Illustrator and designer Dan Leydon tells us more about his recent collection of footballing caricatures, and reveals which player tweeted him after seeing his portrait
Dennis Bergkamp looks studious, composed. Zlatan Ibrahimovic – all sneering and supercilious. But best of all is Eric Cantona, looking enigmatic and statuesque in a way only Eric Cantona can. They're part of a collection of caricatures by illustrator and graphic designer Dan Leydon, witty portraits that capture not just the likeness the world's most storied players, but also their on-field personas.
"I started with the Cazorla one and went from there," says Leydon. "It's a great, fun challenge. Now I'm always looking out for odd looking footballers to draw." He sketches out each character based on a photograph, beginning with a simple geometric shape that resembles the shape of the player's head. Next, he constructs the facial features. This process take around 15 minutes.
He imports the sketch into Illustrator, using the pen tool to trace it and draw facial features. "Once I have the features made," he says, "I can move them about quite easy in search of the balance that makes that face recognisable. The hard part here is definitely knowing when you have a likeness or not. It pays to take a day break and come back to it with fresh eyes."
Leydon's also creates comics, clothing and prints, and owns Footy News – a brand dedicated to "beautiful artwork of the beautiful game." He was recently approached by Nike Football and commissioned to illustrate their Bean to Boot social media campaign.
Several players have seen his portraits of them – most notably Lucas Leiva, Robbie Fowler, Steven Gerrard and Santi Cazorla, all showing their appreciation for his work on Twitter. "My favourite is the Cazorla one," Leydon says. "I managed to convey personality through that. He's a happy smiley player and he looks like that in the portrait. I'm very proud of that one."
If Leydon could choose any player in the world to illustrate him – living or dead – who would it be? "Easy," he says. "Zlatan! I'm reading his book and I just think he's absolutely brilliant. When he got those four goals against England I was delighted because they showed the range of his inventiveness; I'm sure he could come up with some original art."