I’ve always admired the tiny, detailed stipple illustrations used in the Wall Street Journal, known as hedcuts. They are reminiscent of the old engravings once used to illustrate newspapers and magazines before plate and web lithography made direct reproduction of photographs feasible for mass-production.
As it turns out, hedcuts are still rendered by hand, using technical pens. No computers are involved in the stippling process, although the drawings are scanned and uploaded to the newspaper’s servers for use in the page layout software.
Noli Novak is one of the Wall St. Journal’s hedcut artists, a member of the tiny tribe still performing the archaic and obscure craft of translating photographic images into stippled portraits.
Her website contains a full selection of both her Journal and other commissioned pieces and a separate section devoted to her personal collage work. It should come as no surprise to anyone who has done tight rendering that Novak turns to the loose and expressionist style of collage as a break from the intense and exacting discipline of ink stippling. Novak also maintains two blogs: Hedcuts, devoted to various stipple projects; and Paperips, dedicated to her freer collage artworks.
Now that you’ve seen the intensely detailed work of Noli Novak and her colleagues, do you think you could pop out an A4 size stippled-ink portrait of a newsmaker in 5 hours or less?