My First Woodcut Style Illustration

Thistle Seedling

Black and white scratchboard illustration of a Thistle seedling. It has a birds eye view and is drawn with a woodcut look.

This is my first illustration that I did with the woodcut look (about 1982). It was for Kenrick Advertising in St. Louis, MO, and the client was for a herbicide product called Banvel. Banvel is a herbicide that controls a wide variety of brod-leaf weeds.

What my assignment for this project curtailed was to do pen and ink drawings of about 50 different brod-leaf seedlings that would run in newspaper ads for Banvel. The art director at the agency wanted the maximum amount of detail in the illustrations, however, the drawings had to be strong enough to print on newspaper without the thin lines dropping out and the dark areas filling in. Moreover, print quality was made even more challenging for this project because the ads were going to be printed by small town newspapers across the country, and many of these presses were of remarkably low quality.

To deal with this, I came up with an inking style that I thought would have the best chance to hold up in the worst of printing situations. I reasoned that the ink drawings that printed the best were the ones that used parallel lines for the shading. No crosshatching. So I would use parallel lines and make them get gradually thicker to create darker shading, and I would scratch white lines through the black lines in areas were the shading needed to be lighter. I did a test drawing using this method (the drawing shown above), and the client approved it. This style was used for the entire series, and the style also became my signature style.

When I came up with this style, I thought it was my own invention but found out later that this look had been used for years as with the woodcut prints from the early days of printing.

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