I recently sat for an interview with the WSJ Digital Media team. They were eager to learn how I developed the iconic Wall Street Journal Hedcut style.
I’m including a few illustrations I created while on staff at The Journal:
This is an illustration of ‘The Big Three’ at Yalta, concluding the Second World War.
Above, a typical hedcut portrait, and below, another…
Sometimes, a conceptual illustration was needed:
The Russian artist, Wassily Kandinsky, an early, graphic hedcut.
Here are a couple of shots of the interview room. We chatted via video link…
Here, I was showing an early drawing to explain how I arrived at my illustration technique.
Anyway, I hope you’ll enjoy the interview that follows. I was gratified to give the history of the hedcut to the team at WSJ!
A Chat with Kevin Sprouls
BY JILLIAN BREITFELLER
Recently, WSJ Design had the honor of meeting with Kevin Sprouls, the creator of the Wall Street Journal portrait style. He pioneered this iconic style, also referred to as the WSJ hedcuts or stipple drawings. The portrait style has become a trademark and widely recognized aspect of the WSJ brand.
A screenshot of Kevin sharing his process from his workspace, over a Google Hangout, for the team.
Kevin was kind enough to give us some background about the origin of the hedcuts, and a behind-the-scenes look into his process. He introduced the illustration style to the paper in 1979, and he both created the illustrations and trained other artists in mastering the process. Each hedcut is hand-drawn, and consists of a series of dots and lines that bring the subject to life in a unique and interesting way.
Kevin and the other stipple artists use photographs as inspiration, most often of headshots that will be tranformed into detailed portraiture. Kevin explains that the process is a meticulous one, and that new artists that demonstrate a certain skillset and proficiency are individually trained in this particular technique. Each artist, however, will have their own distinctive style.
Kevin explained that each portrait can take up to five hours to complete, and on most days, artists will complete one to two portraits a day. During one particularly busy period, Kevin completed four portraits in one day! Though he was able to successfully complete his work that day, he expressed to the group that most often, he wouldn’t recommend it. Ouput is important, but the distinguished quality of the drawings absolutely must be maintained.
A parting gift Kevin received from WSJ upon his departure.
Kevin was also kind enough to give us a virtual tour of his workspace —the desk where he spends his time creating, the pens he uses and their particular weights, and walls lined with beautiful and interesting projects and artifacts from past and present. In a world that is focused on exponentially expanding technologies, this is a lovely reminder to appreciate the work of the human hand—the creative process that is unique to artistic creation, and its remarkable ability to inspire the viewer.
Kevin worked at WSJ until 1987, but continues to create portraits today. You can view some of his work and connect with him at www.sprouls.com.