Andrew Yelenak describes the steps taken in
creating this painting.
My first step
in creating this painting was to ask Bill
Rodgers about his favorite moment from the 1975 Boston Marathon.
He described turning the final corner, so I came up with a
thumbnail sketch establishing good point of view.
create an accurate setting, I went to Boston and photographed
that corner of Hereford Street, focusing on the firehouse on
the corner and it's architectual details. I had taken
a photograph of Bill Rodgers a few years ago that would be a
good pose for the painting, I would just have to adjust his
"look" to 20 years earlier. That would include his 1975
race outfit, which was a cheap pair of shorts and a strange,
hand-lettered, mesh t-shirt that Bill originally found in a
trash can. (Bill was "economically challenged" at the time.)
The shirt and
shoes were on display at Bill Rodgers' Running Center in Boston,
and I photographed them for detailed reference.
of that 1975 race were hard to come by, but I was determined to be
accurate. Charlie Rodgers (Bill's brother) came through with
a color slide of the finish. Jeff Johnson, a Track & Field
News photographer and the first Nike employee ever, provided black
and white photographs of the race. These were indespensible
to show the style and type of clothes worn by spectators that day.
(Especially those plaid bellbottoms!) Jeff's photos also
provided invaluable shots of the 1975 police motorcycles and uniforms.
The most difficult
part of the process was next. I had to photograph models for
the crowds lining the street. I used friends and family as
subjects, the final painting would have approximately eighty-five
people visible. Armed with these reference materials, I created
a more detailed sketch.
the pattern of light and dark, and the scale of the image
were established in this drawing. I sent a copy
of the sketch to Bill, who approved and said he looked forward
to seeing the final piece of work. That would take nine
The Actual Painting
The new sketch
was projected onto the final 24" x 36" board and traced. Using
the reference photographs, I created the full-size base pencil drawing,
adding details and sharpening the image.
Over this pencil
drawing I blocked in the color and value pattern with airbrushed
color dyes. The base drawing stays visible through the airbrushed
color. My technique involves drawing with color pencil over
the airbrushed dyes, rendering a detailed image. On a painting
this size it becomes quite time consuming. I could complete
four of the people in the crowd per day. Every brick in the
firehouse was drawn, in the same pattern as on the real building.
detail had escaped me. There were unusual symbols on the official
race number Bill was wearing that day, and I could not identify
them. All the photos I had just showed small blurs. Finally,
on the cover of the April 1996 issue of Running Times Magazine,
Rodgers appeared wearing his 1975 race clothes and number. Those
odd symbols on his number were clear as day! It turns out
they were chosen by BAA Vice-President Gloria Ratti, who explained
they were from her days working at the CIA, where they were
used to identify Top Secret files. You just never know.
of Bill's race number
from the print.
With the final
piece of the puzzle in place, I touched up the white highlights
of the painting and sprayed it with fixative. It was ready
for reproduction as the lithograph you see here.
Yelenak has also painted the official 1997
Boston Marathon Poster.