“I almost never practice sports,” says illustrator Anne-Margot Ramstein, who, despite having no desire to go to the gym or be part of a team is fascinated by the visuals of athletic activities. Her recent book of sports drawings, En Forme (or In Shape), investigates the body in motion with extreme precision—the images remind me of the intense, detailed cuts carved into ancient Greek sculptures, highlighting every taut muscle of heroic Olympic champions.
“In my childhood, my body could speak several languages,” recalls Rammstein. “But when I stopped practicing sports I completely lost that vocabulary in the same way you loose the ability to read music when you stop playing piano.” You might say her pictures search for this language lost long ago, using thick geometric forms, punchy color, and an emphatic use of shadow to illustrate motion and physical exertion.
What first drew Ramstein to the project was an aesthetic desire to capture the plasticky qualities and pictorial codes she observed in sports photography. Captivated by the strangeness of watching someone else play and then freezing that moment in time, she used the restricted lines of graph paper to depict the movement and blur created by sports cameras. To make the images resonate and almost pulsate, Ramstein filled her hand-drawn sketches with a CMYK palette offset with one flourescent Pantone (804U) in Photoshop; the effect makes colors pop with motion.
But since a photograph doesn’t necessarily show the emotions or physical experience of an athlete, Rammstein focused on the relationship between the body and space, and the way a person leaves their “comfort zone” when exerting a lot of energy. In Ramstein’s series, an athlete and their surroundings are rendered with similar geometric motifs to imply a union. “I had to synthesize forms more that I usually do in order to create a common vocabulary that links characters and backgrounds,” she explains. Therefore the shape of fingers and calves belonging to a pair of ice skaters are reflected in the spirals of skate marks, and the bent backs and colorful clothes of hikers are echoed in the tangles of a forest.
Full confession—I don’t do a lot of physical activity, so these drawings are interesting to me because they capture a feeling I remember from school P.E. classes, that sensation of (almost) complete unity with the goals of a sport. They remind me of when I could easily touch my toes, jump over hurdles, and when I would skip alongside the bounces of a basketball. En Forme is a pictorial dictionary of sports, and it harmoniously marries the hypnotic wonder of sports photography with the intensity of feeling that comes with physical exercise.