Puree Design hosts Brighton’s first live layer tennis illustration battle

On the 23rd of September, Puree Design invited the local creative crowd to join them for Brighton’s first ever live layer tennis event.

Tickets for the event, that was part of the Brighton Digital Festival, were sold out. So on the night a crowd of over 40 creative types filled The Skiff to watch the four brave illustrators (see their profiles here) compete and collaborate in intense 15 minute bursts. Their illustrations projected live onto the wall behind them.

The illustrators were paired off; Jenny Clements VS Lon Chan and Megan Sayers VS Richard Nash (aka Mr Biscuit) and a coin was tossed to decide who would serve the first volley. A theme for each match was then pulled out of the hat, Lon receiving ‘Brighton’ and Megan receiving ‘Things clients say’.

Within a few moments both designers were attempting to steady their nerves, rack their brains for ideas and set to work creating the first illustration of the evening.

With all the illustrators (except perhaps Jenny who has worked as a storyboard artist) admitting that they rarely produce a piece of work they would happily make public in under 3hrs, the 15 minute time limit was incredibly daunting. With the eyes of 40 spectators also watching their every move – you could say this was the stuff an illustrator’s nightmares are made off.

Volley 1:

Drawing freehand on his Wacom Cintiq, Lon hit the ground running and created an impressive scene of the iconic Hove beach huts.

layer tennis round 1

Working mainly in vectors, on a Wacom Intuos Pro. Meg struggles with the theme, but creates an ‘all too familiar’ client / designer scenario with clever use of gradient meshes to shed light on the characters from the screen. Despite this she doesn’t seem happy with her first volley.


Volley 2

Jenny and Richard step up, the rules are that they need to preserve an element of the previous illustration, but the illustration can take any direction it wants from this point in.

Jenny is also working freehand on a Wacom Cintiq, and sets to work immediately on the hilarious figure of a man having his ice-cream stolen by a seagull infront of Lon’s beach huts.

layer tennis round 2

Like Meg, Richard is a vectors guy and he’s working on a Wacom Intuos Pro. He starts working in outlines and it doesn’t become clear what he is doing for quite some time (Meg is watching on, frantically trying to figure out what it is and what she might be able to do with it next), but it soon becomes clear that Richard has created a computer with a social media page with Meg’s first illustration appearing as a post within it.


Volley 3

Lon is up next, and he sets to work transforming Jenny’s tourist into a hipster, complete with a hipster beard, trendy glasses and some intricate tattoos.

layer tennis round 3

Meg’s taken Richard’s webpage and made it responsive (for mobile), and it’s now being viewed by a man sitting on the loo.


The crowd have started to engage more now and there’s a some laughs as both Lon and Meg put a few comedy touches to their designs.

Volley 4

Jenny quickly has her character on a tattooist’s bench, having his latest tat done. The expertly drawn vacant expression on the tattooist vs the main character’s apparent agony is getting some laughs from the audience.

layer tennis round 4

Again Richard is working in outlines. Is it a deliberate attempt to reduce the time Meg has to plan? Regardless, he soon starts to reveal a beautiful, rather surreal scene and a small faceless character. He finishes off by adding a gorgeous texture to the illustration, pulling it all together beautifully.


Volley 5

It’s the last round for Lon and Meg, and they know it’s time to pull out all the stops.

Lon almost immediately starts to impress with a beautiful illustration of a mermaid, it’s perhaps the most impressive illustration of the competition so far, is it possible that Lon has triumphed over Jenny?

layer tennis round 5

Meg seems to be enjoying herself now and quickly starts to introduce layers of waves to Richard’s illustration, also some mountains and a sea monster. She brings in an image of a starry sky, and in cheeky last move, decides to keep that gorgeous texture overlay Richard used.


Volley 6

It’s the final round of the competition and the pressure is on, both Lon and Meg have done themselves proud, can Jenny and Richard do one better?

Jenny isolates Lon’s mermaid and starts to confidently draw a boat and some impressive frothy waves – she finishes off with a funny little pirate gazing at the mermaid. It’s a pretty awesome end to an impressive battle.

layer tennis round 6

Richard’s creating a war ship, and it’s becoming apparent that he’s planning something heinous for his final volley, he’s planning on literally blowing Meg’s illustration out of the water. Sure enough, poor Nessie has quickly become decapitated and the battle has ended in quite an apocalyptic manner.

layer_tennis_meg_richard_final (1)

The winners?

It’s a close call in both matches and the decibel meter confirms this, the cheers are off the dial for each illustrator and I am forced to call it a draw for both matches. The illustrators heave a sigh of relief, it’s over, they survived – and they actually enjoyed it.

Who was the star of each match for you? Tweet us @Puree_Design

We had fantastic feedback on the night from many of our atendees and it was great to see such a strong turn out.

I’d also like to thank the other people who contributed to make the event happen:
Joey Yvans, Brighton Digital Festival co-ordinator who was really encouraging before the event and really helpful on the night. Anne from EDF – our volunteer helper on the night, and Nick Way who works at the Skiff and also helped us set up. The Skiff for providing the venue free of charge – if you are after a fantastic co-working space / community check them out here: www.theskiff.orgPin-up brewing company who supplied two lovely cases of ale for us to enjoy. (Look out for their brews in the ‘Inn Brighton’ chain of pubs in Brighton) And of course our four illustrators who faced their fears to entertain us all for the evening. Thanks Lon (@dirtyvectors), Jenny (@StressedJenny), Richard (@mrbiscuit) and our very own Meg (@Megan_Sayers) for getting involved and helping to set up on the night.

Want to see more?

Want to see more? Puree Design are planning on starting a semi-regular layer tennis evening. It’ll be a more relaxed affair, giving local designers and illustrators the chance to practice their skills and learn from each other. Interested in being involved why not get in touch and we’ll keep you posted?

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One Response to Puree Design hosts Brighton’s first live layer tennis illustration battle

  1. Avatar
    Helen Oct 2, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

    Super stuff – well done all! I love Layer Tennis – this is brilliant! Can we have a webcam for watching remotely next time please?!

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