Imagine drawing an individual illustration of every named football squad member of every team to play in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, all within the cup’s month-long duration. This means putting aside around 170 hours – for no pay. And you have separate day jobs, a baby, and limited artistic talent.
This will be the reality for British couple Alex and Sian Pratchett as of June 14, but it’s not the first time they’ve embarked on such a project. They’re the duo behind Panini Cheapskates – the drawing project that was covered by the likes of The Guardian in 2014 when the pair announced they would hand draw every single sticker in the FIFA World Cup official sticker collection by Panini, and then again for UEFA European Championship (Euro) 2016.
??⚽️?? pic.twitter.com/FS8GEqkK9j— Panini Cheapskates (@CheapPanini) April 25, 2018
For those who may not be familiar with a Panini sticker collection, it’s part of a British tradition which dates back to 1970 in which children frantically swap football stickers in schoolyards with the aim of filling an entire sticker book, which is made by Italian company The Panini Group (not the grilled sandwich). But there’s one problem – it’s an expensive hobby.
Alex and Sian chose to draw the stickers simply because filling the collection would be too expensive. This is still valid for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Panini sticker collection, which is estimated to cost £773.60 to fill in its entirety, according to a maths professor Paul Harper from Cardiff who calculated the total price for The Guardian.
Although finishing the entire collection in 2016 nearly crushed Alex and Sian, the project garnered massive media attention and as a result, the occupational therapist and Cancer Research UK employee were able to raise over £4,500 in donations for their favourite charities including Cancer Research UK and MacIntyre.
Gearing up to take on the same challenge for this year’s FIFA World Cup, now with baby in toe, we caught up with Alex and Sian to find out what they’ll do differently this time around, and how you can get involved.
"After 2014, we always said we'd need a good reason to put ourselves through it again," says Alex. "It's a lot of work, there's probably 150 to 170 hours of drawing to be done in the 32 days of the World Cup tournament, and there's only two of us.
"We now have a baby, so any free time we've been able to rely on in previous years is now out the window. So it's quite an undertaking, but, for Euro 2016 we decided to use our silly quest as a way to raise money for some charities that are very close to our hearts."
Hoping to beat the £4,500 they raised in 2016, Alex and Sian have already set up an online giving page which you can donate to. At the time of writing, and over a month before the World Cup kicks off, Panini Cheapskates has already raised over £1,160.
But how exactly do they plan to draw every single football player in the sticker album, with each illustration taking around 15 minutes, in just 32 days?
"It's pretty simple really. We get the real album, sans stickers, cut our own blank stickers to size, and just get drawing," says Sian.
This, but 680 times in a month pic.twitter.com/F1Hpll30cX— Panini Cheapskates (@CheapPanini) April 24, 2018
"There are equally (or maybe even more) geeky types out there on the internet who upload images of the original real Panini stickers, so they act as our reference point. Then it's just a matter of finding whoever you're going to draw, and doing our ham-fisted best to draw them.
"Despite drawing over 1,500 of these little guys over the past four years, we're still pretty hopeless. We're remarkably resistant to improvement."
Alex and Sian insist they aren’t artists, but yet their creativity lies more in music than illustration, or Sian’s interest in crochet and knitting. Alex works for Cancer Research UK normally, and Sian is an occupational therapist who works with children with autism.
"I assume that any time we're not in work and the baby is asleep, then the pencils will be out with gusto," says Alex.
To create the illustrations, the pair will draw in pencil – "accompanied by much erasing and muttered swearing" – then add colour with pencils and sometimes felt-tip pens or Sharpies.
"I usually finish them off with some clumsy black outlines. Sian occasionally does flesh tones using watercolours, whereas I'm far less refined and generally go for the pencil option," says Alex.
Taking into consideration they have already completed the Panini sticker collections twice now, there are pearls of wisdom to keep in mind for 2018.
"Drawing is hard," says Alex. "We are not good at it. People are lovely and will donate money to good causes if you amuse them with awful drawings.
"The internet is a deeply strange place."
Alex and Sian have kept the sticker collections from 2014 and 2016 "as two little reminders of two very strange months". The collections have been exhibited once or twice, and they may be up for auction one day.