When I was growing up in Tampa my family always attended the Florida State Fair every February, yet the thing I enjoyed most about the fair wasn't the ferris wheel, liquid sugar lemonade, or corndogs. No, what I liked most about the fair was the sideshow attractions that would be in some fold-up trailer where you could pay 50¢ to see the world's smallest horse, "Porky" the world's largest pig, a "real-life" mermaid, or the "giant, 14 ft" alligator that my trained eye measured at least 5ft short of that. ​​​​​​​
For whatever reason, I was never into the fire eater/contortionist/sword swallower/bed of nails performance type of sideshow (alligator wrestling would be cool if the guy wasn't grappling with a gator the size of which wouldn't even scare a chihuahua), but as I would come to find out years later, it was all a matter of circumstance because in a different time, and a not-so-different place I would be telling a completely different story. 
It turns out I was about a century late getting to the "working acts" sideshow because probably the biggest hobby I've ever had throughout my life, weightlifting, used to be center stage of it in the form of the circus strongmen, and what Babe Ruth was to baseball, what Jim Brown was to the NFL, what Arnold Schwarzenegger was to action movies, and what Hulk Hogan was to pro-wrestling, that is what Arthur Saxon was to the circus strongmen – in short, the best.
Arthur Saxon, legendary circus strongman

The Man, The Myth, The Legend...

Saxon was superlative at the "2 hands, anyhow" lift in which the objective was to lift as much weight as possible overhead – by any means. Because Saxon was highly specialized and represented the ne plus ultra of a single hand lift known as the bent press, setting a still unsurpassed and still unapproached record of 370lbs in it, no one could exceed his 2 hands lift total because no one could surmount match his bent press superiority. 
While I haven't been to the Florida State Fair in over two decades, things that have brought me to wax nostalgic in recent years have included the HBO show Carnivàle, "Sideshows by the Seashore" at Coney Island, and touring the Venice Beach Boardwalk. Of course, waxing nostalgic about anything means it's only a matter of time before I conceive of a Photoshop/Illustrator project to illustrate it. Accordingly, as a homage to the circus sideshows and strongmen, I came up with a t-shirt design for Arthur Saxon's Anyhow Gym. The "Anyhow Gym" text I made using a vintage-style font that I altered with some clever shape construction and drop shadow effects I've learned practicing in Illustrator. The image of Saxon was created in Photoshop using adjustment layers along with posterization and oil painting filters. I started out with a "minimalist" design with just "Anyhow Gym," the image, and the year established (I used 1897 since that is the year he set the bent press record). 

Minimalist design

Although the arms-folded pose does convey "powerful" by itself, I went through some other iterations trying to make the best use of the space available. Therefore, I added kettlebell outlines since I rationalized that "a t-shirt for a gym should have weights in it's imagery, right???" I finished the front design by also adding his hometown of Leipzig, Saxony as the location and lions from the Leipzig coat of arms. Coming up with a back design was a lot more straightforward, I thought of maybe one other mantra but the writing was really already on the wall; if the theme of the gym is a 2 hands lift by any means then the motto has to be "By Any Means Necessary." The back image of Saxon performing the 2 hands lift I also made in photoshop using the oil painting filter. 
I feel good about how this project manifested from my nostalgic urge to an actual graphic I can show somebody. I am finding the posterize and oil painting filters in Photoshop very utile, along with the vintage style fonts, and the gears are already turning on other vintage t-shirt designs like this one.
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