Hamburg-born illustrator Felix Reidenbach stole our attention last June during the World Cup, with his 9,000-square-foot, classics-inspired "fresco" of adidas soccer gods for TBWA/Berlin, which decorated the ceiling of the central train station in Cologne, Germany. The old-school creation story behind the artwork might have seen Reidenbach lunging backward atop a massive scaffolding like Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but the modern-day tale was quite the opposite, with the 46-year-old artist hunched over his computer for nearly two months. "We started out by looking at a lot of ceiling paintings from the 15th to the 18th century—a complex genre that had to be fused into some sort of ideal type," he explains. Reidenbach then created a composited mockup of 3-D architecture and images of soccer players in various poses, with the adidas +10 athletes' heads pasted onto the bodies. After he got the client's approval, he remodeled the architecture, tweaked the light settings and finally, painted the whole composition digitally, the players taking about four days each to complete. The image was then printed on fabric and affixed to the station ceiling. But sadly, the Sweden-based Reidenbach says, "I haven't even seen it on location, only on my computer screen."
Oddly enough, Reidenbach doesn't specialize in the style of the Old Masters.In fact, he shies away from any forte, evident in the name of his company 2d3d4d, and in his portfolio, which features equal helpings of the real, hyperreal, cartoony and comic-like, for clients that also include Lufthansa, Ikea, Sony, Audi, German magazine Petra, and Gore-Tex. Pretty impressive for a self-taught high-school dropout and art school reject. "Ever since I started to draw, I have tried to become stylistically and conceptually as many-sided as possible," he says. "My own room was my academy, so nobody ever told me that this was idiotic." Today, he continues that train of thought when he selects jobs: "I focus on what I want to do, rather than what I am able to do."
If there's one thing he does insist on, it's that his work have a certain polish, which isn't a problem since the only pens and brushes he uses now are on the computer. "Before computers became affordable, I felt very limited and hated the fact that no matter how hard I tried, everything looked filthy or cheap, or not red enough, or undeliberately ironic," he says. "I loathed originals. I wanted my drawings to look as if they were already printed."