2.9 Using black and white


The brief was to create a line drawing from a predefined list of subjects. I selected ‘Journey’. The task was to create a ‘graphic’ image in black and white, where most of the white in the original line drawing is filled with black.

We were then asked to compare the original line drawing with the black and white tonal image.

Keywords include:

  • Line visual
  • Work in a more narrative way around a scene
  • ‘Filling-in’ should be considered
  • Visual legibility and need to avoid creating a disjointed piece
  • Compare your tonal image to your line drawing
  • Examples of other illustrators’ work which you could describe as graphic


I saw this as an exercise of reduction; finding an image that would be interesting as a black and white line drawing, and then stripping out all but essential detail during the ‘filling in’ process.

I used part of a sentence from a short story as the inspiration and narrative to develop the picture.

…the dimly lit streets that I would wander aimlessly in search for something unknown to me and that still remains unknown.

From a short story by Lucy Hadfield – ‘The little things in life that come for free’

I used my sketchbook to work through the different elements of the image. I explored:

  • Visual components
  • Technical approach
  • Character
  • Composition
  • Content hierarchy

I played with different compositions always reviewing the need to strip out detail.

The brief suggested using a collage technique to introduce black into the line drawing, but I thought I could achieve a better/cleaner result whilst remaining true to the exercise’s objective by creating the line drawing in Illustrator and then filling areas using Photoshop.

Line drawing

The picture evolved through trial and error.

The artwork

There are two versions: one with the narrative caption and one without.

I personally prefer the version with the text because this is how I’d envisioned the final piece.


Comparing the line drawing and the tonal image


The differences between the two pictures:

  • There is less detail in the girls face in the tonal image.
  • I introduced a moon to the tonal image to make the lighting more believable
  • The tonal image has more visual impact because the black makes it bold. It also has more atmosphere

Example of other illustrators that I would describe as ‘graphic’

I think successful printmakers working with linocuts or woodcuts are having to make careful and considered decisions about what they leave out of a picture in order to convey the a message; this is what makes these mediums so expressive.

I would include the following illustrators:

Eduard Bawden (1903 – 1989)

From PART 1, Exercise 1, Eduard Bawden

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Eduard Bawden – Morte D’Arthur. Linocut. fryartgallery.org

Frans Masereel (1889 – 1972)

Frans Masereel was a Flemish artist who worked extensively in woodcut.

Frans Masereel – The protagonist arrives at the city by train. From the wordless novel, Passionate Journey.

Mireille Fauchon

Mireille Fauchon is a East London based illustrator.

Mireille Fauchon – The Lake – linocut book of stories from Miranda Vado, Goa. mireillefauchon.com

Magnus Voll Mathiassen (MVM)

Magnus Voll Mathiassen (MVM) is an independent graphic designer and illustrator — Working across borders and disciplines. Although his images are not reduced to two colours, they are reduced in terms of levels of detail; so I would include him in the ‘graphic’ category.

MVM – GQ Germany. themvm.com


What I learned from the exercise

  • Unlike previous exercises, I felt I did most of the ‘thinking’ in my sketchbook.
  • I enjoyed experimenting with liquid watercolour in the street sketch.
  • Composition and visual hierarchy in this type of image is really important.
  • I want to make a linocut and/or woodcut.
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