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The making of our home kit portraits with artist Phil Galloway

19 August 2020

Norwich City revealed the home kit for the 2020-21 season last week with painted player portraits supporting the campaign.

Phil Galloway is a freelance artist who put together the various images, so we spoke to him to find out what the process was like and how he made the City players come to life on the canvas.

canaries.co.uk: Hi Phil, was our home kit launch an exciting project for you to work on?

PG: As a football fan, any kit launch is exciting for any club and everyone buzzes around it and has an opinion on it. When I heard the style was going to be a traditional kind of painting, that’s right up my street as a sort of historian artist, so I was keen to get started on it.

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canaries.co.uk: What do you make of the kit itself?

PG: I really like it. It reminds me of a couple of Italian kits like Roma from years past, with the fit of it and the stripes. It’s simple but classic. In an age where a lot of kits are trying to be busy patterns, which is great, it’s nice to see a classic shirt that will look good on fans as well as players. It’s a nice punchy yellow as well, which is always good. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Norwich because of the yellow kits.

canaries.co.uk: As for the paintings, how did you make the players look lifelike?

PG: Before I went into digital art, I was a traditional artist so I’ve always doodled and sketched. I typically like drawing people. Over the last few years since going freelance, I’ve tried to use digital art more in what I do.

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Although a lot of people like using Photoshop, I feel like there’s a bit of a disconnect. I dug deep and spoke to a few companies and artists, so now I use an art programme that basically recreates paint on the screen as if it’s on a canvas. You can push it about with your thumb and blend it.

For me, as a traditional artist, if it didn’t react like real paint I wouldn’t be interested. To get it to look like the players, it’s about building up the layers of paint, tweaking it and trying to get the lighting right. Portraiture has always interested me, so this project appealed to me.

A lot of the work I do is reactionary art to something that’s happened and they need something the next day, so you’re putting players in scenes, but to do something with a bit more grandeur and stature about it was cool.

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canaries.co.uk: So you mainly use images of the players for reference?

PG: It would be cool but I think I’d be terrified trying to draw them if they were actually in front of me! Some players you can get really quick. You can get a drawing that looks brilliant but then you start to paint it and it’s miles off. Sometimes it’s the other way round.

If I was live-drawing a player like Pukki I’d be terrified of offending him! So yes, I use different reference images and piece it together. Sometimes, it’s a bit of a Frankenstein of images.

For some of the players, we were able to get really good references from when they’ve posed in kits before and have good body shape. For others, I’ve had to cobble together an arm from over there and a body from over there - all from the same person otherwise it would look odd.

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Part of my job is piecing together body shapes which work and don’t look weird!

canaries.co.uk: Were there any challenges that this particular project presented?

PG: Initially, getting the colour scheme right and the yellow of the kit was quite a challenge. It’s quite an interesting colour because in sunlight the shadows are more orange and under housing lights the shadows are quite green. It’s an unusual yellow with green accents on it.

The toughest bit was to try to get the jacquard stripes. We didn’t want it to look like pinstripes and it’s not like Southampton or Newcastle. It’s in the texture of it, so that was quite hard to get consistently. 

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The one that took the longest was Onel Hernandez because he was the first one, so it took a while to get the colours right and determine what level of detail we wanted to go to. Some people really like a smooth look, but I like it to be a bit chunkier so you can see the brush strokes.

Another challenge is painting them to scale. I’m working on a huge screen but not as big as the prints would be, so we worked at a slightly smaller size that can be scaled up. It should go up to A1 easily. I was worried it could look pixelated, so I was chuffed that it looked cool.

canaries.co.uk: What was it like working on the kit while our fans were waiting to see it?

PG: Really exciting. Anytime I get to work on a secret project, which I’m honoured to be in that position, it can be hard because you want to talk about them with your mates. A lot of my friends will ask what I’m working on and I’ll reply ‘it’s pretty cool but I can’t say!’

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This one was a really tight ship and everyone was keen that nothing got out. I kept checking on Twitter for football kit leaks, but nothing had come out! To be involved and it to be kept under wraps made it more exciting for me.

Having the kit here for two months or so, it’s an honour and a pleasure to be involved. I’ll always have a soft spot for Norwich now, more so than I did before!

You can follow Phil on Twitter to see more of his work @philthyart.

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