A Wall Street Journal Hedcut History, Part 1

My connections to the Journal sometimes get eclipsed. Quite understandable, as I quit my “day job” as head of the Illustration Dept. in 1987! As you’ve no doubt read in previous blog posts here, I developed the current WSJ “hedcut” style in 1979 and 1980, and trained a bunch of people in the art of producing them in the ensuing years. Below, an articled excerpt from Advertising Age, ca. 1985. The hedcuts were making a splash. Read the text, it’s amusing…

There were many, many artists that came to work and became long-term contributors in the constant churning-out of stipple portraits! Too many to list here. But I will make a quick rundown of some of the characters I was fortunate enough to collaborate with:

Posy Webber (pictured above)– my favorite hedcut artist. She really had a talent for creating consistently top-notch work. A lot of fun to be with “off hours”, too.

Harry Bates– a top talent. Harry hailed from L.A. and had a graphically-tinged way of doing the wall street journal stipple portraits.

Richard Baratz– Richard came to us between stints at the American Banknote Company. One of the last true steel engravers, he was a natural. Richard is the Caricaturist for Sardi’s, NYC. A superstar.

Van Howell– Some people think I’m a bit left-of-center because I wear my hair long, but Van was a true, red-blooded Liberal! He was also a genius with the pen, and a loose cannon stylistically. He could easily replicate the stipple portraits we were doing, but often chose to put his own spin on things.

Barbara Kelley– A truly creative soul with an oversized penchant for fun. Aside from a gifted portrait artist, she was responsible for making all necessary funny hats, usually for Birthday occasions. In our art department (under the editorial guidance of the indefatigable, Best Boss Ever, thank you very much, Stephen MacDonald), Birthdays were solemnly and uproariously observed.

Laura levy– Effortlessly fell into the hedcut thing, and her pastel work in the fine art realm is truly extraordinary! Laura is also blessed with a fine voice. I’ve heard it, and I’m here to tell you…

There are other hedcut artists that came through our department, not mentioned here. More signifcantly, we illustrators worked cheek-to-jowl with some superlative graphic artists and chartmakers. More about these in subsequent postings.

For now, Dear Reader, here is a free offer (oh, Boy!): Below you will see one quarter of a testimonial printing plate that I was presented with upon the occasion of my farewell to the Journal. The three subsequent installments of this blog will contain the other quadrants of this plate. You can acquire a digital image of the entire plate simply by subscribing to this blog or sending me an email request (no salesman will call).

A note on the plate: My colleague, Posy Webber, was tasked to assemble this montage of my illustrations, produced at the Journal during the ’80’s.

‘Til next time,  –Kevin

6 thoughts on “A Wall Street Journal Hedcut History, Part 1

  1. Very interesting post. Saw the video on my wsj reader the other day and wondered why there was no mention of who designed the technique in the first place or who the very first hedcut was of. Do you remember whose mug had the honor? I see you left Noli Novak off your list. Maybe she came on board as the head illustrator after you left. She’s a bit of a loose cannon judging by her blog. What do you think about the whole Jose Cano appropriation of the newspaper hedcut clippings?

  2. I did hear from a colleague about the whole Jose Cano thing. I guess it’s similar to the musicians who lift samples and weave them into new works. I have yet to view his work. Sounds pretty interesting, and does help to amplify the iconic quality of this work, which is a good thing. I don’t know if I’d feel so good, however, if I saw one of my pieces utilized in this way. Complicated issue.

  3. Pingback: Posy webber | Seihantai

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