At the New Yorker, part 3

 all images, c. Kevin Sprouls
During my brief spell of association with the New Yorker, as I mentioned, all of the illustration work in the Goings-On-About-Town section were created for black+white reproduction. I thought this a distinctive attribute, and that it set the “calendar of events” department nicely apart. As an exercise, I thought it would be useful to try colorizing some of my more interesting illustrations from this body of work.

 A still from the 30’s or 40’s. My good friend, Mark Lonergan, describes the credits this way: “The women…are Ruth Chatterton and Mary Astor, who appeared together in William Wyler’s 1936 ‘Dodsworth.’ …I think.” I’m sure he’s nailed it. Note the condescending haughtiness of the society elite vs. the desperate social aspirant who’s pining for an out-of-reach object of desire. Am I reading too much into this?

This is the original used in the G.O.A.T. section. Back in those days (early-90’s), I had an Agfa production camera which came in very handy for assembling images for mechanical boards, reproducing images for my portfolios, and even scaling photos for producing illustrations. I developed a technique using transparency film, whereby I would take the black + white artwork, make a film overlay from it, and then create a color backdrop on board. The end-result tended to be graphic and effective, when successful– but it was a ton of work!

This image was perhaps the first time I utilized the process. The art was not produced for the New Yorker, but as a self-promotional piece for my young, thin portfolio (ca.1987). In the days before google images, a good place to dig for source materials was the New York City public library’s picture collection. One could spend hours combing through old photographs there! I found a still photo from the movie “Beckett”, of this brilliant Peter O’Toole moment, and took it back to my studio to spend a weekend with it. The result, above, is probably the piece I get the biggest response from, even today. Below, you can view the original, black + white artwork.

Another New Yorker assignment announced the screening of one of my favorite cinema works, Cocteau’s 1946 film (though it seems much more archaic!) “Le Belle et La Bete”. I thought it was a good candidate for the color process. Below you’ll see the colorized art, and then as the image was originally produced for the New Yorker.

On a technical note, the colored backdrop boards were typically cold press (slightly toothy surface), upon which I applied watercolor washes, building up the colors. Because this medium is somewhat challenging to control, I worked up a further stage using colored pencils to sharpen and define the color fields, then whatever corrective gouache paint that became necessary.

Yes, this was commissioned by the New Yorker. I never considered putting this through the coloring process, as the image is somewhat bizarre, to put it mildly. Announcing the Copeland, Clarke, Holland pop-fusion ensemble “Animal Logic” of 1989. My apologies to the band— it wasn’t my idea!

2 thoughts on “At the New Yorker, part 3

  1. Kevin, have you tried working in Adobe Photoshop? You could readily scan in your black and white work, then select only the black linework, put that on its own layer, with every think else on that layer being transparent. Then working on a separate layer(s) below your black line work, you could color and experiment to your hearts content. Make a mistake or change your mind, go to your history palette as many steps back and viola, you are good to go at it again. Incidentally, I think your work is the gold standard for linework.

  2. Yes, I have been relying on Adobe PS for many years. Your idea is of interest, as I am about to embark on a very complicated currency design, involving no end of layers! I’ll let you know how I did in a few weeks…

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