Saturday, October 27, 2012

Murray Tinkelman Describes His Process

A lot of people are understandably impressed when they see one of Murray Tinkelman's illustrations...


.... but even more so when they have a chance to see it up close.


I asked Murray to describe his working process to me and he kindly obliged...


"I do a drawing; a very tight, complete, as accurate as I can get it pencil drawing on tracing paper - and it's laborious and time consuming - and then I spray it with fixative. I put the drawing on a lightbox and tape down a sheet of single ply Strathmore bristol board (which, by the way, they don't make anymore, which really pisses me off. I'm 80 years old now and I've got enough to get me to age 90. After that I'm out of business.)"


"I also use a .50 rapidograph and they don't make that anymore either! So now I use a .40 instead, and I just try to use a lighter touch."


"By the way, the common prejudice against technical pen is that they're a constant line and there's no variety. But if you're careful and you have a light touch, you can get some variety in the line thickness - even in a technical pen."


"So I start with vertical strokes - 12 o'clock to 6 o'clock - on everything that will be the darkest value when the drawing is finished. I do that first set of strokes all over the image area. I never just focus on one small spot on the image - I work over every spot where the darkest values appear in the entire image."


"Once that's done, I begin to rotate my strokes slightly. For the second series of strokes, which will now cover the darkest value areas PLUS the next lightest value areas, I lay down lines from 1 o'clock to 7 o'clock."


"Once that's done all over, I rotate my stokes further - from 2 o'clock to 8 o'clock (you follow me?) extending the strokes now into the NEXT lightest value areas all over the image. When I get to the 50% grey - the middle value, I turn off the light box and continue working toward the lightest values."


"If I'm doing black and white artwork, I continue this process, turning the stroke and extending it into the lighter value areas, until I get to 11 o'clock."


"The lightest value areas (before white) get a stroke that goes from 11 o'clock to 5 o'clock."


"If I'm working in colour however, it's a bit different... "


"I stop using black ink strokes when I get to the 50% value, and begin working in colour at that point."


"I have about 35 rapidographs all loaded with different colours so I never need to change the ink in any one pen. I use Dr. Martin's Colourfast Dies and each pen is labelled with what colour is loaded in the chamber. So at the 50% mark, I continue the process, but with coloured strokes instead of black ones."


"I almost hate to describe the process... it sounds so technical; I feel selfconcious describing it to you."


"But believe me, this is my joy - and I love every stroke."

*  Murray Tinkelman has won Gold Medals from The Society of Illustrators, The New York Art Directors Club and The Society of Publication Designers. He has over 200 Awards of Merit from The Society of Illustrators.  Murray is the director of Hartford Art School’s limited-residency Master of Fine Arts in Illustration program.

* See many more of Murray's illustrations at


  1. Great stuff. Must be a pain to keep those Rapidographs unclogged. I guess the Dr. Martin's don't present too enormous a problem in that area? I resonate to his plaint about so many materials disappearing and becoming impossible to get.

  2. unfortunately, With the advances in digital technology, there are way too many extinct and orphaned art tools and materials. Can you even find stuff like amberlith and French curves anymore? I can't get certain things anymore and I am nowhere near as "seasoned" as Murray.

  3. Thanks for this article. Seems like I've come across a lot of illustrators who kind of talk down about cross hatching. But I really enjoy doing it and love seeing other artists use the technique.

  4. Thank you for this post. It's great when an artist or crafts person shares their process, especially in the light of all that has changed.

  5. Just looked at this with full appreciation. And even if the description of his "process" may "sound way too technical": My evaluation would be: Anyone trying to solve the the mystery of "value" in painting or whatever design: Please have a look at this valuable entry by Mr. Tinkelman.

  6. Not having anything beyond cross hatching in common with your post on some great illustrations. You did post on Austin Briggs in one of your Wow Factor blogs. So if you want to take a look at my take on Brigs see: Jonathan

  7. I see where the link was a failure, you can see the Briggs piece on blogger at The Adventure Continues. It'll be worth your time. Thanks, Jonathan