Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Wonderful Art of Frank Lacano

Leif Peng bought a bunch of old science booklets at a used bookstore. They had wonderful illustrations by Frank Lacano in them. Leif scanned some of them and I've included them here, as well as some of his descriptions.

These wonderful ink line drawings are by Frank Lacano and they typically appeared in science booklets from the 60s and 70s. Today, you can find these booklets for sale at a local thrift store for around 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.

These booklets are from 1971, 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 artwork, since I remember it vividly from my days as a schoolboy in the 1970s and 80s. 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.


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