The modern internet is awash with sites showcasing impressive and innovative football-inspired illustrations, all thanks to improved technology and easier access to powerful software which has served as a great liberator for the artistically minded.
You probably have to look back to the 1950s for the last great age of creative football illustration. The techniques involved were more classical of course and their use was often driven by practical as much as aesthetic considerations. Photographic reproduction in print form could be expensive while sourcing and acquiring rights to use such images could be a time-consuming process. The hand-drawn illustration route was sometimes just an easier and less expensive way to go.
In this post as part of our Vintage series we feature a selection of nine fascinating hand-drawn images of 1950s footballers by Ron Bell and Ross, both of whom were well-known and respected freelance illustrators of the time. Ron Bell’s work aimed for realistic renditions of his subjects using stroke-based methods, while Ross adopted a slightly more exaggerated style by picking out and subtly accentuating a distinctive trait from each subject.
His illustration of Rangers captain Willie Woodburn is both striking and slightly disarming: with stern expression, muscular torso and confrontational pose as he removes his jersey, there’s a stylised feel suggesting ancient Grecian Olympian as much as 1950s footballer.