1000 Heads: the book

1000 heads, my illustration book

Inspiring books for the creative type


Frank Espinosa's Rocketo

Rocketo is an outstanding comic series by Frank Espinosa. I was hooked since I first previewed it in his website, but I have waited to purchase it until the compilation of the first six stories has been issued in a single volume by Image comics this year.

In these days when most comic artists are lookalikes from each other, Frank Espinosa is a refreshing and captivating singularity. His Rocketo is a very special comic that owes its delightful look to a mix of influences, better summarized by the introduction written by Alex Ross:

“A wonderful hybrid style, combining the best figure modeling of animated feature films and the more liberated expressionist line of european comics. With resemblance to the classic comic strips of Chester Gould and Alex Raymond to the kinetic energy of Jack Kirby’s work, Frank’s style trascends the ages of the comic book.”
The fluidity of the brushwork accounts for the hand of a great artist who is able to suggest the characters and the scenery rather than depict them in detail, with the minimal strokes and just the most tasteful and elegantly subdued touches of colour.

I haven’t investigated it yet, but I would say that while the ink seems to be the real stuff (you know, this black liquid called india ink on sheets of paper), the minimalistic colour looks like digital to me. In any case, it’s a great chromatic treatment. Most digitally coloured comics (which is to say, almost everything being published nowadays) are full of photoshop mannerisms and lack subtility, but very few of these flaws are apparent in Rocketo.

Lettering is unobstrusive and done in the style of classic superhero comics, with lots of boldened words in most ballons for emphasis. However, the sound effects are rather ordinary lettering: this is one of the few things that actually could be improved in this masterpiece.

Rocketo is a comic which everybody should find enjoyable. While the most serious aficionados and art-oriented readers will appreciate the exquisite artwork, younger and casual readers will enjoy the sheer pleasure of the adventures told in the series. Rocketo has to become a true classic, an addictive collection you will keep as a treasure.

You can get the First Volume, compiling the first six numbers; the Volume 2 will be published in the spring of 2007 but it can be preordered already. You can use these links and buy it at a very attractive price from Amazon.


Alan Fletcher (1931-2006): exhibition in London

The british designer Alan Fletcher, who passed away recently, is the object of a retrospective exhibition in London at the Design Museum, Fifty years of graphic work (and play).

If you are even remotely interested in graphic design, creativity, advertising and the power of imagination, and by any chance you are visiting London before the 18th of february, you must not miss this exhibition.

Read more about Alan Fletcher in this profile page, the exhibition presentation and this thread in Design Observer.

If you still don’t have his books in your design library, they are still available; both The art of looking sideways and Beware wet paint are absolutely essential reading. The art of looking sideways, particularly, is a monumental work which is very hard to summarise: it contains almost anything you could ever think about inspiration, imagination, wit and creativity.

Fletcher’s last book, published this year, is Picturing and poeting. Filled with his most recent creative work, the book is an eye-catching and mind-teasing collection of visual games, doodles, graphic objects, drawings, typographic collage and quotations. Filled with almost 300 color images, is a wonderful, witty take on how to think visually and will be a source of inspiration for designers or anybody who works the arts or advertising.

Quick links to Fletcher’s books:


Saturday evening by the sea

I painted this small acrylic on canvas on a plein-air painting event this summer: a quick painting contest by the sea in the Palma harbour. You had, if I remember well, two hours to complete the painting. I joined in with a friend to have some fun together, although I seldom paint real landscapes these days. This is actually an imaginary painting, with some hints of seaside, marine light and sails, but otherwise it is completely abstract. I’ve found that when I decide to paint or draw something that isn’t my usual stuff I let myself go and I end up enjoying it even more.


Surprise instant Mask!

A free and unexpected facial mask! There was an activist group who used to try this time-honored technique on famous leaders. I can remember Bill Gates being given the treatment.
This is what has come to my mind first for this week’s Illustration Friday theme. The base drawing comes from my Absurdies series, with some colours freshly added for this special image.
You can click the image to see a bigger version.
It would be a good complement to find some cream-pie hitting movies! I'll try a search on Youtube or something similar and add the links here...

As promised: some good pie-in-the-face links:


500ml Brushes

For Photoshop users, the nice people at 500ml Brushes offers a variety of original and free Photoshop Brushes and Stock Photography (linkware). Some pretty and unusual brushes there.


Gregory Blackstock's Collections

Gregory Blackstock is the very peculiar illustrator of Blackstock's Collections: The Drawings of An Artistic Savant, released recently by Princeton Architectural Press.

Seattle artist Gregory Blackstock catalogues a wide range of subjects (ranging from state birds to state prisons, tools to WWII bombers, and mackerel to Boeing jet liners and freight trains to insects) on varying sizes of paper. Using ink, pencil, marker, and crayola, his drawings —made from memory— are laid out in neat rows and columns, each item annotated in near obsessive detail.

Gregory Blackstock is an autistic savant, and has overcome many of the limitations of autism, retiring in 2001 after "25 1/3" years of work as a pot washer at the Washington Athletic Club (WAC). Gregory exhibits many of the remarkable traits of the autistic savant; he speaks many languages, is an incredible mimic, and is able to recall events with uncanny precision. In 1986, he began to create his drawings for the WAC monthly newsletter, which each month would feature one of Gregory's new drawings.

His originals can be purchased from the Garde Rail gallery. This text has been quoted from a recent exhibition there.


Printed matter versus online comics according to Scott McCloud

Making Comics – Chapter 5 1/2 is a short online extension to the fifth chapter from Making Comics (the latest Scott McCloud book), covering some of the issues associated with creating colour art and panel layouts for screen display. Nine comics pages followed by seven pages of notes. McCloud books, in case you don't know them, are a good introduction to the world of sequential art, with a detailed coverage of the possibilities of digital media and the internet applied to comic creation and publishing.



Click to see a bigger version
This is my take on the theme “Invention” for this week at Illustration Friday. (If you want to see a bigger image, click on the picture.)

And here is the pencil sketch for this illustration:

There are some differences with the final image. At first I envisioned a scientist in a white robe, quietly thinking in his office. I wanted to suggest a kind of university city in the background, as seen through a window, but then I decided to use a plain black background and treat the character in black and white too, so it is the invention what brings colour to the scene.


How do you “paint” this?

Well, you can ask the artist Daniel Eatock. In this example, he used a whole set of Pantone Markers and let them bleed through a whole stack of absorbent paper for a month. The ink got deep down to the 73th sheet.

Eatock is a conceptual artist responsible of a number of funny, imaginative, unpredictable and whimsical creations. Visit his website for a complete survey of his work.

Nick Curtis peregrinates in pulchritudinous penmanship

I have just received a copy of the CD-ROM with the Nick Curtis collection of fonts and clipart, curiously titled Peregrinations in pulchritudinous penmanship. A very nice package, the CD contains a selection of Curtis’ fonts, inspired in old time typefaces and lettering, and a huge number of dingbats, borders, clipart and full-colour vector graphics. All this graphic content is available both in WMF and EPS formats, so you will be able to use those images in almost any desktop publishing, painting or drawing application, and even with your office software.

The graphics are excellent: top quality vector drawings, many of them painstakingly vectorized from original sources tracked down by Curtis in his investigations of the ephemera, posters and miscellaneous designs from decades past. The vector format ensures that you will get crisp printed results at any size.
Nick Curtis’ mastery of vector digital illustration is evident not only browsing the contents of this remarkable CD, but also when you examine the examples of his fonts in use in the My Fonts website (where he currently offers 286 font families, no less!).

You can purchase this great product either on the aforementioned Nick’s Fonts or in My Fonts.
It must be also noted that Curtis has offered the internet community a huge number of his creations for free, always with the highest standard of quality. I cannot recommend them enough. You can see for yourself and download at your heart’s content visiting Moorstation (the current header logo here at Acuarela features one of these fonts.)


Illustration Class

I have talked about Von Glitschka’s Illustration class on a previous post. Now my RSS reader tells me a few tutorials more have been added to the existing ones.
Illustration Class is a website that any illustrator wishing to learn digital techniques shouldn’t miss out. Focused especially on vector illustration techniques, the tutorials offered on this site offer a fascinating glimpse of the creative process, starting with the briefing, the idea-generation phase and sketch-making through the scanning, tracing and colouring which leads to the final art.
It’s interesting to note that Glitschka’s workflow isn’t entirely digital: you will see lots of pencil doodling, rubber erasing, texture creating, vellum tracing, paper-snippet compositing and so on. This way, you can see the existing bridges between traditional and digital media.
In most articles you will find illustrated step-by-step explanations for a variety of projects. A very recommended visit, either if you are starting out with digital illustration or if you already are proficient with it, but you are in search of new inspiration and techniques.



An illustration for the theme of the week at Illustration Friday, clear. A rather abstract concept which admits a great variety of treatments. I have finally decided to use some simple forms suggesting the open space and a head taken from my Capsbats series. This is a digital image made with vectorial shapes (although these heads were originally ink drawings, prior to scanning and tracing.)
If you wish to see a bigger version, just click the picture above.


Vormator challenge

The Vormator project is the ultimate challenge of your creativity. It is a project for a collaborative book. Each artist is given the chance to show his abilities to create a stunning piece with limited means. The contributing artists each get the exact same set of 8 shapes, the Elements. With these shapes they are challenged to create their own unique page for the book, within the limitations provided in the Rulebook. Designers are thus challenged to create a unique piece within a strict set of rules. It all comes down to pure skills and creativity in this competition.
Do you think it’s too limiting? Check out what Vonster has done, as a good example.
Read all about this engaging initiative in the project page.


Urban Forest Project

design by Milton GlaserThe Urban Forest Project gathers 185 banners created by the world’s most celebrated designers, artists, photographers and illustrators. Each banner uses the form of the tree, or a metaphor for the tree, to make a powerful visual statement. Together they create a forest of thought-provoking images at one of the world’s busiest, most energetic, and emphatically urban intersections (New York: Times Square.) Following their display, (September 1–November 30, 2006) the banners will be recycled into tote bags and sold at auction, with proceeds going to scholarship and mentoring programs that benefit students of the visual arts. Some banners embody visceral responses to pressing environmental, political and social issues. Others use the evocative power of nature to develop rich patterns and abstract forms that delight the viewer.
The images can be downloaded as PDF files, and it’s possible to order T-shirts with the design you choose.
(Link seen at swissmiss.)


Biographies and biopics: Pollock, de Kooning, Basquiat

Ed Harris as Jackson PollockI have recently read a number of biography books and seen some biopics about modern and contemporary artists, such as the book de Kooning: an american master and the biopic Pollock (available in DVD). This film, directed by the actor Ed Harris and based upon the book Pollock: an american saga was released in 2000, after nearly a decade of development. Spending years painting and researching the painter, Ed Harris oversaw all aspects of the film, including directing, producing, and starring in the main role. Harris was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award for this work.
Those in search of entertainment will find that little seems to happen in the movie, and compared to the story in the book it may seem a rather patchy storyline. Yet it is an engaging picture, tastefully directed and performed with conviction. Ed Harris does a superb interpretation as usual: he really becomes Pollock.

As the great hero of abstract expressionism, Pollock’s antics and his drunken persona are well known. A complex character oscillating between opposites of depression and euphoria, introspection periodes and fun-loving moments. But beyond this public side of the painter, a very complex story waited to be told.

Quite a few things about Jackson Pollock surface in the award-winning de Kooning biography, de Kooning: an american master, by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan. You get to know more about the supposed rivarly between the two abstract painters, the pains and pressures of success for an artist who had struggled for years of poverty and hard work. The greatness and the misery of an artist’s life.

There is one interesting moment in the film, when Pollock is walking around in his Long Island retreat and he stops to look the patterns in the shallow waters: pebbles, seashells and seaweed moving with the water flow. Not long after he works out his best known painting style; apparently it is a matter of accident, but you wonder what the artist is looking for in the empty canvas. The accidental dripping of the brush seems to trigger the discovery of what Pollock had been looking for.

This aspect of feeling the nature and letting some glimpses of its essence become part of the painting always fascinates me, and I find it in several other artists that I admire. Of course in de Kooning’s abstract landscapes, but also in Per Kirkeby and Bernd Koberling.

Another remarkable film about a painter is Basquiat, directed by Julian Schnabel, himself one of the most important painters of the eighties and a good friend of the late Basquiat.



This week’s theme at Illustration Friday is smoke. Here’s a quick sketch, made with a few brushtrokes of watercolour. He doesn’t really resemble Groucho but that was the kind of character that I was doodling from memory.


Steven Heller

Steven Heller, the well-known designer, art director and author of many books on graphic design, illustration and typography (and a very good book on Paul Rand) has launched his own web site: I think it is remarkable for some podcasts of his lectures for the School of Visual Arts and other institutions and events.
Check out his lecture about the sixties in design, well documented and attractive, available as a quicktime movie.
One funny detail that I had already read in Milton Glaser’s Graphic design is the fact that the illustrations of this period by Glaser are often regarded as quintessential psychedelic imagery, but the strongest motivation for his style of clear line drawings filled in flat colours was saving time and effort at a moment when they were getting many commissions. The other pillar of the Push Pin Studio at the time, Seymour Chwast, also adopted a similar style, much simpler than his more time-consuming and richly textured woodcuts.


Nils Burwitz

A recently updated website shows the work of the german artist Nils Burwitz. Nils is a dear friend whom I’ve helped in designing and developing this project. When you visit Burwitz-art.com you’ll discover a complete retrospective with many examples of this paintings, drawings, graphic portfolios and bibliophile editions, sculptures and installations, and more.
Watercolours are especially significant in Nils’ oeuvre, particularly the long (over 400) series of large watercolours called Marina’s terraces. In the words of the renowned critic Edward Lucie-Smith:

One of the most impressive products of these years has, however, been an ongoing series of watercolour drawings entitled 'Terraces for Marina'. These, all in the same format, are based on the form of the terraces at Valldemossa, and are provided with long inscriptions in a choice of four languages - German, English, Spanish and Mallorcan - all commonly spoken in the Burwitz household. The images illustrate his love for the town itself, and for surrounding nature. They also offer a commentary on larger events. One drawing, for example, was inspired by the events of 11th September 2001, and is one of the very few viable works of art that I know of that have been inspired by that terrible eventI love these drawings, not simply for their seamless combination of words and images, which reminds me in some curious way, though there is no resemblance of style, of the great English poet-painter William Blake, but because they are completely unpretentious. They are the product of a man using his gift - or in this case gifts in the plural might be more appropriate, since both words and images are involved, to get on terms with the world that surrounds him, to absorb it and make something of it.
I had previously written about this fascinating series about one year ago.

[Some related tags at Technorati: , , , , , ].


Switch to Acuarela

Visit AcuarelaThis blog has been inactive for quite a while. From now on the posts will be published in the blog Acuarela, originally devoted to watercolour and other painting and drawing techniques, but whose scope has been broadeded to include other topics such as graphic design, typography, animation, publishing and the surprises of the online world.

So, point your browsers to the new destination.

Of course, a handy RSS summary of Acuarela (atom) or RSS 2.0 is also available.

Switch to Acuarela

Visit AcuarelaThis blog has been inactive for quite a while. From now on the posts will be published in the blog Acuarela, originally devoted to watercolour and other painting and drawing techniques, but whose scope has been broadeded to include other topics such as graphic design, typography, animation, publishing and the surprises of the online world.

So, point your browsers to the new destination.

Of course, a handy RSS summary of Acuarela (atom) or RSS 2.0 is also available.


Painting à la fauviste

This weekend I have participated in a painting event in a small mountain village. Plein air painting isn't my cup of tea, usually, but I enjoyed it just the same. I selected a nice corner of the village, where there is a small lane with stairs climbing up the terraced mountain slope, beyond an opening on the very thick walls.

As you can see, I have used the colours in a very funny and intense way, à la Matisse or Derain. The real colours were more neutral, mostly ochre and earth, with some darks in the shadows and a bit of greenery here and there.

So, even if outdoors landscape painting doesn't appeal much to me lately, it is a very good creative exercise and a challenge if you want to create something which is clearly different from what you see.

This small painting (65x50 centimetres) is an acrylic on canvas. If you want to see a bigger version, just click the image. Comments are welcome, of course.

[Some related tags at Technorati: , , , , .]

Visual Thinking : Sketchbooks exhibition

Sketchbooks hold the essence of an artist’s work and his or her creativity in its purest form. There is a remarkable online exhibition called Visual Thinking - Curator's Choice in the Smithsonian Institute website for Archives of American Art.

Sketchbooks in the Archives of American Art form a vast repository of ideas, perceptions, inspirational imagery, and graphic experiments. As personal records they afford an intimate glimpse of an artist's visual thinking and reveal aspects of their creative process. Sketchbooks are as varied as the artists who keep them. Social realist painter Reginald Marsh cut and bound scraps of paper to fit the size of his coat pocket. Avant-garde advocate John Graham snatched moments in a busy career to doodle in a leatherbound diary. Albert Kahn copied architectural details and patterns for future projects, and Oscar Bluemner kept painting diaries with copious notes on his color theories.

This selection of sketchbooks demonstrates the broad range of material available for research at the Archives of American Art from academic notebooks with anatomical studies to illustrated journals, ranging in date from the 1840s to the 1970s. A must-see, definitely!


Charles Sovek

The artist Charles Sovek has a site which is very rich in content. It is a terrific resource both for novel and expert painters. You find many painting lessons —with a clear emphasis on getting vivid colours on your paintings— and there is also a big number of interesting articles you can read for free, and there is also a selection of interesting books you can purchase.


Stephen Quiller

Quiller Gallery displays a generous sample of the work of Stephen Quiller, a gifted watercolorist. Stephen is most known for his use of color, color theory, and his approach to watermedia painting. Stephen has written many books and produced numerous videos pertaining to these subjects, and has a number of top-quality art materials that he endorses (such as color wheels.)


Trying out new paints

Having recently bought a new supply of acrylic paints, I’ve found myself with a number of colours that I’m not used to. This is a small canvas (90 x 90 cm) I’ve used to test a new brand I was unfamiliar with. Loving intense colours as much as I do, I’ve decided to share it here.
It’s been really fun doing it! Each brand of acrylic paint has its own quirks: different viscosities, different pigment formulation and load, transparency... Most of the colours here are straight from the tube (16 colours), with some minor mixes here and there.


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Quotes on design

... loading ...