How does the WSJ portray people?

Contrary to some blogs suggesting that The Wall Street Journal portrays certain personalities in an unflattering light, there is only one requirement given to us, hedcut illustrators and that is to produce a drawing which is a true representation of the reference image we're given. In other words, to draw as close to the photo as possible.

Those who supply us with images (like the photo department, or the reporters) also have only one requirement, and that is to obtain the LATEST image for a reference. Never in my 22 years as a staff artist have I been told to "push" someone's likeness in one way or the other.

I know it's important NOT to overemphasize certain details (wrinkles, double chins), and to ignore the unimportant ones (tiny moles, flyaway hair), but I also know that some photos make lousy reference material. For example, a photo of a person talking or caught in a middle of a sentence (press conference, speeches, etc), often ends up looking strange or grimacing in a drawing, so at the Journal, we try to stay away from such images, but if no other photos are available, we try to pick the most flattering one.

Sometimes, a subject request that we draw from a picture they picked themselves (like their official press photo) but quite frankly, I prefer to draw from candid shots. Studio photographers like to use "creative lighting" and aggressive digital processing resulting in an unnatural and plastic expressions. Just look at the Hillary Clinton image on the right. It was a very nice, posed photo, but I prefer the drawing on the left, done from a candid shot.

Another fact worth mentioning is that at the Journal, we try very hard to keep up with all the important appearance alterations, such as hairdo and facial hair changes, lost or gained weight etc., (Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs).

With all of this said, quality of every drawing inevitably depends on the artist's unique interpretation, quality of the reference material and the time frame allocated (3-5 hours on average). Some drawings are more successful then others, but I have to tell you .... in the morning when I'm starting the day's assignment, I have only one goal in mind: to create a masterpiece! I'm elated when I hit it right on the nail, but if I'm not so happy with the result, .... I simply blame it on the photo! ;-)

10 comments:

emdot said...

Noli, I love reading about how your drawings come to be. So very interesting.

Mingle/Gonzo® said...

I believe...

Atanas said...

Very nice. I like some more than others, but I guess it's a matter of personal preference.

You have two drawings of each subject. Is there any significance to the order/arrangement?

Noli said...

Thanks all!
@Atanas, no particular order, just random "doubles". Some people are in the news more than others, and I end up drawing them more.

Darla, Pencil Portrait Artist said...

I agree with you, the candid shots are the best. The pro photos tend to wash out the distinguishing character lines that make a person look like themselves! This is true for my pencil portraits too. I'd much rather have a decent candid photo, so the person is being themselves. Especially children tend to get a "is this good enough mom?!?" unnatural grin when they have to "pose."

Lou P. said...

Fascinating stuff! I've always wondered how the WSJ drawings come about. That's some great work -- there is an interesting contrast there with the side-by-side pictures.

rachel said...

amazing!

good day!

http://homecarsolar.blogspot.com/

Sirozy2 said...

Why doesn't the paper just put the original photo in instead of going to the trouble of spot drawing it in ?. Probably a silly question babe !, but has anyone asked it yet ?. Seeing that they own the picture or whatever it is to start with ?.

Spicer Sews said...

This is really interesting to me. It's a whole other way that the public's view of politics, news, etc. can be altered and controlled by the subjectivity of art.

innervoice said...

Very interesting!