If you’ve been to a Washington Capitals home game in the last 4-5 years, you’ve probably seen it. Since the 2009-2010 season, I’ve been bringing my Unleash the Fury signs to Caps games. It’s the project that really got me interested in making illustrations of hockey players (with a twist), and it also got me working here at RMNB. But in the years since I started making art for the blog, I’ve never really gone into detail about how I started making these signs and my process behind the artwork itself.

So we’re gonna take a little look back into the past, and also reveal my brand new Russian Machine sign for 2014.

Verizon Center, 2006. Look at that overly excited dork in the XXL jersey in the corner.

Verizon Center, 2006. Look at that overly excited dork in the XXL jersey in the corner.

I actually got my start drawing signs waaay back when in early 2006. It was a flimsy, simple thing on posterboard, coloured with magic markers in a couple hours that said: “OVECHKIN ROX MY SOCKS.” 14-year-old me thought I was so clever. I held that sign against for glass for warmups, Ovi saw it, gave me a smile and a “I have no idea what you mean but I guess it’s good, you silly child” shrug. He may not have understood what I was trying to say, but the fact that he noticed made me ecstatic.

Three years later, during the 2008-2009 season, I decided that since it was my senior year of high school and my final season of going to nearly every Caps home game for four years, I needed to draw something a bit fancier. It said, “LET’S GO CAPS,” and had cartoony portraits of six Caps : Ovi, Mike Green, Chris Clark, Nick Backstrom, Alex Semin, and Jose Theodore. The drawing got great reception from fans, and was even put on the DC Sports Bog. I eventually ended up getting all 6 players to sign it by the end of the season, and now the sign is framed and hanging in my workspace.

All hail Red Rally Balloon.

All hail Red Rally Balloon.

That season was the year Ovechkin said his now-famous “Russian machine never break” line. At some point during the season I ended up scribbling a picture of Ovi with a robot arm and a big mechanical eagle wing. I really liked where I was going with the idea, and decided I wanted to expand upon that idea in the future.

Before I left for college in Connecticut, I wanted to make a new sign with an updated version of that doodle (no more wing). I did, with the message “UNLEASH THE FURY!” and it was a hit! Ever since, I’ve decided every year during the summer to make an updated version of the Russian machine “Fury” sign, factoring in not only the change of my own artistic style, but also Ovi’s look (the long, shaggy hair became shorter, the design of the arm became a bit more refined, and slowly… the “machine” half of his face started to show more and more (and get more and more detailed).

The very first concept drawing I did, from early 2008.

The very first concept drawing I did, from early 2008.

Because of the lockout last year, I postponed making a new sign, and due to the craziness that was graduating college and a new job, I just finally got a chance to make a new sign for this season. I took a lot of progress pictures, so let’s see how I put a Russian machine sign together!

Materials: Sakura Microns for the linework, and Copic Markers for the colour! I love Copics. They’re made from an alcohol-based ink, blend wonderfully, and come in a huge variety of colors. You can also refill the inks, and replace the pen nibs when they wear down. I use Bainbridge cold-press illustration board as my choice of drawing surface. The cold-press paper has a roughness to it that is good for marker-work (hot-press is super smooth, and marker streaks way too easily and does not like to allow the markers to blend. The color is also less vibrant).  The board I choose is also double-thickness, so it can withstand being brought between my house and the Verizon Center for the duration of a season (or in the case of Ovi 3.0, 2 and a half seasons).

RussianMachine4Sketch copy

First step is the drawing!!! I planned out the sketch for Ovi 4.0 in an 11×14 sketchbook. Once the drawing is complete, it’s scanned, and I add the “UNLEASH THE FURY” text in Photoshop. This year’s sign features the font “Bulletproof” from BlamBot fonts (if you like type, check them out! They have great fonts, both free and for a fee. I’ve used them for RMNB shirt designs, as well as for the type in Shinny!) I’ll print the new text-added scan, and transfer the artwork to the illustration board using a projector. Then the artwork is inked using the Micron pens.



The first thing I start with on colours is the face. Usually, when I’m painting with inks, I always go light-to-dark. With markers, I work a bit differently. I’ll block in the area of shadows first, then draw the darkest shadows, then use my highlight and mid-tone. This helps the darker shades blend better, so the edges of the shadow are not as harsh. I then move onto the machine half of his face. The design for the robotics is based off different references of “Terminator”-style prosthetic makeups I had saved when I was working on a realistic portrait version of Russian machine Ovi for my senior college portfolio. Above you can see the finished face and facial robotics.

A close-up of the details in Ovi's face.



The next part of the drawing is the mechanical arm and any gray areas. I use cool grays for any metal areas, and warm grays for the white areas on the jersey. The reason I choose to colour in the gray areas next, instead of Ovi’s jersey, is because of the red pigment in the markers: if any gray colours over the red, it will smudge and smear like crazy. The darker red pigment will also run off onto the nib of the gray marker, which will stain, and the red will rub into the next area I try to colour in gray unless I change the nib. So, I always go with the gray areas before I move onto the jersey!


Next comes the most important colour: RED! Ovi’s jersey is always the hardest part of any sign. It’s by far the largest section on the drawing. I have to make sure my red markers always have enough in them, because otherwise they’ll start leaving really bad streaks throughout the area I’m colouring in. With markers, you’re always going to get some streaking, but the less blatant you can make it, the better, so you need to work quickly to overlap the edges of each line you colour in before they dry so that the edges blend together.  Once the main part of the jersey is done, I’ll colour in the blue areas on the collar, sides, and the piping on the sleeves.


Finally, I go into the drawing with a white or cream coloured pencil, just to add a few bright highlights in the jersey, face, hair, and any reflections in the metal areas. The text then gets coloured in. The last details that get added is the white “WASHINGTON” in the logo, and the white around the Weagle wings. That gets painted in with opaque white ink. And voilá!!  One sign, ready to unleash some Fury at the Verizon Center!!


Below you can see the progression of my Russian Machine signs over the years.

So what’s next on the list? Well, I’ll be bringing my newest sign to Caps home games starting tonight vs. San Jose,  for the rest of this season, and for the 2014-15 season. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be making a new sign next season! I’ll be drawing something EXTRA-SPECIAL for the Winter Classic in DC (I have a few ideas already, but what I specifically draw depends on who the Caps play)!!!

From left-to-right: 2009, 2010, 2011, and a special sign made for the 2011 Winter Classic

From left-to-right: 2009, 2010, 2011, and a special sign made for the 2011 Winter Classic.

If you have any questions about the sign, or about anything related to the other artwork I do in general or for RMNB, feel free to leave them in the comments! Keep your eye out on 104, and you’ll be able to see the Russian machine both on the ice SCOARING MOAR GOALS, and in the stands, UNLEASHING THE FURY. If you see me walking the concourse, please don’t hesitate to introduce yourself and say ‘hello!’

See you at the Phonebooth. LET’S GO CAPS!!!

  • Seriously great work, Rachel. Exciting for whatever is next with the comic too. Have something planned for the next Winter Classic?

  • GetchaGrubbOn

    Get it, girl.

  • My question for Rachel is: Can I be you?

  • Kate Jamison

    Seriously amazing. I wish I had just 1% of your talent.

  • I do!!! Though the actual composition will depend on who they’re playing. 😉

  • I am!!! I’ll be getting started on that piece once the details are anounced over the summer.

  • Shawn Murphy

    Another strong Cohentribution by Rachel, great stuff

  • Diller M


  • Red

    Saw you at the game last night. You were rockin’ it as usual.
    Did you say you bring the original to the games? That’s ballsy. I would’ve taken a high res photo and made a few high quality prints to absorb the travel.

    The C on the jersey is for Cohen, right?

  • I do bring the original (though I do take a hires photo before it debuts in case the worst happens, but thankfully nothing has ever happened to any of my signs). Thankfully the board I use hold up very well, and the markers are waterproof & fadeproof. The sign stays in a heavy plastic bag when not in use. I also sit with the same group of people since my family’s a STH, so I can trust that they wouldn’t damage the work.

    For the Winter Classic though, I did the my sign laminated in case of inclement weather.