Best known for the 10,000-plus celebrity caricatures he’s contributed to the walls of The Palm restaurants worldwide, Napoleon Group in-house artist/illustrator Al Evcimen has also illustrated the New York Knicks Yearbook and the New York Rangers Media Book, created animations for the Madison Square Garden scoreboard, drawn movie posters for cult-favorites “The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball” and “The Secret Policeman’s Private Parts” and, at Napoleon, created illustrations for literally countless ads since he started there in 1991. Little wonder he shares the pages of “The Complete Book of Caricatures” with luminaries David Levine, Ralph Steadman, Al Hirschfeld and Robert Risko.

For his latest extracurricular activity, the legendary and legendarily tireless Evcimen drew an epic 4-foot gatefold illustration for “The Ryder Cup: Golf’s Grandest Event” (The American Golfer, December 15, 2014). The lavish 9-pound, 499-page coffee-table tome by American Golfer editor and publisher Martin Davis features coverage of all 40 Ryder Cups, the prestigious biennial men’s tournament between teams of top golfers from the U.S. and Europe, including the 2014 edition at Gleneagles in Scotland.

Evcimen joins a roster of contributors to the book that comprises golf’s greatest players and writers: Ryder Cup Captains Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin, author John Feinstein (“A Season on the Brink”), New York Times Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Anderson and London Times correspondent John Hopkins. Each of those is pictured in Evcimen’s Ryder Cup All-Time Players gatefold, which features a total of 61 U.S. and European icons, including Americans Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Billy Casper and Ben Hogan and Europeans Lee Westwood, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Ian Poulter and Seve Ballesteros.

Evcimen’s involvement with the book was kismet.

“Many, many years ago, when Al and I were both kids—literally, just out of school—we met when we were both working at DDB on the American Airlines account,” says author Davis. “He was an art director. I was an account executive. Our paths diverged; Al stayed in advertising, I went into publishing. Flash-forward 30 years. I’m having dinner at The Palm, trying to figure out who I might ask to illustrate the Ryder Cup All-Time Players foldout for the book. As I was walking out the door, I saw Al’s drawings on the wall and I said, ‘Al! Of course!’”

Evcimen drew the gatefold as one large illustration—the same size it appears in the book. The challenge, he says, was balancing each portrait so that one didn’t overwhelm another while adding distinctive elements—Walter Hagen’s knickers, Sam Torrance’s bullhorn, Tom Kite’s wide-brimmed hat.

For the 61 portraits, Evcimen employed his signature style.

“They’re caricatures,” he says. “But flattering caricatures. I try to make people look better than they really do.”

Davis asked Evcimen to revise only one of the portraits, a golfer.

“Martin wanted me to redo his portrait, too,” says Evcimen, “but I told him, ‘Fuggedaboudit!’”

Although Evcimen’s meticulous illustration might suggest otherwise, he’s not an avid golfer or fan.

“I follow golf a little bit—I like to fall asleep to it once in a while,” he deadpans.

He does have a favorite pro, Nicklaus, whom he respects for his longevity, but his own time on the course has been limited. Very limited.

“I played once—that’s about it,” he says. “It takes a lot of practice to be good and I like to be good. I didn’t do too badly, considering it was my first time. I didn’t play 18 holes though, only nine. Nine was enough.”

It’s that same sense of humor that distinguishes Evcimen’s approach to illustration—and Evcimen himself, says Napoleon Art Studio Manager Scott Stein, who has worked with him for 18-plus years.

“If we’re under pressure, stressed, on a tight deadline, Al’s the one who lightens the mood. We keep a list of Al-isms—things Al says that don’t quite make sense but definitely make you laugh. Things like, ‘The apple doesn’t fall far from the pear tree.’ ‘Don’t come here looking for an answer if you don’t have a solution.’ And ‘There isn’t enough memory to forget what you did.’”

The most amazing thing of all about Evcimen?

“He taught himself to draw, without any college or classical training,” marvels Stein. “He hit the streets of New York with a book of his drawings and became an agency art director on talent alone.”

Reminded of this, Al only shrugs modestly.

“There but for the grace goes God,” he says.

The Napoleon Group
Art. Craft. Ingenuity. Those are the deliverables that distinguish The Napoleon Group and the reasons creative thinkers and innovative brands trust us to instill impact and performance in their previsualization and digital content.

Drawing on an evolving portfolio of specialized services and styles—animatics, cinematics, live production, art, audio, 3D VFX/motion graphics—Napoleon fashions captivating experiences that spark consumer curiosity, inspire brand loyalty and fuel product sales. In short, we provide deeper consumer insights and consistently higher test scores by creating customized content that connects, compels and converts.

Founded in 1985, The Napoleon Group is a full-service previz and digital content

company with a legacy of unrivaled authority and an eye firmly focused on the future. Seizing an opportunity for growth and expansion in 2013, Napoleon moved to New York's nexus of creativity and technology, the vibrant Flatiron District, and created a dream studio—a one-of-a-kind, more than 14,000-square-foot contemporary office and facility on two floors that's perfectly suited to the changing nature of the advertising business.

The new project-centric space features a 12-camera Vicon Bonita motion-capture system, a spacious green-screen stage and custom-built edit and audio suites that combine comfort with a stylish efficiency, all seamlessly tied together with state-of-the-art infrastructure. The studio boasts an open-air workspace for 40-plus animators, editors, designers, illustrators, modelers, compositors, scripters, character artists, motion-graphics artists, producers and creative directors that facilitates creative synergy among staff and clients alike and inspires our savvy storytellers to greater heights.

For industry-leading talent, a collaborative culture and a facility designed to exhilarate, agencies seeking a truly creative partnership know where to turn: The Napoleon Group.