Archive for December, 2008

Woodcut Illustration

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

The Woodcut style is defined by simulating the old fashioned woodblock carvings of the 18th century and often re-creating a retro modern version to fit today’s needs for advertising, packaging design, publishing and logo identity purposes. The technique requires the use of the scratchboard medium which works most effectively to accomplish this end result. Furthermore, the style is mostly associated with “bold”, less detailed, line strokes along with loose uncleaned cuts along the outer edge of the illustration. This is a clear distinction from the other scratchboard styles such engraving, and steel engraving styles.

See woodcut samples: http://www.stevennoble.com/v/Woodcuts/

The original woodcuts (Xylography) from the 18th century were carved out from wood blocks with printing parts remaining level with the surface while non-printing parts are removed. The areas to show ‘white’ are cut away with a knife or chisel, leaving the characters or image to show in ‘black’ at the original surface level. The block is cut along the grain of the wood (unlike wood engraving where the block is cut in the end-grain). The surface was then covered with ink by rolling over the surface with an ink-covered roller, leaving the ink upon the flat surface and not on the non-printing areas.

In the present world, the woodcut style is merely simulated since there are often edits to be made by the demanding clients of today’s world. The level of detail is also specific to the size/scale of the illustration. For example, the Coors “waterfall” logo was accomplished by developing three different versions for three different sizes. One illustration version was created for use on the 12 ounce beer bottle label (.5’ – 1”) which was the simplified version, a second for use on the twelve and twenty-four pack cartons (2” – 6”) which was the middle version, and the third made for the delivery truck (6’ – 8’) which was the detailed version.

See logo samples: http://www.stevennoble.com/v/Logos/

The first step is to lay down the “approved” completed preliminary sketch onto a clean blackened piece of scratchboard by laying out the broad, general outline onto the scratchboard first. From there, pencil marks can be transferred to leave behind mark/outlines of the general forms from the sketch/drawing. Once this is completed, then the carving blade is used to scrap away the excess amount of black scratchboard around the outer area surrounding the illustration. The general lines are then scraped away to create the forms beginning from top to bottom. Afterwards, the shadows and details begin to take their shape through a process of improvisational line strokes across each of the forms.

The finished/completed reflective black and white art is then scanned from a flat bed scanner into the Adobe Photohop program and then cleaned-up using the magic wand command at a tolerance of 85 -100 and saved as a high resolution bitmap tiff file. To add color, the artwork is then saved in RGB and a layer is created (multiply selected) to allow color to be added behind the black and white line work. This gives more flexibility to allow for any quick edits and other adjustments such as color saturation and brightness and contrast.

Scratchboard Illustration Technique

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

The scratchboard (scraper board) technique requires very precise strokes applied from a precision carving blade (knife) whereby the artist works in a negative fashion by scraping away the black ink to reveal the white clay board underneath. It’s almost like reverse psychology. You have to think the opposite of what you normally think. You’re adding light and taking away the darkness one stroke at a time. Scratchboard is merely a medium and not a style. It can be translated into a variety of styles and treatments such as woodcut, pen and ink, engraving and steel engraving styles, as well as a variety of other stylized scratchboard techniques including very fine traditional “18th -19th century” vintage engravings.

See scratchboard styles: www.stevennoble.com

The Woodcut style is defined by simulating the old fashioned woodblock carvings of the 18th century and often re-creating a retro modern version to fit today’s needs for advertising, packaging design, publishing and logo identity purposes. The technique requires the use of the scratchboard medium which works most effectively to accomplish this end result. Furthermore, the style is mostly associated with “bold” , less detailed, line strokes along with loose uncleaned cuts along the outer edge of the illustration. This is a clear distinction from the other scratchboard styles such engraving, and steel engraving styles.

See woodcut samples: http://www.stevennoble.com/v/Woodcuts/

The scratchboard engraving style is more closely associated with the old traditional engravings of the 19th century with some slight variation. The line work is semi to highly detailed with the lines flowing in a parallel fashion with cross cuts to form breaks in the tapered tips of the lines and cross shaded lines to form the darkened shaded areas. The style encompasses what some people associate as the “Wall Street” journal style. Line engraving is a similar process in that the black and white lines are applied positively onto the “white” (un-inked) scratchboard. The lines can, thereby, be scrapped off to create broken lines in order to soften and taper an edge. The second process is accomplished by using a knife to negatively remove the pre-inked blackened scratchboard to reveal the white board in closely controlled and parallel strokes to create the effect.

scratchboard-stages-1

The “steel engraving” style is created similarly to all the above techniques. However, the line style is more closely associated with the “currency” bills such as the US Dollar currency and other bank notes. The “original” technique employed the use of a chisel and a steel or copper plates in which a small bar of hardened steel with a sharp point was used. This is pushed along the plate to produce thin strips of waste metal and thin furrows. This is followed by a scraper which removes any burs as they will be an impediment to the ink. It is important to note that engraving must be done in the reverse or mirror image, so that the image faces the correct way when the die prints. One trick of the trade was for engravers to look at the object that they were engraving through a mirror so that the image was naturally reversed and they would be less likely to engrave the image incorrectly. Steel plates can be case hardened to ensure that they can print thousands of times with little wear. Copper plates can not be case hardened but can be steel-faced or nickel-plated to increase their life expectancy.

Many clients request a customized illustration for their TradeMarks and logo identities because of their need for a very specific image that is closely associated with their corporate identity. For example, Land’s End required a very specific type of lighthouse to represent their company. Aerial Funds needed a turtle illustration that was closely tied to the central theme of their company which was the story of the “Turtle and the Hare.” The White House Historical Association wanted an illustration that represented the specific perspective that they wanted to achieve with the White House building.

See logo samples: http://www.stevennoble.com/v/Logos/

2007 Create Magazine

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Create Magazine Article: “[THE FULL PACKAGE] – The Northeast Wraps Up Designs”

Published: March 2007

by: WALAIKA HASKINS

A product can be great, but without attention-grabbing packaging or labeling it can still be flat. Being aware of trends and working hard to bring to the client’s vision to life be essential for commercial illustrator Steve Noble, who is nationally recognized. The challenge for an illustrator is to interpret the client’s vision and create a drawing that lives up to the image that  until then had resided for the most part only within the client’s mind.

   “Products have always had logos that identify them, “Noble said. “It’s really crucial. Without that identity, people don’t remember because sometimes they remember the visual more than the product. It is what makes the product  –  without that there is nothing.”

    To start the process Noble ask the clients to send him reference materials and the layout. After a detailed discussion, Noble is ready to begin translating the verbal into a visual which can be tricky, he said. “Sometimes that doesn’t always cross over right,” Noble said. “What they think in their head doesn’t always translate onto paper.”

    According to Noble, that is when 20 years of experience comes in handy. “ I know exactly sometimes what will work and what doesn’t work.”

    Once he has an idea of the general theme and images a client wants, Noble creates an image employing various techniques such as woodcut, traditional engraving and steel engraving styles, as well as a variety of scratchboard techniques. After several rough drafts and feedback from the client, Noble finalizes the image.

    In one recent project, Seeds of Change contacted Noble to create an  illustration for it organic chocolate bar packaging. The company had developed a general idea for the label. Using the list along with the layout and thumbnail images provided by the art director, Noble was able to fine tune it with a parrot in the center and adding cacao trees in the background and chocolate bars at the bottom.

    One trend Noble has noticed is that many of his clients that sell organic products are choosing woodcuts over other illustration styles. “They’re looking for something with a more natural look,” he said. “They want a more earthy look…There has been a lot of demand for that sort of thing, whether it’s food, vitamins or other things.”

     The “established look” is in for many wineries that want their labeling to give consumers the impression that their wine has been around since at least the 1800’s. “They want an aged, established label with an old look,” Noble said. Winemakers believe that their wines are taken more seriously when their bottles sport a venerable and dignified label rather than a more modern look.

    “That’s where I come in,” he said. “ We did four different labels for Rodney Strong. They wanted a fetching, engraved look. They’ve been around for 40 or 50 years, but wanted to make it look like they’d been there for 100 years.”

     Noble finds that Japanese clients have a fondness for Tuscan and Italian themes for their coffee packaging. “They like Italian coffee and lattes,” he said. “I ‘ve done a lot of scenes from Venice and Tuscany.”

 

 

SF Gate article…

Friday, December 5th, 2008

SF Gate article: dated 2/8/08 by: Leah Garchik

llustrator-designer Steve Noble of Petaluma, who did the drawings for the new Cheese Merchant logo at the Oxbow Public Market in Napa, has completed a design for new White House stationery. I was disappointed to realize that this did not mean the man had gone from cheese to the Bushes. The stationery won’t be used by the first family but the White House Historical Association, which continues through presidencies.

“This is for posterity, not politics,” is the way Noble puts it.

Biography

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Since graduating from the University of California, Davis in 1990, Steven Noble has  mastered a wide range of detail and style within the scratchboard medium and has become internationally recognized for his work from clients as far way as Japan to Europe. 

Over the years, he has become equally adept in the woodcut, pen and ink, traditional engraving and steel engraving styles, as well as a variety of stylized scratchboard techniques. His highly disciplined and complex line work is based on over 15 years of experience using X-Acto precision knives carved into pre-inked clay boards which generate very fine line strokes which allow a versatility in the detail from bold woodcuts to very fine traditional 19 century steel engravings.

Over the course of his career, he has created many nationally recognized logos and ad campaigns for a large list of prestigious and high caliber clients such as Coors (corporate/packaging logo), Exxon-Mobil (stock certificate), JP Morgan (annual report) and Mercedes-Benz (ad campaigns).  A lot of his expertise encompasses a large volume of subject matter that include food, portraits, animals, maps, architecture, and corporate conceptual images. 

In 2001, he won the “Meade Show Award for Excellence” for creating the best corporate conceptual illustration for an annual report for the Wet Seal’s 2001 Annual Report. In addition, in 1996 his work was recognized in the Communication Art Magazine for the best advertising spot for “Beaulieu Vineyards.” 

MTC’s 1994 annual report was one of Noble’s first assignments. In the ensuing years, his major projects/clients have included packaging and labeling for (logo) Annheiser-Busch, label illustrations for Sutter Home, Napa Ridge, Fetzer, Cakebread and other wineries; illustrations for Mecedes Benz; a stock certificate for the newly merged Exxon Mobil; posters for Union Bank of California; labeling for Tri-Valley Growers; package illustrations for Ore-Ida, Franciso Bread and Seattle’s Best Coffee; and advertising spots for Sees Candy. He also has done editorial illustrations for the likes of the Chicago Tribune. You can find more samples of his work at: www.stevennoble.com.

Steven continues to strive for excellence in his work and is always up for the next challenge. One of his last projects was a series of illustrations for the acclaimed Children’s book “Zathura” which came out (Fall 2005) at the same time as the release of the movie “Zathura”.