Portraits of my Family, in the WSJ Hedcut Style

All illustrations, c. Kevin Sprouls

Above, a self-portrait that I created while employed at The Wall Street Journal.

In this post, I present a group of portraits of my family, in the WSJ Hedcut style. I developed and introduced this style of illustration to The Wall Street Journal back in the seventies and eighties. I am still producing these portraits for various clients, design firms and companies around the world.

Here are my mother and her two brothers, with some memories of them all. Sadly, they have all left this earthly realm. I miss them so much, yet I retain many distinct and fond memories of the times I was privileged to spend with them!

Here is my Mom, Alice, from a photo taken at my brother’s wedding. I chose this photo of her to work from because she was beaming with happiness! It was a great day for her, and a pretty lavish affair. We all celebrated with considerable flair that day. (She always liked him best!)

My mother was the one who helped pave my way to art school. I’m most grateful for that!

She was very generous, a ‘soft touch’, you might say. When I was in high school, my friends would all rave about her broiled chicken. It seemed like she was always preparing and serving food to family and friends. She evolved into a superior cook.

Her two brothers traveled a similar path:

Above, a picture of my uncles’ restaurant, Van’s Freehold Inn. This photo shows the place as I remember it. My folks would load us into the car once or twice a year for a visit and a meal there. It was a fine restaurant, with an elegant, full-service bar complete with a large aquarium behind it. There was also an aviary in the parking lot, with a peacock!

My uncles were both in World War Two. Here is a portrait of my Uncle Marce in uniform:

He has such immense resolve in his look… I strove to capture his determination in the portrait.

He was the oldest of the three. He told the story of being assigned as a dental assistant during the war, in London. He did not have much to say about the conflict, aside from hating to have his hands in other peoples’ mouths! Marce Van was a brilliant wit. As a family, we would sit at the dining room table with my father and him at either ends. Their exchanges were barbed and charged with great humor. They would deliver the comedy with no reveal. Any slip of a laugh would lose one the game. It was terrific fun! They really liked each other, despite their constant wry jabs.

Marce ran the kitchen at the restaurant. He used to bring us kids into the back and teach us how to put a live lobster (they always had a big crate of them) to sleep. His brother, Frank Van, worked behind the bar…

Frank was the youngest, and a real gentleman. Here he is, later in life, dancing at my sister’s wedding. I made this drawing on the occasion of his death, several years ago. I liked his expression- he was really having fun- and tried to bring his joy into the drawing.

During the war, he told us, he dragged a cannon around Europe. One night, he and his guys holed up with the big gun in a barn. It was raining hard through the night, and still pouring when he received a wee-hours message: The radio-man relayed the order that Frank and his men were to move the artillery gun to a new location, immediately. My uncle and his company were already exhausted from the previous day’s labors. He told the messenger to “Tell the Major to come and move it himself!” He thought he would be courtmartialled, but nothing came of the affair.

The two brothers worked at the restaurant 6 days a week, twelve hours a day. They liked going to “the track’ (Freehold Racetrack) on their day off.

These are my family portraits so far. I hope to extend this collection in coming years. Thanks for reading!

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