A Fine Line

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2009-07-30
  • Publisher: Firefly Books Ltd

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Supplemental Materials

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A glorious celebration of the scratchboard art of Scott McKowen.Scratchboard artists use sharp instruments to scratch lines in areas of black ink on a prepared surface of hard chalk, exposing the white surface underneath. The finished drawings are then scanned, and the color is added digitally. The result is spectacular, similar to traditional woodcutting but in full color.Scott McKowen is a renowned and prolific scratchboard artist and illustrator whose art has been featured in hundreds of books, magazines, theater posters and comic books. He may be best known for illustrating Neil Gamain's Marvel Comics series 1602 and the Unabridged Classics series.A Fine Line is the artist's personal selection of 203 full-color and black-and-white reproductions. In a revealing twist on the traditional art book, McKowen gives a detailed analysis of each piece and describes what influenced his design. He even includes images of the reference works he consulted during the conceptual process and talks about the struggles he had arriving at a design solution.

Table of Contents

Theatre Posters
Theatre Advertising
Ballet Posters
Music Posters
Book Covers
Working In Scratchboard
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.


IntroductionIn 1881, the theatrical poster came of age. Of course there had been posters before this date, but often they were simply complex typographical extravaganzas. They were called letterpress posters and they combined crude woodcuts with various typefaces. The cheap ones were in black ink, the more expensive in red. In the second half of the 19th century, photomechanical printing techniques were perfected and the world of the ubiquitous full-colour image was upon us.But why do I choose 1881? It's a useful date because in 1881 The Magazine of Art published an article called "The Street as Art Galleries." The well-known British artist, Hubert von Herkomer -- a fellow of the Royal Academy -- had designed a poster. The article discussed the implications quite sympathetically of this step into the gutter of commerce. In the same year, an article in Punch (April 30, 1881) derided the idea of established artists like Leighton or Burne Jones ever condescending to provide poster images.This tension was never really resolved until the late 20th century. There was always a slight stigma attached to the artist who went into "commercial art," as it was known in my childhood. And yet, artists needed to make a living and commercial work was a relatively sympathetic environment in which to labour. Indeed, several members of the Group of Seven worked for advertising agencies without compromising their principles. Many other artists made excursions into the advertising world: Toulouse-Lautrec designed posters for various notorious bars; Millais sold one painting -- Bubbles -- to the Sunlight Soap Company. No artist wanted to live and die in poverty in a tiny garret in order to create great art. It's a pretty conceit for a novel, but no template for a life.And what are theatre posters? What are they supposed to do? Today they are nowhere near as important as they were a hundred years ago, when images on the street -- on hoardings, on omnibuses and trams, outside the numerous theatres -- could seduce passersby into spending money on entertainment. Nowadays images seducing us into visiting a theatre show can appear in a dozen different media. A hundred years ago they were chiefly limited to the street. Still the aim is the same today as yesterday, no matter what the means of distribution. It is to create a striking image that will be noticed by as many people as possible and encourage them to see the show. And, of course, this still happens.It's a curious thing that there are still images from a hundred years ago -- and more -- which easily resonate with us today. Frederick Walker's woodcut advertising the dramatization at the Olympic Theatre of Wilkie Collins' novel The Woman in White is still powerful enough to be used today. Some of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas spawned famous posters and the cabarets and dance palaces of Montmartre stimulated Lautrec and Jules Chéret to create works which are perhaps more famous today than they were at the end of the 19th century. Then they served a strictly commercial purpose; now they are considered works of art.Book illustration is something else. Illustration is not about finding a startling image which will attract attention. Illustrations for a story are explorations. As we read a novel or short story we follow the action in the same way that we inhabit a dream. We cannot change the action in a novel, although we can stop and think about what is happening. I do this a lot, particularly when something unpleasant is about to happen to a sympathetic character. I want to delay the inevitable until I can deal with it. Action is clear. The setting, though, is not. The backgrounds of the story exist in a kind of fog. There are, naturally, detailed descriptions when the author needs to be extremely specific. However, the reader usually will construct in his or her own head the landscape, the street, or the room in which the act

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