Jameson Whiskey - Whiskey dude. Chunk chunk chunk. Whiskey dude.

Well, today is the most sacred of all alcoholidays. It's International cirrhosis awareness day, the day when everyone in the world does their best to develop cirrhosis, while taking random swings at strangers. Let's try in vain to class up the joint with this 1937 ad for Jameson whiskey.

The art in this ad looks like it could be an engraving or etching or something, but can we tell? Of course not, but we can make an educated guess or two. Here are the contenders:

Engraving - Art is drawn on a metal plate with special tools called "burins" (plural). Ink is applied and then wiped off of the high spots, so it remains only in the lines. Pressed onto paper, it leaves the drawing on the paper.

Etching - A metal plate is covered with a thin layer of wax or "ground".The art is scratched in the wax using an etching needle, revealing the bare metal beneath. Acid is poured over the artwork, eating into the areas unprotected by the wax. Then, wax is removed and ink is applied. Pressed onto paper. Bob's your uncle.

Scratchboard - A wooden or paper board is coated with white clay and then a layer of India ink. Ink is scratched away using various pointy things, revealing the white underneath. Boom. Art.

There are characteristics to each of these that help us with our guess. So, if we have a close look at the ad, we can see what we can see. Let us see.

While all three of these art forms are done with pointy metal tools that produce very detailed work, engraving is the situation in which you're creating the image in a metal plate with a metal tool. So as a rule of thumb, the fine detail possible with engraving is, as General Winfield Scoot would say, "freaky deaky".

Each little line made in an engraving has a characteristic taper to it, as the tool is pressed into the plate and lifted again at the end of the stroke.

Here are the type of lines we see in the Jameson ad. They're kind of blobby at the ends. So, it's probably not an engraving.

So, an etching, maybe? Does our Jameson ad look like it was drawn in wax? Meh. Maybe could might do. But you know what? It really looks a lot like scratchboard.

When you're doing scratchboard, creating fine white lines is a piece of cake. The whole picture starts out completely black, after all. With engravings and etchings, the ink's presence on the paper usually indicated where you created a line with the tool, but in scratchboard, your lines are white. There's so much white line work here that I'll go right ahead and guess that it was done with scratchboard.

There's one other question to answer. See all the cursive text on the label? Should we assume that the artist scraped all the ink away from around each letter, and got results that clean? Not bloody likely. Commercial artists have a deadline. They probably could have done it all by hand, but on in any profitable timeframe. The text was probably printed on a sheet of clear plastic and positioned on top of the drawing, along with the rest of the text above and to the left.

There. Now doesn't that feel like you earned your buzz? Here's a little reward/punishment for your art sleuthing today. It's a song improvised by a little combo I used to play with one hundred and six years ago called Blue Wank. This track was an unrequested improvised encore at the end of a show we did at The Neat Snake. We always find that our music comes out better when we don't plan it, or write anything. Whiskey Dude is the kind of song that hastens the onset of your inevitable hangover. Well done, Us. You're welcome! and, I'm sorry!

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Ace said...

I share your love of magazine and advertising illustration. This history of 20th century design is encapsulated in all these beautiful creations.

You mention doing the cursive writing as a print on clear plastic. Was this possible in 1937? I would suspect glass more than plastic. Radio dials were silkscreened with writing and illustration at that time.

Just a thought.

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

You know what? you' could be right. I just said plastic out of habit. However, now that I think about it, it could just as easily been celluloid... or glass, too!

Thanks for commenting!

[ -Mgmt.]

Steve Miller said...

Whatever... gimmie a double!

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