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Noli Novak: Portrait of a Stipple Artist

Those familiar illustrations on the pages of The Wall Street Journal look just like engravings. But the intricate portraits, called headcuts, are actually a sort of pointilist sketch -- drawn by hand using a technique known as "stippling."

Noli Novak, a New Jersey-based artist, has produced Journal art for nearly 20 years. At her studio, she typically receives an e-mailed photo of her subject. Then, deftly employing a number-one pen, she copies a three-by-five inch image onto special vellum paper. She creates a realistic image with a constellation of dots, lines and crosshatches, a process that generally takes about three hours.

Novak grew up on the Croatian island of Korchula, and reached the United States in 1984, after college. In addition to doing her own work for the Journal, she now trains new artists. She makes sure everyone draws in a uniform style, making it nearly impossible to tell whose hand lies behind which portrait.

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Petra Mayer died on November 13, 2021. She has been remembered by friends and colleagues, including all of us at NPR. The Petra Mayer Memorial Fund for Internships has been created in her honor.
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