As a small business, we were thrilled when we had the distinction of having our very own hed-cut in the Wall Street Journal. These stipple drawings, pioneered by Journal artists 30 years ago have become a trademark of the paper.
The drawings are designed to emulate the look of wood block cuts from old-style newspapers, and engravings on certificates and currency. The phonetic spelling of “hed” may be based on newspapers’ use of the term hed for “headline.
We were curious about the artist given the task of making us look “like money”.
What made you get started doing the hedcuts? Was it a style that you practiced and then sought the job or was it a style that you learned once the job became available?
I began drawing hedcuts for the Journal the year I graduated from art school. I majored in illustration with a primary focus on portraits; my style has always been realism and I am able to capture the likeness of my subjects quite easily. So, when the job became available I knew it would be a perfect fit! I brought in my portfolio for the interview and
when I landed the job I began training with the lead artist that summer. I spent the next three months working in New York City practicing the style. Once I got that down, and was confident enough that I could draw a portrait under the very tight deadlines, I began drawing hedcuts on a daily basis. It’s been 12 years now!
How long did it take you to do the portrait of us?
It took me about 3-4 hours to do the portrait of you both.
Do you generally capture the person on the first go or does it
take several drafts?
Generally speaking, I can get the likeness of someone in my first attempt, with a few tweaks at the end. However, I have gotten some feedback saying I made the person look too thin, too heavy, or too young. I am notorious for making people look a bit younger; I think my artistic license goes a little over board when it comes to crow’s feet (haha). Usually, however, the reason people have a problem with the drawing is because of the photograph we drew from. If that is the case, we will be sent a new, happier or “thinner” looking photo and redraw the portrait.
Who was the most difficult portrait you’ve done?
Oh gosh… hmmmm. I have probably drawn over 4,000 portraits so it’s hard to think of just one in particular. My very first hedcut that was printed in the Journal was hard, just because it was my first. I definitely had a mild panic attack that day; I glanced at the clock probably a million times. I have the newspaper with my first ever printed drawing hanging in my studio all these years and I still had to look at it to remember his name. Roger Wendlick, a construction worker from Portland, Oregon. So the most difficult? Either him or Big Ben. I’ve drawn Big Ben twice… that’s a lot of windows! Trying to draw something that intricate in such a tight deadline is definitely
stressful. We have to generalize a lot sometimes.
How many hedcut artists are there at the WSJ and how do you
get a particular “assignment”?
Currently, there are five artists that draw full-time. Only eight artists have ever been properly trained to draw this iconic style; as of today, I am, and most likely will be, the last artist to be trained. We all work from home now, but there is someone in the New York office that collects and organizes all of the drawings that have a deadline that day, or those done for future use, and assigns them accordingly.