"613 Day" - Process of an Illustration

A few weeks ago I was asked by the fine folks at Apt 613 if I would be interested in doing an illustration for the community created holiday known as “613 Day” on June 13 — a celebration of all things local.  

I was presented with an initial idea based on last years event, held at Bar Robo in Chinatown. Looking through pictures, the main visuals that popped out were the balloons spelling out 613, as well as the barricades required by the ever-vigilant City of Ottawa in order for a street closure to happen. The initial concept suggested was thus an illustration of these 613 balloons tied to some barricades to imply the street party.  

My initial reaction to the concept was that it would not be welcoming. Although barricades are a necessary “evil” for street closures (at least for those in Ottawa with a red-tape fetish) — they are not inviting urban elements. They might in fact suggest stop, don’t come, danger, road work happening, etc.  

My revision of the concept focused on the street, the people, and urban elements of the city itself. Here’s a 15 minute sketch of my idea sent back to the team at Apt 613. 

A cross section of a street, framed by typical Ottawa buildings with a crowd of diverse people representing the community, with the balloons floating above as per the original concept. 

As I began fleshing the idea out and starting on the final illustration I had another idea for the “613” balloons. What if the 613 was integrated a little more subtly into the image by hiding it into the urban landscape in the background? Here is the second version I sent the team, this one with polished illustrations of figures and foreground, but only with initial layers of colour and an unfinished background. The 613 is a bit strong and too obvious here, so it needs some work.  

With this revised concept approved by the team, I proceeded with the final colouring of the piece. I wanted this to be set at dusk, while maintaining some vibrancy to the colours of the people themselves. The windows in the background are inspired by the way certain buildings in Ottawa look during a bright sunset, when the buildings become reflected gradients of the sky.  

There are a number of “Easter eggs” in the piece. Although the numbered balloons were removed, one of the small balloons has 613 written inside. On the far left someone is holding the 613 sign which was used in last years event. In the centre middle of the piece there is a photographer in a red shirt which is heavily inspired by the Ottawa event photographer, Ming Wu (“Where’s Ming?”) The addresses on the buildings are “6” and “13” respectively, and finally along the telephone wire there are 6 birds, 1 bird, and 3 birds from left to right.  

It should be noted this post will go public on Monday and the image will be released on the Apt 613 website over the weekend. 

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