Illustrations for Reader’s Digest

all images, c. Kevin Sprouls


While I was working at my day job at The Wall Street Journal, I frequently gigged out, doing Illustrations for Reader’s Digest. While much of my work for RD involved generating illustrations from photographic references, one assignment was a bit different.

I was tasked with re-touching some battered, old art that had been created many years before. I do not possess the original images that I received to work on, but, I must say that they were in a fairly mutilated state!

I don’t quite recall whether I worked directly on the original prints, or if I made copies. In any case, I set out putting my hand to restoring these beautiful compositions.

I don’t know the original artist who created these images, but he surely had a gift for arranging dramatic landscape illustrations. My task with these was to clean up the line work and to make uniform the dot fields, removing the many imperfection of the original prints.

The original prints were designed in an interesting way. There are essentially three elements of tone: white, a middle-tone light grey, and black. This results in a stylish graphic presentation of tonal variations. In the image above, I strove to emphasize the brilliance of the moon.

Here, the emphasis is on the cloud. Note the detail in the foreground vegetation. My pen was evident here. There was a lot of stippling and pointillism going on in these images. That technique came naturally to me, so the assignment was a perfect fit.

This striking mountain scene was most interesting for its subtle tone-shifting. I especially focussed on the contrast increasing as the viewer’s eye travels to the mountain’s top. In this image, the snow is afforded dramatic effect.

I hope you enjoyed this rarely seen set of illustrations, In this blog, never before seen. More next week. Thanks for reading and viewing.

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