A golden sky reflecting on the water as the sun rises behind an empty Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. This is the imagery of the winning design for the 43rd annual Cooper River Bridge Run (CRBR) 10K.
On Wednesday evening, Aug. 28 a private event was held at Alhambra Hall in Mount Pleasant to reveal the winning illustration. The CRBR Design Contest is an annual tradition that encourages artists from across the country to submit their artwork for consideration. This year’s contest featured 46 designs from artists of all ages and regions.
Over 8,695 people voted online in the CRBR People's Choice contest and the winning design claimed nearly 1,000 votes. For the first time in CRBR history, this years' artwork won both the public People's Choice voting and the private CRBR sponsors and special dignitary voting.
The winning artist, Joseph Wilhite is a graphic designer that lives and works in Charleston. He submitted artwork in the CRBR contest a few years ago and decided to come back this year and try again with a new approach to capture the excitement of the race.
"I wanted to bring up the opening day when the bridge is empty. I wanted to have the sun coming off the East with the sunrise right in the middle of the morning; all the excitement's building up, everyone's getting ready to run. And that's what I wanted to capture. I think I did. I spent a lot of time on this and really feel like it came together the way I wanted," Wilhite said.
He explained that winning this contest is a dream come true and that it wouldn't have been possible if his mom hadn't put a crayon in his hand when he was 5 years old.
Wilhite designed the entire piece in Adobe Photoshop. He shared that he took photo stock images of the bridge and used them as his lines and guides to go off of for his composition. Once he started painting, Wilhite said that the design took about 4,000 brushstrokes and about 80 hours to complete using an Apple Pen and an iPad Pro. He said it's basically like drawing on a canvas, the only difference is he had undo which was a nice save.
"It was really nice to see it all come to life. Every brush stroke it was a new aspect and it really came off the canvas. I couldn't be more proud of it," he added.
Wilhite has created a number of popular graphic designs for events in the Lowcountry. He worked with the American Lung Association to design the Lip Sync for Lungs event in 2018, created the design for the Citadel Mall's Solar Eclipse Event in 2017, the Isle of Palms Marina Festival and the James Island Connector Run's design in 2017. He said the 2017 race design is what got him into graphic design and was requested to design the James Island Connector Run design again for this year.
"The Lowcountry is my home. I've been here over 15 years and this is where I wanna be. There's beauty everywhere you look and the art world is here," he said.
During the event on Wednesday evening, the emcee Brian Hoffman and the CRBR Deputy Race Director Irv Batten called Wilhite on stage to reveal his work to the crowd.
"I wanted to inspire the Bridge Run, I wanted to capture the excitement the Bridge Run brings to the Lowcountry and that's what I conveyed," Wilhite said. "You guys all made this possible today because every single person is going to get to wear my design and that's just the greatest feeling in the whole world."
Batten shared that every year they get some really remarkable pieces of artwork submitted. During the unveiling event, all the other CRBR Design Contest entries were auctioned off and proceeds were donated to the CRBR charity partners.
Batten said that the winning design is really cool because it captures the amazing view of the sunrise on the bridge, something that he enjoys seeing every morning on the way to work.
"It's gold and the Bridge Run is like the gold medal race of the whole area here, actually he whole U.S. People love the bridge run," Batten said.
Batten said they are always impressed by the positive comments about the CRBR when they travel around the country to other races and expos to promote the run. Each year, Batten normally designs a sketch that he sends in for the race medal template. This year they will feature the winning artist's work on the race medals.
Wilhite is looking forward to the 43rd annual Bridge Run in the spring as he will participate for the first time.
"I told everyone if I won, I was going to do it," he said. "I want to cross that finish line with my shirt on and get that finishing medal and earn it and just know this all came true."
Wilhit's design will be featured on t-shirts, posters and will inspire the overall imagery of the 43rd Annual CRBR. The winning design will hang in the CRBR office with past winners. And in addition to bragging rights, he also took home a $1,000 prize, 100 posters and 24 t-shirts.
The race, which is capped at 40,000 people will be held on April 4, 2020.
"Locals, go ahead and sign up and get your registration out of the way. Don't wait because we're probably going to sell out. It's filling up and you don't want to miss it," Batten said.