The National Portrait Gallery is in the news lately (see the case of Chuck Close) and I was reminded that Hedcuts are also included in the NPG. Since I had a hand in making it happen, here is my story.
It was 2001, just a few months after the attacks of 9/11. The WSJ offices were located across the street from The World Trade Center, and our building was heavily damaged when the towers collapsed. In order to continue publishing a daily newspaper, our entire company and all of its operations had to immediately relocate to our parent company Dow Jones' corporate headquarters in South Brunswick, NJ.
The newsroom was still in shock from the attacks. We were uprooted from our daily routines and to make things worse, we had to commute such a long way, it was hard to squeeze out even one drawing a day. There was also a lot of talk about company's restructuring at the time, which caused additional pressure on us. I was so demoralized, that was the only time I actually hated my job.
Then one day, I was introduced to Anne Goodyear, curator of the National Portrait Gallery. She came to our office interested in including Hedcut portraits in the NPG collection. I was assigned a task of helping her, which worked wonders for lifting my spirit at the time.
The task however, was monumental.
Anne was interested in the history of hedcuts first and we spent long hours talking about everything hedcuts, from the evolution of the previous art styles, to all the artists who contributed their time and talents in creating the hedcut technique used today. When it came to compiling drawings, the task became even more complicated because a lot of our original artwork was destroyed during the 9/11 attacks, and archiving programs were still clumsy and not very reliable. In addition of going through hundreds of digital archives, Anne had to spend long hours in WSJ's storage building which housed decades of original artwork in dusty boxes.
After a few long months of work, Online Hedcut Gallery was created and the WSJ donated all the needed artwork.
20 of my originals were selected, dating from 1989 to 2001, picturing public figures of the time. They include Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Martha Stewart and a drawing of my future boss, Rupert Murdoch and his new bride. Click HERE to see the rest.
Fast-forward to today.
My technique of creating hedcuts, has changed significantly since the early 2000's. The paper's needs keep changing, our deadlines are shorter, the quality of newsprint paper is different, but most importantly, online display of hedcuts was ultimately the biggest influencer for continuous updating of my technique.
When it comes to my process, the tools and art supplies I use, the biggest change happened when I was sent overseas to train the hedcut artist in our Brussels bureau. The Journal wanted the hedcuts used in the European edition of the paper to look more similar to the US edition's. In an exchange of artistry, the lady doing "European heds" introduced me to a completely new way of creating hedcuts and I use her system to this day.
I plan on doing a post about that sometime soon.
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-History of WSJ Hedcuts
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