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The 2003 ING New York City Marathon Poster
by Andrew Yelenak

For 2003 the art director, Donna Macleod, and I decided to go for a different look than anything we had done before. The goal was to produce a vintage look for the poster, with very flat areas and patterns of color, similar to travel posters of the 1920s and '30s. This goes completely against my artistic nature, I have alway loved to render all the details and tones of objects in my paintings. It took great self control to keep it simple!

I studied many vintage posters to understand how they acheived their look. The flat style was really a result of printing limitations. To reproduce it I would have to limit all areas and objects to two values of a color, a light side and a shadow side. This reduced everything to a very simplified abstraction, the classic "poster-ized" effect. Our designer, Tom Laidlaw, then married an art deco font to my painting to complete the poster.

I've attended many races in Central Park and I'm always struck by the contrast of the lush park surrounded by towering buildings. I wanted to represent that experience in this painting. Using photographs I took in the park at the 2003 Men's 8K National Championship this past April as reference, I produced this sketch.

The concept and design received preliminary approval and I created a detailed base drawing for the finished painting. It's not that dramatically different from the sketch. I added women runners, my original photo reference was from a men only race, and tightened up the drawing. I paid special attention to the buildings, working hard to create a realistic sense of perspective and placement for them. Here's the finished base drawing.


I began to draw all the leaves on the trees out of habit, or my usual obsession with detail, when I realized it wasn't really necessary, they wouldn't be seen. Normally I work in transparent watercolor for a project like this, but to get the correct flat effect, I switched to designers gouache. This is a water based paint that is opaque, it dries very smooth and flat, offering good coverage and allows for easy overpainting. The colors in gouache are very clean and crisp and look very unified in a finished painting.

I completed the painting but I needed to add and important detail after the fact. The New York Road Runners will have a special race banner hanging from lamp posts throughout the city on marathon day. I added a banner and street light to the painting as a finishing touch.

- Andy Yelenak   email andy@runningpast.com

The poster and limited edition lithograph are available
from The Art of Running.


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