13 January 2014

How was this kind of artwork done?


The image above is a detail from an illustration by Sidney Paget for Conan Doyle's "The Final Problem" (The Strand Magazine, December 1893).

I'm wondering if every one of those little dots and lines had to be drawn manually, or whether some type of mechanical device was used to decrease the tedium.  Certainly the variation in size and shape and position suggest meticulous handwork, but the amount of labor required to produce the full image -


- boggles the mind.  And this is interesting:
A complete set of Strand issues featuring the illustrated Sherlock Holmes tales is one of the rarest and most expensive collector's items in publishing history. Paget's original 10.5 x 6.75 inch drawing of "Holmes and Moriarty in Mortal Combat at the Edge of the Reichenbach Falls" was sold by Sotheby's in New York on 16 November 2004 for $220,800.
Addendum:  for the best answer re the original artist's technique, see BJ Nicholls' comment.

23 comments:

  1. I do believe this was done using a scratchboard type of setup....the paper is coated with a white layer of fine clay which is then coated with ink....when dry the drawing is done by scratching away the white lines.
    Kind of like a reverse drawing where one draws the lights not the darks.

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  2. looking up Sydney Paget it says the originals were done pen & in with washes, but that would turn into a blob for publication purposes, most likely that's an image of the book illustration, it looks like Intaglio http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intaglio_%28printmaking%29

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  3. It looks like some sort of screening like halftone. The original art would have been transferred to a printing plate by a photographic/chemical process. It was cutting edge but certainly used in the era.

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  4. Thank you. My interest was not so much in how the art work was printed for publication, but how the artist himself created the work. So each of those 42 bazillion dots and dashes was individually drawn by hand?

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    1. According to the link below it was a pen and ink wash. It was drawn and "painted" in ink.

      http://www.bestofsherlock.com/sidney-paget-original-art.htm

      The artist may have actually used a manual screen brushing the ink atop and ink can also be rubbed or scrapped off after it is applied, along with applying ink with a coarse brush (allowing multiple dots to be drawn at a time).

      An awful lot of the dots are the same brush size as some of the strokes so they (the dots) might have all been drawn in which makes the artist even more of master as he was able to produce art that would reproduce well. Stippling is one way to get that done, and yes that's drawing all the dots.

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  5. They might be Ben Day dots -- see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben-Day_dots with the supremely in-depth story behind them at http://www.recoverings.com/blog/art-artists/tarzan-the-sunday-comics-1931-1933-part-2-tarzan-and-the-ben-day-men-or-the-mechanics-of-color-in-the-sunday-comics/

    "Invented by Benjamin Henry Day, Jr. (1838–1916) son of printer Benjamin H. Day, founder of The New York Sun newspaper in 1833, it was the primary method used to add shading to line engraving for letterpress printing for almost a century. ... The tints were patterns of dots, lines and stipples laid on the lithographic stone with ink which, once dusted with a chemical powder called “dragon’s blood,” and heated, was impervious to water and would form a part of the final, etched, printing plate. This specialized job required extensive training. By 1900 Ben Day Shading was used consistently in letterpress printing as part of the photoengraving process for both black-and-white and color work, in both illustration and advertising. ... Ben Day patterns, of which there were around 200, were actually embossed on a celluloid film or gel which came in sizes from 5.5″ x 6.5″ up to 13″ x 16″ depending on the pattern. The back of the film was smooth and was sometimes lubricated lightly with vaseline or a mixture of benzine and wax polished with a flannel cloth before use. The film was inserted into a holding frame, then attached to the adjusting mechanism, usually termed a “Holdfast,” though a slightly different “drawing board apparatus” was used for working on zinc, and positioned over the printing plate to make sure it was in the correct position. Then the film frame was removed from the apparatus and the film inked, with an acid-resistant ink, on a separate pad with a roller. A light touch was needed so as not to over-ink or get ink into the valleys of the emboss, but enough ink was required to make a clear pattern on the stone or plate. Once the film was inked, the frame was reinserted into the device."

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    1. I snipped the part that said when it was invented: "The Ben Day process, also known as “tint laying,” used the Ben Day Shading Medium patented in 1878 as a way to add clean tints and shades to chromolithography, something that was originally done with pen and ink." I don't know how fast it spread (or even if this was the process used) but given that the article says it was patented in 1878 and widespread by 1900 it's plausible this is what was used.

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  6. It's a wood cut right? The white parts are carved/ scratched. The black parts are the left over raised parts. The dots are formed by scratching horizontal and vertical arrays of white lines, probably with something like a comb.

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  7. check these examples of stippling: http://www.thisiscolossal.com/tags/stippling/ a few dots at a time add up.

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    1. Very interesting. Maybe blogworthy. Tx, JD.

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  8. No folks, this was an engraving, done by an engraver who referenced Paget's original artwork. Here's a link with information about Paget's originals which were pen and ink and wash. http://www.bestofsherlock.com/sidney-paget-original-art.html See the illustration for "The Hound of the Baskervilles" which has Paget's note to the engraver:

    "On the back of the drawing the artist wrote "To engraver | Keep background of fog as | flat as possible | S.P." Above this note are the letters "Mar" and in the upper right corner in a box is written in a different hand "By Sidney Paget | Illustration [symbol that looks like an incomplete "#"] | "The Hound of | the Baskervilles | by Conan Doyle." There are also various numbers on the back, and in a different color "5620Levisrp, 20 engraver.""

    Engraving is an old technique which started to be done in steel in the 19th century. Copper engravings for press preceded steel, but the harder steel plates could be used for much larger print runs. Engraving is primarily done with a tool called a burin. Photoengraving was also done in the 19th century, but that process is characterized by a halftone effect (similar to today's halftone offset printing), not the crisp, incised lines and marks of copper or steel engraving: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photoengraving

    When you look at currency, some old stamps, and old certificates you're seeing the craft of an engraver.

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    1. Thank you, BJ. (btw, there's no "l" on the end of your link)

      http://www.bestofsherlock.com/sidney-paget-original-art.htm

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    2. Reference to this comment inserted in the post as an addendum.

      But... (ELI5)... to create the engraving, Sidney Paget would have painstakingly added each dot individually - there was no mechanical roller device or stamp he could have employed?

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  9. Not scratchboard, not stippling, not Ben-Day, not intaglio (an etching process), not wood cut, and not halftone. I'm a former printmaker and a graphic designer who has worked with engravery shops. High end invitations are still engraved. The craft still survives, but barely.

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  10. "But... (ELI5)... to create the engraving, Sidney Paget would have painstakingly added each dot individually - there was no mechanical roller device or stamp he could have employed?"

    Paget did not do the engravings himself. He did pen-and-ink illustrations and painted tones with washes (brush technique with diluted pigment). Engravers were (and a few still are) highly-skilled tradespeople who created printing plates laboriously, and completely manually – and they had to work with a mirror-image of the original art since the ink applied to the plate goes directly onto paper so the end-image is a mirror of the plate image. Engravers are masters at cutting both the variable width lines and dotted areas that create the shaded areas of a reproduction. This craft is as slow and intense as it looks. Very few artists use(d) engraving as a technique for original art.

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    1. Thank you! Now I finally understand. (You learn something every day).

      I've always admired finely-engraved classic postage stamps.

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  11. Here's a nicely done video showing hand engraving on copper sheets. The techniques are similar to what engravers of objects like guns use, but for print the image has to be mirrored and the depth of engraving needs to be calibrated for retaining ink, while the ink on the flat surface is wiped off prior to printing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bB7HshYosx4

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  12. From the looks I would bet this is copper, but a mix of engraving and etching. The distinct patterning of the fog looks to my printmaker's eyes to be the familiar effect of having rolled/burnished/pressed an inked tarleton cloth (think similar to gauss after some heavy use) against the plate to make a mask/resist. The engraved sections would be painted out and a caustic acid or salt (modern day uses ferric chloride and citric acid, some adhere to the older more dangerous chemicals) used to etch away to create grooves and pockets to retain ink for a print.

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  13. It's not a copper plate engraving but a wood block engraving. One of the greatest modern masters of this process was Timothy Cole. Wood block engraving is where the cut lines do not receive ink. A copper plate intaglio engraving is where the cut lines do receive ink. The two processing have distinct characteristics.

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  14. Hugh, I disagree. The two processes do have distinct characteristics and this one does not have wood block characteristics. And this print was, for its time, mass produced. Even using very hard species, wood block engraving doesn't hold up for large production runs with fine detail as metal plates do.

    And I found supporting evidence that the illustration was not only plate engraved, but it was engraved on two separate plates with a detectible seam in the middle:

    "The little-known 'double illustrations'

    In 1893, when Sidney Paget drew his immortal illustration of Holmes and Moriarty in their death struggle above the Reichenbach Falls, hand engraving and acid etching was still the only way to incorporate companion art into finished print. Due to its unusually large size, and for what would appear to be the first time, the engravers were required to divide the Paget Reichenbach drawing into two parts and etch each half onto a separate block for printing.
    This use of double engravings, to produce a single large illustration, accounts for the tell-tale dividing line so readily visible at the horizontal mid-point of the drawing.

    Whether or not Frank Wiles was influenced by the size of the Reichenbach Falls Illustration, which was Paget's largest and the only one (we believe) to require double engravings, is food for speculation. We do know that in 1914 and 1915 Wiles introduced the concept of legitimate double-drawings to the Canon for his illustration of The Valley of Fear.

    Following the publication of The Valley of Fear the technique entered a dormant period until it was revived by A. Gilbert in 1921 for "The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone" and again in 1922 for the serialized adventure, "The Problem of Thor Bridge." Howard Elcock followed suit and adopted similar double-illustrations from 1923 through 1926 in "The Creeping Man," "The Three Garridebs," "The Illustrious Client," "The Blanched Soldier" and "The Lion's Mane." Finally, Frank Wiles enjoyed a reprisal in 1927 with his final double drawing (the last created) in "The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger.""

    http://www.sherlockian.net/resources/pagetpress.html

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    1. I know it's a wood block engraving because I practice wood block engraving. The seams in the print are usually a result of multiple blocks joined together. Keep in mind wood block engraving is not a woodcut, everyone confuses the two. End grain boxwood was usually used in the old days and stands up well to mass printing. Boxwood, lemonwood and a few other species are very expensive today so modern practitioners like myself use resingrave, a plate made from epoxy resin. Feel free to google all my points for further clarification. Also helpful is to do a google image search on Timothy Cole to see his amazing wood block engravings.

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  15. Stan, on your question about Paget producing the plates...he didn't. He created illustrations that were sent to an engraving shop that employed skilled craftsmen (gender accurate to the time) who manually reproduced the illustration (in a mirror image, I might add). Engraving still exists as a printing specialty tradecraft, but before photographic halftone reproduction this was how illustrations were reproduced commercially.

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