The Lost Arts of Advertising – Chalk Art & Illustration

October 13, 2021 Adlab

While technological progress can, and in certain instances should, render some processes redundant (anyone remember long, lonely days in the dark room creating Bromide paste ups? . . . we do!!!), not all processes need to fall to the art room floor, never to be picked up again.

Adlab has a long history in advertising starting out in the pre-computer era of 1985 with Bromide paste-up and hand-drawn chalk art as our main means of producing artwork for our clients. Long gone, though, are the days when our ads were hand-made using photography film, paint masking, hand drawn illustration and blocks of type to create a 1:1 physical advert (which was then hand delivered to the printer), however, some of these process do survive to this day.

Those that have survived are complex, technical skills that few people have mastered and developed through hours of hard graft and labour. At Adlab, we’ve got a couple of skilled folk among us, who can produce chalk art, hand-drawn illustration & caricature for our clients who are seeking something unique and a little bit special.

Chalk Art

Our in-house Chalk Art master has decades of experience, literally. From the heady days in the 80’s & 90’s where chalk art commissions would comprise of large-scale menu boards, and multiple panel murals, through the lean years of the early 2000’s to today – where only a handful of requests come through – Adlab has held onto the knowledge and skills required to create these fleeting masterpieces.

It’s easy to understand why chalk art has fallen by the wayside in today’s fast-paced digitized world. Detailed, hand drawn layouts were required before proceeding to the task of recreating the approved layout at full-size in chalk on a prepared board, which, itself, required skilled trades to build, frame and correctly prepare. The entire process could take up to two weeks of solid work – day-in day-out – to create a decent sized board. As computers quickly came to the fore, the demand and capability for quicker and quicker turn-around became the norm and, with the development of digital printing, the schedules required for chalk art became a luxury of time and money.

Today, a computer operator with the right skills may be able to imitate the look of a chalk board, but nothing can replace the impact of seeing carefully rendered images and type in chalk. However, the computer does play a vital role in the process today by streamlining layout and proofing with digital mock-ups, thus reducing the preparation time to get the board underway sooner. Not much can speed up the drawing of the board, though; it’s a time-consuming process, albeit not unhurried, that calls on skills that are fast falling by the wayside.

Hand-drawn Illustration and Caricature

While utilising a similar skill-set as chalk art, hand drawn illustrations and caricatures deserve their own recognition. Though straight forward in concept – our Illustrators receive an image or object (physical or digital) and they re-draw it – the skill-set required to complete an Illustration to a standard high enough for commercial application is nothing short of impressive.

Our illustrators can render images in a physical/ analogue form (i.e. pencil, paint, or marker) which are subsequently scanned at high resolution to enable digital use, or they can create directly in a digital format with the assistance of a drawing tablet and specialised applications. Each approach has it’s pro’s and con’s and each has a unique look.

Caricatures can be used to celebrate a key staff member’s achievement, while having a bit of a laugh and highlighting aspects of their personality outside of and within the workplace. Using supplied images the caricature is developed over several iterations through sketches, some people lend themselves to caricaturisation more readily than others, as ears, eyes, nose, lips and other features are emphasized for humour, hopefully these exaggerations are taken in the good nature that they are intended by the recipient (we haven’t received any negative responses, yet!).

To create a successful caricature, one that fully encompasses the persons life in one image, information & details such as hobbies, family life, workplace habits, sports teams they follow, pretty much any aspect about the subject that they are passionate about (that isn’t offensive or abusive, naturally) are conveyed to our illustrators, it is a celebration of the person and their achievements, so the things represented in the caricature should support that ideal, and build a picture of who they are at that time.

Our illustrators then set about processing the supplied information and creating a layout that pulls all the various aspects together. Once a layout is determined the details of the image are worked on until the image is finalised, it can then be used for many  applications. Caricatures of this nature are a bit of fun, and lightheartedness that work on a personal level to encapsulate the subject’s life and achievements.

A caricature is also a great way to develop the character or a mascot for an event or team. Here key themes, colours, names or other connections are used to develop cartoon-like characters of the mascot. From initial sketches, a more refined version of the mascot is developed, leading to multiple illustrated poses that can be used for promotional purposes; various renders of the character can even be used to create a physical suit of the mascot which can be worn by someone at an event – literally, bringing the mascot to life.


At Adlab, we are proud of our history and connection to the past, just as we pride ourselves on our digital knowledge and capabilities for today’s fast-paced industry, and while these “lost arts” of advertising aren’t for every client (and certainly not for every project) if you are seeking something that really stands out from the crowd, sometimes looking back can open up a new direction. Give us a call to discuss how these long lost arts could help your next project. Or if you want more modern marketing services, check us out.

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