created so far can be seen.
 
As always, I start drawing in an A3 sketchbook - doodling away until a hint of likeness shows through. I enjoyed playing with the depiction of the features, including a degree of exaggeration and caricature. Once the sketches are showing promise I start using layout paper and trace and re-trace until I feel I can move on to the finished artwork stage...
The very simple line sketch is finally ready and can be scanned into Photoshop. I always keep the sketches very sparse so that they only give a hint as to how to proceed with the artwork render. I find this allows for greater spontaneity - the creative path isn't so tightly prescribed. Sketch is opened in Adobe Illustrator ready for the base colour structure to be created. The blend of the sketch layer is set to multiply and the transparency reduced. Quite a bold olive green is chosen for the colour background......
Large areas of flat colour are iniitally placed to define the head shape and then altered with broad simple gradients. Detailed complex gradients are then created with the gradient mesh tool, applied with varied transparency. The sketch is turn...
Now that the features, hair and beard have been added, the character of Abel is starting to appear - making quite a dramatic difference. All work in Adobe Illustrator is complete for now. Photoshop awaits Abel's arrival...
Photoshop CS3 is launched and an A3 300DPI document created, ready to receive the Illustrator version of the portrait. I decided to start with a pre-made blue texture and used this as an alternative to the olive green Illustrator background. Instead of bringing in the figure as a complete finished unit I decided to import in sections. This allows alternate texture and Illustrator imports, giving greater flexibility to experiment as I went to along. Most Adobe Illustrator sections were imported as 'smart objects' so they could still be edited...
The first textures are introduced, then the features are placed in the image... 
Textures are used extensively in the hair and face. The features have also been lightly airbrushed to soften the colour blocks. I'm aiming to achieve a finish where the flat hard edged colour is softened, but still remains visible to a small degree - a balance of overlapping soft and hard edges...
Back into Illustrator to render the Portuguese Flag... 
Emphasis is now placed on integrating the figure into the background, with layer upon layer of collage, texture, overpainting and erasing employed until the image comes together... 
To experiment with an alternative version, the colour and tonal values are radically changed, taking a few risks to try and push the image into an unknown creative direction...
As can happen with this approach, the character starts to get lost into and overwhelmed by the placed textures and colour blends. To conteract this, the head and shoulders are brought forward tonally to contrast with the background by duplicating them and playing with the layer blends. As a result of a little risk taking and experimentation a whole new creative direction has opened up...
A slight softening of the background is made, pushing the head forward. At this stage I'm trying to create an almost abstract depth to the image with the texture and abstract shapes orbiting around the portrait, without resorting to obvious representative perspective devices or tricks. The image feels like its starting to come together with these changes made - but its still not resolved...
Abel's earring is added leaving the head more or less complete. The whole figure is reduced in scale to allow for the typographic content, and to 'play' with the integration between the head and the background a little more...
The texture / paint block edges were overpainted with a dark brown / green so that the type can be reversed out in a light tone. The background now overlaps a little more on the edges of the shoulder area, creating a feeling of space around the figure...
Additional background elements are introduced, specifically white lines representative of a football pitch as an abstract decorative reference. The image template is offered up again to make sure enough space has been left for the type and flag...
A hundred plus layers and the portrait is completed, proofed and the image as delivered to the client...
Finally, a short video showing all of the key stages...
(-:     Many thanks for taking the time to look through the project     :-)
 
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