totalBarça Exclusive: Designer Dan Leydon on sketching Barca

totalBarça Exclusive: Designer Dan Leydon on sketching Barca

Leydon’s Barca DNA illustration in Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World

January 31, 2012 marked the ebook release of a much-anticipated and must-have title among cules – Barcelona-based Scot journalist Graham Hunter’s Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World. Hunter looks at the club’s recent successful period under Pep Guardiola by going back in time to the Johan Cruyff  era and analyses how Barca’s sterling style emerged under the legendary Dutch player. The book  “takes you on to the pitch and the training ground, inside the dressing room and along the corridors of power of FC Barcelona” to better understand how Barca became the Spanish, European and World champions. Apart from Hunter’s keen observations and in-depth analysis, the book also features fine black-and-white artwork by Dan Leydon, a designer based in Strandhill,  “a surfing village” on the West coast of Ireland.

Football illustrations come naturally to Leydon, who apart from designing makes time to play football and is also a passionate Liverpool fan. His second favourite team though is Barca (Said Leydon, “Barca seem to be everyone’s second team though, right?“). A fitness enthusiast, Leydon runs a football blog Hot Footy News, whose highlight is Leydon’s ingenious and stylish artwork. Unsurprisingly then it caught the eyes of Graham Hunter, who asked Back Page Press, the publishers of the book, to approach Leydon. When contacted by Back Page to contribute, Leydon immediately jumped on the offer. Leydon tells totalBarca about what inspires him, his work process, observations from trips to Barcelona and Camp Nou and his favourite Barca player.

How and when did you get into football illustrations?

I’ve drawn since I was able to hold a pencil (cliche but it’s true). Oddly enough it took a while for me to figure out that I should combine my two biggest passions: football and art. I started my blog on the 6th of February 2011 so it’s just about a year now.

Leydon's tribute to Xavi

Any particular match or club or player that drove you into it?

I’ve supported Liverpool since I was a kid. If there was one match that did it for me it was probably the Champions league semi-final second leg in Anfield 2007 against Chelsea. I got a ticket for the Kop. What. A. Night. Amazing.

Barca rondo

When did you start following Barca?

When Rivaldo and co. played at Anfield. You just got a sense they were the real deal in terms of what a club is. There’s only a few clubs like that around.

You have been to Barcelona thrice already. How has Camp Nou and seeing the team play live influenced your work?

The one thing I noticed about the match day atmosphere in Barca as opposed to Anfield is the languid feel to it. It’s not a bad thing either, kids are perched on people’s laps, it feels more communal. You see a greater spread of all segments of society. From a football aspect, I really got a feel for the way the Barca team moved on the pitch. From high up where we were sitting you could pick out the third man runs they do and the “half touch” football they are so adept at. I filmed some periods of play and watched it at 10x speed. You really get to see the team moving as some sort of football hive mind instead of just 11 players. It’s quite interesting.

Xavi doing what he does best

Your site is filled with many illustrations of Barca players. What is the starting point of your work? Is it a movement on field, an action or gesture or a physical characteristic of the player?

I keep my ideas. I always make a note or sketch of them. My sketchbook fills up like this. If I don’t have it near I feel a bit unprepared.

Anything could spark me off, it’s the same with most artists. For example: A styrofoam white maniquin’s head gave me the idea for the ‘Odd Couple’ illustration. Puyol’s hair would sit nicely on that I thought, and then I realised how different their (Pique and Puyol) hair styles were which in turn could be reflected in their playing style too. I’ll say at this point that the notion of them as an Odd Couple was Mr Hunter’s idea and I was just searching for a way to portray it. Credit where it’s due.

Puyol and Pique are "The Odd Couple" as seen in Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World

Tell us about the illustrations you have done for Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World. How did that come about?

It came about purely from Twitter. It’s a powerful thing. Mr. Hunter kindly took a chance on my stuff. That’s the long and short of it. From there Backpage Press then took a chance. They are very nice people and have enthusiasm and passion for what they do.

Leydon's sketch of FC Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola in Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World

What was the brief and how did you go about executing it?

I was asked to come up with an illustration that would set the scene at the beginning of each chapter. From there, I was sent a chapter each week which I would read through and make notes on and then develop some ideas which were discussed with the lads at BackPage through email. It was all very informal which helped the process immensely.

Leydon's melting figure of Andres Iniesta in Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World

The Odd Couple and Barca DNA are interesting concepts to illustrate. Was that your idea or Mr Hunter’s?

The Odd Couple was the name of the chapter file BackPage sent through so I can’t take credit for that. The DNA idea I happily can though. It was inspired by the scene from Jurassic Park where a short animated DNA film is shown. In this short film, there is a part where pieces of genetic code are pulled out and replaced. I thought to myself “That’s like what they do at La Masia”. As I was using the Barca ball in many of the illustrations, it became a small theme. Incidentally it fit the idea of “Barca DNA” perfectly. Luckily the lads liked the idea too.

Barca's Holy Trinity - Iniesta, Messi and Xavi - in Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World

What are your tools or techniques to design?

I sketch everyday. I then get my ideas coloured and fleshed out by using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. They are priceless tools. The sketches are sometimes used, sometimes not. Mostly they are a process to develop an idea. I write as much as I draw so it all feeds into the end product.

Leydon puns on Xavi's love for passing

Finally, your favourite player at Barca.

Iniesta. I think it’s because of the injury hell he was going through during Spain’s World Cup in 2010. I’ve watched that documentary which was a behind-the-scenes type thing and he was really suffering at the time. He just seems like a very genuine guy. And his dribbling is up there with Messi’s.

All images are artworks created by Dan Leydon. You can follow him on Twitter @danleydon.

Prints of Leydon’s artwork for Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World are available for purchase. Click here. To get t-shirts with Leydon’s Barca designs, click here.

Barca: The Making of Greatest Team in the World can also be purchased from Amazon and iTunes. For more updates, follow BackPage Press on Twitter here.