Monday, February 26, 2007

The Art of the Inked Line: DMS

Just because a drawing is small and the subject matter seems inconsequential doesn't mean it isn't praise-worthy.

And just because the artist who drew the picture isn't one of the recognized masters of the period doesn't mean we should not celebrate his talents.

Around the mid-1950's, Good Housekeeping began an insert feature on coarse paper called "The Better Way - A monthly service portfolio designed to keep readers informed on numerous matters factual and fascinating." Art Director Gene Davis commissioned about a dozen small spot illustrations each month for this section.

The artists who worked on 'The Better Way' never received a credit line... and since the illustrations were reproduced at a very small size, many seem to have opted for signing with initials instead of a full signature (which likely would have become obscured).

One of the steadiest contributors to this section was an illustrator who signed his work with the initials 'DMS'. This artist was, in my opinion, doing some really lovely work. His contour-line ink drawings showed an economy and sensitivity that made for some excellent visuals. If we "read between the lines" of DMS' illustrations, we can see he was a very skilled professional.

And here's a really odd coincidence: around that same time, another illustrator, David Stone Martin, was powerfully influencing the way line art was being done. Up until that point most line art styles had a clean, realistic, very commercial look to them. David Stone Martin (already reknowned for the many record jackets he had illustrated for top jazz artists) was now doing high profile magazine illustrations in his trademark scraggily line style. Now that style was being imitated and modified by many other illustrators. You can see David Stone Martin's ( or DSM's) influence on DMS' work!

Of course you can see that DMS was less stylized (there is an underlying structure of 'realism' to most of his work) but its that looser, organic quality that the actual line displays - the character of the line - that makes the work so appealing and elevates it above the merely utilitarian.

This week, let's take a look at the art of the inked line - in all its glorious variations!

*To truly appreciate the quality of DMS' work, I urge you to go to my new DMS Flickr set and view each image at its largest size.


  1. Great topic, Leif! I think there is no higher art form than the humble drawing. I look forward to seeing what this week has in store.

  2. Thanks, David - it was your own fabulous series of "One Lovely Drawing" posts that provided the inspiration for this week's topic.:-)