all illustrations, Kevin Sprouls
All right, everyone, gather ’round! I’m going to show you all how I create those iconic portraits, in the style I introduced to the Wall Street Journal, still seen around the world today.
The required tools include:
a soft pencil (I actually use a lead-holder, like the old draftsmen used back in the day, HB grade lead.)
Ink for the technical fountain pens (you can use a dip pen like this, but I wouldn’t recommend it— hard to control, and messy!)
and you’ll need one of these (pictured is an eraser known as a “pink pearl”— I prefer the kneaded rubber type, which is superior.) A fine, high-quality paintbrush and some white designer’s gouache will take care of any “adjustments” which might be necessary.
Many of my clients send photos to work with that, I must say, can be challenging. The following illustrates one case of a recently produced portrait. Step one, The Client sends me the photograph. It looks like this:
Not great, but it has just enough detail to work with. Step two, get the image into photoshop, and convert to grey, size image to my liking, and crop.
Step three, I print out the greyscale image, and transfer the photo’s information onto illustration board by tracing on the photo. The resulting contour drawing is like a map for me to follow, as I “ink” the finished product.
Everything’s done by hand, one mark of the pen at a time. Once the portrait is inked, the pencil lines get erased, and I’m ready to “touch up” any visual issues with the paint brush. And the final result…
This is a large image, to show detail. Below, the portrait as it might be used on the web or in print.
I hope you enjoyed my tutorial. I understand that the folks over at the WSJ use a slightly different process to get their hedcuts into the paper, but the hallmark style remains the same, Picturing Business.