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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

The Art of the Inked Line: Frank Lacano

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Beautiful, inspiring drawings are all around us, often escaping notice because we don't take the time to really look.

I discovered these wonderful ink line drawings by Frank Lacano in a bunch of science booklets for sale at a local thrift store. I paid 25 cents a piece for the booklets - but the work by Lacano is invaluable. They reveal so much about good design, composition and technique... and Lacano teaches as much by what he chose to leave out as by what he chose to put into each illustration.

Because these booklets are from 1971, I might be pushing the parameters of the vintage era Today's Inspiration covers (afterall, I was a kid in 1971 and I'm hardly vintage... am I? Oh no...)

But Lacano had long been a master of the ink line drawing-with-spot-colour style of illustration by the time he did these pieces. He had done similar work two and three decades earlier for the likes of Reader's Digest and Coronet magazine.

I have a special fondness for this type of work... its an approach to illustration that was popular with pulp and digest magazines in the 40's and 50's -- publications that used poorer printing methods and cheaper paper. Its a shame that its not used more today because, as you can see here, the effect can be quite striking. In many ways, more striking than full colour.

Lacano makes it look easy -- but the artist must decide which elements will be line and which will be shape - and how the combination will most effectively create an entire picture that not only defines its elements but also creates the illusion of mood and lighting - and without the benefit of local colour. Its a fun challenge, but anyone who's tried it will tell you how difficult it is to do really successfully.

As though that weren't enough, Lacano embues his inking style with an exciting character and energy - well worth examining at closer range. Why not do so... take a look at the largest size versions of these images in my Frank Lacano Flickr set.


  1. Enjoying the focus this week on line art!

  2. These remind me of the illustrations in the series Best in Children's Books from the '60s.

  3. Great stuff! Love the Olmec head

  4. I remember these distinctly- thanks so much for saving them from extinction.

  5. Thank you all for your comments! they mean a lot to me. :-)

  6. Wonderful stuff. Thanks Leif!

  7. When I was in elementary school, I hated books that were illustrated like this! Somehow I internalized that they were out of style. But I realize now that it takes planning and detail to get that apparent spontaneity; you really can learn a lot from it. I especially like the fish examples.

  8. Anonymous2:37 PM

    I was stationed in Berlin in the 1980's when I met Frank Lacano. He was visiting with a group of artists comissioned by the Air Force to capture the service in art. He was a very personable man, and his art was incredible. Some of his draft sketches hang in the hallway outside of my office on Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.

  9. Wow - that's very cool to hear, anonymous. You're very fortunate to have met the man AND to be able to enjoy seeing his original art every day! Thanks for commenting. :-)

  10. Good stuff and very nostalgic for me, too. I lived across the street from Mr. Lacano (real name was Loyacano). Very nice man who was always open to teaching people about his art. He even used me as a model for a Christmas Seals poster he did in the 70s! Used to push us down the street on our sleds, too. Thanks for sharing, brought back some nice memories of his work and of him.

  11. Anonymous9:20 PM

    I knew Frank Loyocano pretty well as a kid and I don't remember this style at all! I was just looking his up because I re-framed a few of his works today.





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