Sports Illustrated: Soccer Dream Team

I recently completed a monster project for Sports Illustrated for a "Best Lineup" article; the folks at SI put together their soccer dream team, and they needed an image involving all of them (including the coach!) After some discussion over the phone we settled on the idea of the "team" running onto the field, and I added some dust and ambiance for mood :)

Sketch (took about 20 hours including shooting ref):
The final art took around 55-60 hours as I'm pretty slow when it comes to digitally nailing a likeness; I find it hard to translate the sketch into shapes when it has to look like a specific person (generic faces out of my head are so much easier to light). So I sit there for hours per head: 
Tweak this. Tweak that.
Raise this. Lower that.
Stretch this. Squash that. 
(Repeat 1,256,489,364,497.7325 times.)
A helpful hint in likenesses is to nail down the triangle formed by their pupils and tip of the nose; I read this somewhere and it really does help; I suppose its because that is the area we look at the most on a person's face, and it is subconsciously filed away in our minds (face-recognition technology: in your brain).

The bodies go much quicker, although with this particular group, everyone needed VERY specific uniform patches, logos, etc. In the initial final art, everyone was wearing a generic Puma shoe based off of my own pair. Well, that is a big no-no, ladies and gentlemen. I had to revise all the shoes so that SI wouldn't have the players' sponsors calling them up with complaints! ( It had happened to the Craig, the AD, before!)

Spread-layout (close-ups of players are below):

As a bonus (literally), they decided to run the art on the cover!

And finally, here is a diagram I also did for the same issue. Not shown here, each player was featured on a page with bio/photo, etc; included on each page was this little diagram (about 2x2) with that player in color and the rest silhouetted. Here you get to see them all in one tiny image.

A very generic sketch (since it was to be so small, we weren't worrying about details at this point):

Thanks to Craig for hanging in there on this beast of an assignment! While it was a ton of work, it was a great project to take part in, and I look forward to future collaborations with a magazine I worshipped as a kid. In elementary school, a friend and I would spend time after school in the library where we would re-shelf books! Afterward, the librarian would let us pick through old magazines for a job well done, and I always tried to snag SI or SI for kids! 

Enjoy the Day,