Talented illustrator Alleanna Harris worked with Burrell advertising agency to produce an illustration for a Comcast advertisement celebrating Black History Month.
The illustration depicts Aldis Hodge, JJ Kirpatrick and Francesca Ramsay in the artistic style of the Harlem Renaissance.
The Harlem Renaissance was an artistic and social explosion of cultural pride that took place in Harlem, New York throughout the 1920s. Considered by many a rebirth of African American art, The Harlem Renaissance included some influential figures such as the poet Langston Hughes, the performer Josephine Baker and jazz musicians like Count Basie and Duke Ellington.
Alleanna shares what this project means to her and how the illsutration was brought to life.
What attracted you to the project?
I’ve had an interest in and a fondness for the Harlem Renaissance since elementary school. The Harlem Renaissance is such a symbol of authentic Black culture and authentic artistic expression and I’ve always been in love with it.
What really attracted me to the project was that they called today’s creative movement “the New Black Renaissance.” That struck a chord with me because I’ve been seeing some amazing works of art from fellow Black creatives. Being able to illustrate some of the up-and-coming figures of the current Black Renaissance was an absolute honor.
What was it like to work on the project?
Working on the project was an amazing experience for me.
This was my first time working with an ad agency, so I wasn’t sure about the process going into it, but Sean Devlin and the creative team at Burrell were extremely kind and made everything as straightforward as possible.
The entire process was rigorous, yet enjoyable and I feel honored that I was a part of it. I’m still in shock about the whole experience!
What was the creative process?
Initially the creative team sketched out an example of what they wanted in the Renaissance illustration, with the basic composition and the poses and facial expressions of the celebrities. I was very thankful for that example because that helped me figure out the concept!
The sketch showed Aldis Hodge, Franchesca Ramsey, and JJ Kirkpatrick sitting at an upright piano in a Harlem Renaissance era club. The background had people dancing and enjoying themselves in the moment.
The Burrell team made in clear that Harlem Renaissance era art was the main reference, so the background was directly influenced by a painting by Archibald Motley. The main idea was also “movement,” so figures had to be slightly exaggerated.
For the first go around with the portraits of Aldis, Franchesca, and JJ, I took Burrell’s sketch, found references of my own on the internet, and did my own take on it.
Comcast then sent me their own references for the talent, because they really wanted me to capture their likenesses so that the viewer knew exactly who they were at first sight.
To capture the likenesses, Burrell gave me the chance to speak to each person I illustrated. I spoke on the phone with Aldis Hodge and JJ Kirkpatrick. They were both great and I enjoyed talking with them about the project and their preferences about how they wanted to be portrayed in the illustration. I was also able to email Franchesca Ramsey, and she was a big help too!
The process was very fast paced, but I had a lot of fun with it!