Drawing a podcast

I illustrated the first 50 episode of the the Athletico Mince podcast. It’s hosted by Bob Mortimer and Andy Dawson.

Why illustrations? Isn’t a podcast just audio (i.e. you only use your ears)?

But the context as to how people explore podcasts and how they’re surfaced is changing, content discovery isn’t passive, episodic podcast imagery is being widely used beyond generic cover art. Audio players can be embedded on websites or audio content featured in articles, apps, feeds, lists, headers, banners, tweets… An image or picture goes a lot further than a title in a box next to a play button, especially if there’s an image of a crab using a Papa Johns pizza box as a sledge.

Two Roast Crabs episode artwork
An example of how one episode is embedded on Athletico Mince’s own website that you will find irresistible to click on and listen to.
A grid of podcast thumbnail pictures on a podcast platform

Process

Jeremy Corbyn on a bike with a football flying towards him
When doing Episode 22 I accidentally drew both Corbyn’s legs the same side of his bike like a complete amateur but thankfully Bob and Andy never found out

But after a few weeks I refined the process and now I only use Adobe Illustrator, plenty of Pearson’s Brass Hand Oil and a Wacom tablet. Sometimes I quickly draw a trial run of a bit of an idea or sketch out a composition on a throwaway sheet of paper, or a slice of bread, but other than that, it’s completely digital illustration.

Line drawing of a bottle of Pearson's Brass Hand Oil

There’s some regular themes and objects (like brass hands, chicken dippers, Dolmio sauce, jambons, denim-clad footballers, hair islands, potatoes, carrier bags and Phillips Air Fryers) which make reappearances in the drawings. I created an illustrator library of some of the common repeating elements which I can just drag onto my artboard, scale, reposition and colour.

This makes things a lot faster and consistent. Week by week it nears more of a design system than an illustration.

Illustrator symbols library
Adobe Illustrator Athletico Mince library
Screenshot of multiple layers from Adobe Illustrator layers pallet
Sometimes my layers palette can get a bit nuts-looking and long

Bob and Andy are great in that I just publish the illustration as soon as it’s finished and let them know it’s done. There’s no “Can you make that brass hand a bit bigger?” or “Can you move that chicken dipper to the left a bit?”, “That mixer tap needs to be from B&Q not Wickes!”.

Concept

I wanted to create a simple visual language for the show using shapes and blocks of colour with key elements that are strange and alluring enough for new listeners to think “What’s… that?” and memorable enough for those re-listening to go “Oh yeah the one with the jambons”.

Early on I didn’t know what the show was going to evolve into and I was worried at the time that it was going to be quite football-heavy (since I can barely name 3 soccer groups) and despite being an age-old fan of Bob, wasn’t sure if I would be sustainably inspired by a topic I knew nothing about.

For example, these were the best I could do when it came to drawing something to do with a football match (although I do think referees should live in caravans shaped like football whistles and modern players should have denim pockets, cap and Cuban heels):

Episode artwork for Athletico Mince
Episode artwork for Athletico Mince featuring an identification parade of footballers numbered 1-5
A drawing of referee inside a caravan that looks like a whistle

But oh how I was wrong about the “cast-iron guarantee of at least 8% football content.”

However I largely maintain a footballesque setting; either framing the entire drawing in a football stadium or adapting the background to look like a makeshift football pitch. This trusty football (simply dragged from my Adobe Illustrator bespoke library) has been present in every single episode.

Adobe Illustrator symbol of a vector football

Colour palette

Drawing of Bob Mortimer on a football pitch next to a fire bucket with a brass hand inside
Episode 20, Consumer Special

In the example shown for Episode 20 I made the football, pump display panel and mattress the lightest colour first to create a triangular composition giving the scene movement. Next I kind of created a mid-layer of colour, then a lighter layer for the petrol pump, Bob’s face and the Pokéstops. Lastly a bit of depth was given to the whole scene from the mattress shadow and finally I got to colour in the brass hand.

Animated illustration showing colours added to the drawing in layers
Colouring in process

I tend to rely on this compositional device more and more and it is one apparent area where the style of the illustration has quickly evolved where I needed it to. Earlier episodes are much flatter-looking.

A footballer that looks like a salmon flopping next to a brass hand
A gang of criminals on a dock next to a hair island with palm tree growing out of it
Andy Dawson dressed as a woman next to a spice rack that has been crossed out
Pearson's Brass Hand oil next to a hair island and ice lolly rockets all around
Empty gas bottles and elephants on a football pitch with a tombstone that reads RIP Casper
Flying ants and sheep on a football pitch
A dirty Susanna Hoffs in front of a Lord of the Rings chess set on a football pitch with a monster truck jumping overhead next to a giant pigeon
Tom Jones on a football pitch with a plane necklace

Design and illustration involves hacking processes, setting constraints, improving, building systems, tweaking and trying to get quicker but better at stuff. Hopefully I will eventually get these down to being done in about nine minutes or less.

You can follow me on twitter, dribbble or instagram where, among other things, I regularly post the artwork as soon as it’s done.

Or of course there’s the actual show which you can subscribe to on iTunes.


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