El Tour de Tucson Posters – The Early Years

Three posters, coming up…

Just a week ago or so I was commenting on a bike ride that it was almost El Tour de Tucson time and that the weather should be going from «hot» to «just about perfect». Going along with the «If you think it, you will get the call» idea, I was informed of an upcoming magazine article about the art of the El Tour de Tucson bicycling event and that two of my posters were requested to be included. Then they asked for a third, so went back to my archives to pull the digital files [but not the 2006 poster previously detailed in this blog].

At the time of the first poster I created for the organization, the posters were all wonderful photographs but to me, they were lacking energy, especially as there are now over 9000 cyclists riding in the event each year. My first thought was a painting, and I am glad that I ran with that thought which was way better than making something out of pasta and glue, though I still think about that medium. My children look at this first poster and ask me if I know how to draw a bike [I do] but this cyclist was to be all cyclists, neither a racer or a recreational rider, heavy, thin, expensive road bike or old beach cruiser. I painted it purposefully ambiguous. It also happened to be the first year of Lance Armstrong’s return to competitive cycling after cancer, having previously won a single stage in the Tour de France in 1995. He returned to racing in 1998 and I claim no foresight into the rider on the poster wearing a yellow jersey.

1997 El Tour de Tucson Poster

Close up shots of both Lance and the brushstrokes in the painting.

1997 Tour dedicated to Lance Armstrong

Close up of el Tour painting

The following year I was asked to do another painting. This was back when the route went clockwise, and though the cyclists would not have seen the atmosphere look like this on the course, I wanted to capture that late November sun in Tucson. The sky is a bit yellow, and the shadows and colors stand out a bit more in the Catalinas – stylized, of course. If you have driven on Sunrise between Craycroft and Kolb, you know exactly where this could be. If you have been stuck in traffic waiting for what seems to be the longest line of cyclists ever created, then you get the idea behind the long strand of cyclists stretching into the distance. If I had to pick my favorite poster, this would have to be it. In more recent years the poster art doubles as the art for the cycling clothing and this would not translate well.

If you happen to be in Casa Molina on east Speedway, excuse yourself for a moment and you’ll find this poster hanging in the hallway leading to the restrooms.

1998 El Tour de Tucson poster

This last poster of the three chosen tends to be the crowd favorite. Not any particular area or barrio in Tucson, it depicts the early start downtown and the brightly colored buildings that are found sprinkled here and there some of the older parts of Tucson. It definitely shows what seems to be the craziness of a pack of cyclists coming through the smaller city streets.

At the time I had very little time, and it was an entirely digital creation. In 2002, that put a lot of hurt on my computer but it came out just fine. If I was ever to repaint a poster, this would be the one, just to recreate it with more detail and brushstrokes.

2002 El Tour de Tucson Poster

Van Vuren Wedding Invitation and Program

I enjoy the creation of wedding invitations not only because it is a wedding but because there is so little type which needs to be applied very well. Having a good design program that allows access to the special ligatures is a must. Ligatures create a special glyph to connect those letter combinations that look poorly together. Common ligatures would be the «fi» and «fl» glyphs. Adobe keeps a list of the potential creation of 4,281 glyphs which is amazing in itself. Don’t get me started on old style figures, small caps, swashes, ornaments, etc – access to these characters in a font is not going to be found in Office programs. I enjoy taking time to make sure the small details look great. The image below is what can be done with access to a quality font in with design software. Not only is it a better solution for the «fi» but a complete glyph for «ffi».

For the Van Vuren/Hartman wedding I went for classy and airy, slightly more than the «simple black dress» of wedding invites with that hint of lace texture. Very light and delicate.

The RSVP card matched well, and the there is a lovely grouping of swirls at the beginning. 

Clean and simple maps convey the area around the wedding.

The wedding programs were larger to give them a bit more volume for the outdoor wedding. Printed on a thick matte paper, they would have doubled as great fans had the weather been warm.


How I wish I were like Norman Rockwell

When the Space Shuttle Endeavour flew over Tucson on its farewell trip to California, I was not going to miss another opportunity to see the shuttle. I remember a shuttle being carried by a 747 making a stop at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, and then there was that ill-fated trip to Florida to see a launch – I mean a scrub. My youngest son was getting out of school 15 minutes after the shuttle was to come through so this fell well within the guidelines of «Expose your children to science whenever possible» and I got him out early and we headed to Himmel Park. The park was packed and he chose to stand at the top of the retro-looking slide, scanning the skies for the 747. I spotted it way north and ran to the south side of the slide and that is when I thought, «This might make a great photo with him up there.» When the shuttle banked south of us I got the lucky shot. No, he is not saluting but shielding his eyes, but it made for a great image. I had to go through and make it look even more like a Norman Rockwell painting. If he had been wearing shorts above the knee, he could have been any young boy playing outside near Cape Canaveral and watching a rocket launch back in the 1960s.

Also, with a little coercion by friends, I submitted the images to CNN and the shuttle feed on Flickr – my photo is the seventh at CNN.

First off, the original – about what you might expect with a point-and-wish camera, cropped down to where it really is a great composition.

Colorize it just a bit [and no, Instagram was nowhere near any of this] and it looks like a good 1960s image.

Throw in some scratches and color modifications and voilà! It is a photo in London, 1941. I can almost see Captain America in the background.

And this is where I wish I had true Norman Rockwell skills. Yes, the image is great, but to express it in painting would be phenomenal. I will be making a large canvas print of this image [yes, we can do that] and hang it up at home. Norman Rockwell – ’nuff said.

And then the CNN page if you must [image 7]. Or I must. Hopefully my son remembers that day forever.