It's a good thing a picture is worth a thousand words, because Rob Day, the 26-year-old artist whose illustrations accompany Bil Gilbert's article on competition (page 86), is a taciturn sort. The 6'1" Indianapolis resident plays basketball on Thursday nights with friends from the ad agency Young and Laramore, and as agency partner David Young notes, "He's pretty good at the baseline, but to string two sentences together is a major oratorical achievement for Rob."
Fortunately for SI, Day expresses himself with ample eloquence in oils. Steven Hoffman, SI's design director, was drawn to the conceptual quality of sample illustrations Day submitted last fall and assigned him to illustrate Gilbert's article and, later, Gary Smith's profile of Mike Tyson, which appeared in our issue of March 21. "Rob's technique is so rich and old-fashioned looking, yet his work has this modern, psychological tone," says Hoffman.
Day's mother, Ginny, a former kindergarten teacher, who dabbled in oils when Day was a toddler, recalls that from the time he could hold a pencil, "he would sit alone in his room for hours, drawing." He sharpened his graphics skills at Indianapolis's Herron School of Art and then did a stint as a fashion illustrator for a local department store—"Women's underwear became my speciality," he says. Finally last fall, after two years with Young and Laramore, he decided to become a free-lancer.
Day's devotion to art doesn't end when he puts down his paintbrush. In his off-hours he does humorous pen-and-ink drawings in miniature. Or he and his girlfriend, Anita Busse, a marketing coordinator for an architecture firm, will take in a museum or dine at their favorite French restaurant.
Day brought his own vision of competition to this assignment for us. "I suppose I'm competitive in general, but probably more with myself than with other people," he says. As he first read Gilbert's piece, Day did 15 or 20 sketches right on the manuscript. Of the nine pencil sketches he eventually submitted—they were later developed into paintings—the one depicting two horned football players facing each other at the line of scrimmage was chosen for the opening spread. It was based on the last sketch he had drawn on the manuscript, and it turned out to be Day's favorite. "It seemed to sum up the idea of competition," he says. "It was the simplest and most direct."
Ah, simple and direct. That's Day's style, graphically or verbally.