Football and dinosaurs is an unlikely duo. There seems to be little justice in a match that sees two-metre tall footballers play Tyrannosaurus Rex three times their height and with teeth the size of door frames. But a fair game is far from illustrator Alex Chilvers’ main concern. “I was crazy about dinosaurs when I was a kid and I would spend hours drawing the different types. I also wanted to see how my memories of dinosaur picture books and Jurassic Park would manifest as paintings. Football was a big love of mine too. Over the past few years I’ve been lucky enough to start playing again on a regular basis. I was hoping to satisfy my nostalgia by combining the two,” Alex tells It’s Nice That
Alex studied at Middlesex University where he was introduced to a variety of creative disciplines like printmaking and animation alongside illustration. It was, however, his time spent at the Royal Drawing School’s Drawing Year that opened the artist up to different ways of seeing. His understanding of form, space and movement, Alex says, was advanced by tracing and drawing from paintings in the National Gallery, Indian miniatures in the V&A and sculptures in the British Museum.
In order to produce these loveable versions of Sturridge and Balotelli, Alex sketches rough drawings of the various football players’ movements while he is watching a game. He then reconsiders the scene, imagining what it would look like if a dinosaur were to enter the mix. It is only when he is satisfied with the layout of the players that Alex starts painting: “I use gouache paints because I really like the velvety, matte finish and the intense colours the produce. The opacity of the paint also keeps the flow of the image consistent thoughout the entire page.” Alex continues tweaking the artwork, adding details like a squashed Velociraptor trapped under the clawed foot of an excited T-Rex.
Alex’s strength lies in his playful humour and honest excitement of past interests, which allows his absurd fantasies to permeate his work. It is, however, not only nostalgic memories that inspire him. Surprisingly, Alex also draws on Italian Renaissance art: “The use of space in these masterful paintings is incredible. It is something that is becoming increasingly instinctive in my own projects too. I like my figures to have a lot of ground underneath them. The idea of creating a stage in order to plot characters wherever you want is very exciting; it is almost like a platform computer game.”
These charming, illustrated dinosaurs and football players are a respectful nod to Alex’s younger self. “I still have nightmares where I am being chased by velociraptors and wake up terrified. I really enjoy creating a space in which dinosaurs and people can coexist. The football pitch seemed like the perfect environment to represent that.”