Back in the day when people had longer attention spans and more time to read, the newspaper was the king of wordage. And at the top of the heap the Wall Street Journal actually celebrated its lack of photographs. One of the former editors there famously noted that he thought of a word as being worth a thousand pictures. So who would have imagined that the place even had graphic designers? Now, it is at the very least, interesting that former WSJ illustrator Kevin Sprouls is celebrated for his stipple style portraits, a technique he honed at the WSJ.
It is thought that the WSJ has about five designers cranking out the stipple portraits by hand. But Sprouls was the first. Contrary to what the words might suggest, Sprouls’ technique of using dots and dashes to draw portraits did not come from Morse code. Instead the artist traces his drawing to a set of gift pens that started him in the graphic design field. He would go on to art school at Temple University after which he landed as a graphic designer at the Dow Jones Company, owner of the WSJ.
Working to achieve a style consistent with the WSJ signature gray, Sprouls arrived at the stipple styled portraits that would add detail while taking up a small space. Using the photo as a reference point, Sprouls, and now the other WSJ stipple artists, retouch and crop the photo before rendering it in pen and ink. It used to be that such portraits weren’t possible on a computer but every evolution of photoshopping software brings new possibilities. And thanks to the WSJ, anyone can get their stipple or dot portrait done, possibly even from Sprouls who is now freelancing. Who knew the world would be recognizing art from a newspaper that preferred words over pictures?
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