A hedcut is a drawing of about 3x5 inches (or, if publication is your thing, "exactly 18 x 31 picas"), designed to be reproduced en masse at one-third scale. This style of portraiture is the standard for The Wall Street Journal, but was not introduced in that newspaper until 1979, when a freelance artist named Kevin Sprouls showed some small ink dot pictures he'd created to the then-front-page-editor. Before that, the Journal had been very reluctant to use photographs or illustrations of any kind, since that might have degraded its stuffy, highly-compensated-WASPy motif. (Though to be fair, Sprawls refers to the Journal's theme more diplomatically, calling it, "gray and wordbound").

Ink dot portraiture also avails some practical benefit to the Journal. Since the portraits are all hand-drawn, the quality of the source picture is relatively unimportant; a little artistic imagination will clean up any blurriness or other flaws. Furthermore, this dot matrix rendering is highly scalable, allowing tiny portraits to appear very sharp even when published at the half-column size.

These days, hedcuts are central to the Wall Street Journal's identity, and one cannot glimpse the reserved, elegant, stippled, ink dot portraits without thinking of the Journal, and the fact that they look amazingly photographic considering that they are hand-drawn. I am not aware of any other publications in which the hedcut is standard, and in fact, the Journal may have legal grounds to consider the style to be part of its trademark, (though, I am not a lawyer).

The Wall Street Journal currently has a team of about six hedcut artists, each of whom can continue the drawing work of another, because the process is now quite uniform.


Source:
Dawson, Victoria. "Ink Dot Art". Smithsonian July, 2004. p. 40.
And, that article's online companion, at: http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/journal/inside.htm

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