More Illustrations for Reader’s Digest

all images, c. Kevin Sprouls

This week, more illustrations for Reader’s Digest. Back in the years I was on staff at The Wall Street Journal, I often did side jobs for various clients. One of my steady clients was The Reader’s Digest. I created many illustrations for their postage stamp collectors’ series, which was called First Day of Issue. Envelopes with brand new stamps were postmarked on the day the stamps were issued, and elegant, black and white illustrations were printed on the left side.

The images in this post are all from this series. The themes were classic Americana,… think Norman Rockwell. The group shown above were likely an early Boy’s Club or similar organization. I found the historical details of the image interesting: period clothes, decorative tent and the impoverished expression on the boys’ faces. Early 20th century, I would guess.

In a similar vein, here is an early depiction of the Boy Scouts. I really like the composition of this image. Each figure is expressive and intent. For the life of me, though, I don’t have a clue what kind of knot the Scoutmaster is tying! He must be an master of the marlinspike. The emblematic pup tents in the background complete the illustration.

Zoom ahead 75 years or so, and we have a more modern concept: The Neighborhood Watch. This lad is doing his part by erecting a sign to help protect a suburban neighborhood. There is a lot going on here, with a bit of architecture hiding behind the tree and an interesting perspective as we look up at the working figure.

Here’s a nice shot of Eleanor Roosevelt, walking along a train platform. This illustration uses a lot of line work, versus my standard pointillistic technique. Note the fox, seemingly in its entirety, draped around her neck. Her right foot stepping forward, straight through the frame.

Above, the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. There is quite a lot of line work, again, in this illustration. I had been studying the old masters and how they’d carefully crafted the way the folds of a fabric would catch light. Here, you’ll find a great variety of undulating cloth. I tried to capture her elegant hands, and the Victorian feel of her posture.

To end with a flourish, Douglas Fairbanks, from Robin Hood. I worked to make a visual pop by keeping the background fairly grey and indistinct, creating a depth of field effect. As with the Eleanor Roosevelt illustration, here I’m breaking the frame with the long sword blade.

More next time… stay tuned!

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