1000 Heads: the book

1000 heads, my illustration book

Inspiring books for the creative type


Masters of Water-Colour Painting

Masters of Water-Colour Painting.
The Project Gutenberg digital edition of a book published early in the XX century (1922-23). Includes colour plates of the reproduced works.


The palette of the ocean: a watercolor animated film

What a beautiful and creative animated short. According to the artist and filmmaker, Will Kim, a recently graduated student from Cal Arts, every frame is painted by watercolor paint and basically the author scanned all the painted frames and connect all the frames. Kim also shares other creations on his Youtube page.

The palette of the Ocean will be screened at the 5th San Francisco Ocean Film Festival, February 1-3, 2008 at the Cowell Theater at Fort Mason Center.

2008 in the winter sky

This is the e-postcard I've sent to my friends and colleagues this year: it comes with a brief note telling that the mediterranean winter sky looks like this, these days.
This time I've used a recently discovered painting program called Rendera. It's quite fast and I love its watercolour-like brush effects.


My obsession with chess

Could you ever imagine so many works of art, photography and miscellaneous curiosities related to chess?

Found in Crystalpunk: Boardological Blackguardism. Who are these people?

Crystalpunk is a simpleton stampede, a coxcomb carnival, a daydreamers cabal, a platitude-peddling potlatch, a nihilists ambulation on tiptoe, an incantation of the language in the corners of your eyes, a wild farrago of those who run before they can walk, an ABD of being Free from the NOW! NOW! NOW! We wear non-matching socks: that is who we are!
The title of this post has been lifted from Scott McCloud, who in the comic with the same title recounts his childhood and adult addiction to the world of grids, knights, and checkmates.

Der Totentanz (Hans Holbein dem Jüngeren)

The dance of the dead (Der Totentanz), illustrated by Hans Holbein the Younger, a recent addition to the Project Gutenberg ebooks repository. Acceptable resolution images. Here.

There is a recent trend in posting illustrated books in the Project Gutenberg, with some remarkable findings. You can subscribe their RSS feed to keep up to date with new releases.


Lucy Willis

Lucy Willis is a watercolour artist. She uses the properties of watercolour to study light, space and shadows. Her works are exhibited online in the "image library" of her website, and also in the Portraits section.
The Architecture works in the image library shows scenes from around the world with a very special treatment of colour and shadows. Other sections include gardens, landscapes, interiors...
Willis has published several books that should be of interest for Acuarela readers: Travels with watercolour and Light in watercolour and Light: how to see it, how to paint it:


At home and in the city

Two more artist proofs of my prints, freshly made. Again with our supple dry point on cardboard technique.
The first is called City. 25 x 17 centimetres. Sanguine (iron oxide) ink on Creysse paper (click to see a bigger image.)
The second is called Home. 23 x 16 centimetres. Sepia ink on Creysse paper. (click to see a bigger image.)


The rehearsal: dry point on cardboard technique

This is a new print done with the technique described in a previous post.
It's called
L'assaig (The Rehearsal)
Two states:
State II: two plates (ochre / bistre)
Size of the print: 23 x 16 cm
State I:
State II:


Downloads bei Schmincke

Sometimes art supplies catalogues and brochures can be very helpful. For example, take any colour chart with specific details about the pigments used in each paint (colour index references). You have basic information to match any of the colours with mixes of the pigments used. For example, I am browsing the Schmincke pastels colour chart, with 400 colours, no less. Obviously, you don't have as many paint tubes around, do you?
A pigment milling machine and a machine to pour watercolour paste in plastic or porcellain pansDo you fancy some of the lovely hues in the chart? Look up its pigment composition and chances are you can get something similar by mixing and matching. If the manufacturer provides the mixture information, it's half done. Just think a bit: for example, if a green says it's a mixture of PG7 (phtalocyanine green) and PY3 (arylide yellow), but it's more a greenish yellow than a yellowy green, just add a touch of the green paint to a bigger quantity of yellow paint. Of course, depending on the particular hue and the medium you use, some colours should be adjusted (probably) with white (oils, gouache, acrylics) or by diluting with water (watercolour). You get the idea, though.

By the way, the Schmincke website has a downloads section offering not only brochures of their products (with colour index information) but also some basic guides on acrylic, oil, pastel and watercolour techniques. These guides and brochures are available in German, English and French.
Currently available:

  • Oil Colours: MUSSINI ( 1.155 KB );de MUSSINI ( 2.700KB );us MUSSINI Flyer ( 345 KB );de Norma Professional ( 597 KB );de/us/fr AKADEMIE Ölcolor ( 2.230 KB );de/us/fr/it
  • Watercolours: HORADAM Aquarell ( 2100 KB );de HORADAM Aquarell ( 2.600KB );us HORADAM Aquarell ( 1019 KB );fr AKADEMIE Aquarell ( 305 KB );de
  • Gouache-varieties: HORADAM Gouache ( 522 KB );de Calligraphy Gouache ( 246 KB );de HKS Designers´ Gouache ( 806 KB );de
  • Pastel: Pastell ( 650 KB );de/us/fr
  • Acrylic Colours PRIMAcryl ( 500 KB ) "short version";de/us/f PRIMAcryl ( 1500 KB ) "complete version";de AKADEMIE Acrylcolor ( 2500 KB );de AKADEMIE Acrylcolor Struktur ( 1600 KB );de AKADEMIE Acrylcolor extra heavy body ( 1600 KB );us AKADEMIE Acrylcolor extra heavy body ( 560 KB );fr Airbrush: AERO COLOR professional ( 191 KB );de/us/fr/it/es
  • Pigments: Pigmente ( 933 KB );de
  • Mediums: Hilfsmittel Broschüre Acryl ( 2.893 KB );de Flyer AQUA-Hilfsmittel, Aquarellmalerei;de Flyer AQUA-Hilfsmittel, Aquarellmalerei;us Flyer AQUA-Hilfsmittel, Aquarellmalerei;fr Schmincke Mediums ( 160 KB );de/us/fr
  • A short introduction to painting: Pastellmalerei ( 1.051 KB );de Aquarellmalerei ( 1100 KB );de Aquarellmalerei ( 1.126 KB );us Aquarellmalerei ( 1.227 KB );fr Aquarellmalerei ( 1.072 KB );it Gouache-Malerei ( 684 KB );de Gouache-Malerei ( 783 KB ) ,,us Acrylmalerei ( 2600 KB );de Airbrush ( 218 KB );us Airbrush ( 220 KB );de Öl ( 529 KB );de
  • Schmincke Guide: Guide to Schmincke Artists' Colours ( 800 KB );us
Visit this page to download the PDF files.


Dry point prints and a special dry point technique

These days I'm working in different print techniques in a workshop with my friend José María (Pep) Alaminos. He's a true master and it's a pleasure to learn and practice with him.

Several years ago Pep discovered that cardboard can be treated in the same fashion as traditional drypoint engraving and it's possible to print them exactly the same way as copper or zinc plates.

We don't know how to call this technique, but for the moment (showing our amazing imagination) let's call it Dry point on cardboard plate. You should use cardboard sheets like those in boxes or notebook covers, with a laminated surface or with a light plastic layer. Wherever you incise this surface, the etching ink will remain, making this process possible, with some evident advantages:

  1. It's far cheaper than metal-plate drypoint: almost any cardboard with the aforementioned surface will do. You can even reuse old boxes or wraps for this printing technique.
  2. It's much easier to carve or incise the surface: you can create the drawing as easily as you draw with pencil or pen on paper.
  3. The plate itself is a work of art when you've finished the printing series.
  4. The results are surprisingly good.

The main disavantadge is the short print run that cardboard can withstand (up to 20-25 prints). If you want to maker small series anyway, this isn't a problem, then, and you have advantages only!

See the acompanying example (click for a much bigger version to see every fine detail) This drawing was made at the workshop and it retains all the immediacy and determination of a pen or pencil drawing. Title: Celebration I. Proof number I. Size of the print: 24 x 17 cm.


How do you begin your drawings?

Some begin with the eye, others prefer to start with the feet... I don't know about you, but the way this fellow starts his drawings is very peculiar:

Color mixing secrets revealed

A video available from Gamblin Artists Colors, also very well explained online (Navigating Color Space) is a very easy to understand and interesting multi-dimensional approach to color mixing.

By using 3D computer animation, Navigating Color Space can best show painters how to access the universe of color. The animated sequences demonstrate how to define a color by its attributes: value, hue and intensity (chroma). During the program, Gamblin demonstrates a few of the secrets of the Old Masters...

Overall, a very good learning / training resource!


Pigments: know your painting stuff

As an artist, a good understating of the properties of pigments is crucial! In recent years, most manufacturers have adopted the good practice of detailing the pigment composition of their paints. Here you have some good resources to know more about pigments and colours:

Pigments in paintings is an online exhibition detailing the history of pigment use, with some curiosities, properties of the different pigments and examples of their use in paintings and other works of art.

The excellent guide to watercolour pigments at Handprint, with a review of all the pigments used by watercolour manufacturers.

Another good guide to pigments and their properties, richly illustrated with photographies.

In a previous post we shared a few interesting addresses related to natural pigments (earth, ground minerals, oxides...) Of course, there are several other posts here related to pigments, their properties and use.

In this french page you'll find a collection of slides with nice photographies and descriptions of a lot of pigments.

These are some appealing photos by Luis Colan, taken at one of the best pigment shops, Kremer Pigments, in NYC:

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.


Herry Arifin: expressionist watercolors

I got to know Herry Arifin paintings finding his space in Flickr by chance. The samples of his colorful watercolors are rather small there. But if you visit his own website you'll be able to appreciate better his intense, bold and expressive urban landscapes and other works, some of them quasi-abstract; all of them full of vivid color and a visual delight for watercolor fans.
Working with energy, he confidenlty mixes different techniques and takes advantage of the best characteristics of the watercolor medium.


Vintage illustrated alphabets

I've always liked illustrated alphabets, the kind used to teach children how to read. It's a rather old invention and there are many curious examples around.

In the inexhastible Gutenberg Project I have just found several amusing 19th century books in this category. Let's start with the Dame Wonder's Picture Alphabet. This is an online version, like the rest of the links in this post, but each project page includes a downloadable version as well.

Another peculiar example: the so-called Fire-side picture alphabet. It cost 50 cents when it was originally published. Its illustrations are rather bizarre!

My First Picture Book, by Joseph Martin Kronheim, is probably the more classic-looking, with nice colour illustrations. As a bonus, some illustrated tales follow the picture alphabet.

The Picture Alphabet by Oliver Spafford is accompanied by the typical black and white engravings, the sort of illustration that comes to one's mind when thinking of old time books.

If you need to learn the alphabet having some fun, you can always try a rhyming version of the picture alphabet: just what you'll find in the book Footsteps on the Road to Learning.

Another classic idea is the alphabet as a human-body shape, like the Funny Alphabet by Edward Cogger. A more recent version was used in the dingbat Incipials, available from Typephases Dingbats & Fonts.

Updated: The Royal Picture Alphabet, by Luke Limner, full of whimsical vignettes for each letter.

The topics for an illustrated alphabet are as diverse as the themes you may think of: birds, for example, can be alphabetically used, as is the case in the Illustrated alphabet of birds.

In the Sleeping Beauty Picture Book, Illustrated by Walter Crane, together with the beautiful illustrations for the story, there is a collection of equally interesting alphabet pictures.

And let's not forget the immortal Edward Lear, the nonsense books genius, who created a great variety of picture alphabets in his (always fascinating) books. Most of his work is digitized, also at the Project Gutenberg website.

Related: Picture Alphabet books in the Amazon online bookshop.


Watercolors and music...

Youtube is full of artistic-related shorts. This one by Robert Leedy features some interesting watercolour technique.

If you want to see more, take a look at the related videos list. It's full of interesting examples, like this one by John N. Stewart (with music).

Earth colours and pigments

Natural pigments offer unique advantages with their special properties, such as outstanding lightfastness and natural-looking, somehow muted colours. Some earth pigments have been used since prehistoric times. The cave paintings in Lascaux and Altamira and the rock paintings in Africa and Australia are witnesses of their exceptional permanence. Artists from such remote times already used ochres and other natural earth pigments to prepare their paints.

The Earth Pigments company offers detailed information about earth pigments and supplies a huge variety of them in different categories: natural earths, miscellaneous mineral pigments, oxides and mica flakes.
Daniel Smith has a big (and still growing) line of watercolours manufactured with natural earth pigments and special natural pigments, their Primatek line. The product page explains the procedence and unique properties of these special pigments and the paints that include them (watercolours, oils and acrylics.) Make sure you visit the Primatek section to learn more about each pigment in their collection! There is also a comprehensive review of the Primatek range at the excellent Handprint site by Bruce McEvoy.



Something for this week's Illustration Friday, on the theme of Scale. This is a drawing I just made (yesterday evening) in preparation for a dry point print. I will post samples of the prints (which will be mirrored due to the printing process: the little man will be on the right side.)
This is a closeup of the incised copper plate:
And this is the preliminary drawing (pencil on paper, 27 x 18 cm):
These cliffs and rock layers are imaginary. This is a subject that has always fascinated me and very often I find myself sketching imaginary landscapes full of layered rock formations. Sometimes I use them as a perfect excuse to apply a variety of colours to the different strata!

The scale of human life is almost insignificant, when compared to the time span of Geologic processes. Sedimentation, formation of rock from sediments, folding of the layers, emerging... take millions of years. A rock formation like this could easily take hundreds of millions of years since the beginning of sedimentation until the visible outcrop represented here.

It wasn't until well into the 19th century that scientists became fully aware of the immensity of the geologic time scale. And yet we had to wait until the 20th century for a precise way to measure the amazing lenght of Earth's history.


From watercolour to stained glass

Today my dear friend Nils Burwitz has completed a very important project with the inauguration of his stained glass installation in the Church of Sant Antoni Abad in S. Ferriol, Mallorca. The artist has a long experience with stained glass (see his website for more examples), but this particular project is very special for different reasons.

I knew his preliminary project studies, made in watercolour, and he has been able to translate the transparency and delicate washes of this medium to the true transparency of glass. Click to see a bigger version:

Each window pane (80 x 165 cm) is made up of three glass layers. The most external layer is a double protection sheet reinforced with a tempered glass cover. The second layer contains the design, which is overlaid and painted with special enamels, then "baked" at high temperatures (over 600ºC). The third layer is made with a technique known as slumping and contains a transparent emboss with the numbers of the Ten Commandments.

Some examples of the windows: of course the only way to fully appreciate them is seeing the light pass through!

See other posts about Nils Burwitz and his art in this blog.


Hats and more hats

Some colorful hats in watercolor (scroll down to see them all.)
This is the theme of the week at Illustration Friday and a good excuse to play again with the paints! As it its hats, in plural, so be it: many hats to choose!
All these small illustrations are on a single watercolor paper sheet. I have cropped each and then, the nice Polaroid-like frame has been added to each image with the handy-dandy Polaroize web service.


Watercolor tutorials at Daniel Smith

Daniel Smith Primatek series (mineral pigment watercolors)Daniel Smith is a paint manufacturer and art supplies retailer, based in Seattle, that has earned a reputation for high-quality products (sold under their own home brand name), especially with their excellent watercolors. Visiting their direct-order website, we find that their Learn section offers a good number of tutorials. They also offer some interesting guides for oil, acrylic and watercolor painting.

Their nicely designed and informative catalogs include some short hands-on articles and advice about mixes and other paint-related topics. For example, the latest issue (there is a printed version, and also a web version that you can read online) includes a two-page article about glazing colors, one of the most important techniques in watercolor painting:


Some useful and powerful online color tools: Kuler, Color Hunter, Colr, Colrpickr

Colo(u)r tools are always welcome, both for digital and non-digital media. Let's review some seriously addictive and useful sites to create and explore color palettes. They can be an excellent inspiration visit to get new colour schemes for your projects and apply them either to digital designs, decoration, painting, food, or whatever you want.

Kuler is so cool! It is all about color and inspiration: explore, create, and share color themes.
It's easy to use, but online help is provided, and there is also a good tutorial.

Now Adobe is publishing the kuler APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). These APIs allow you to submit requests to Kuler, which returns lists of feeds (highest rated, most popular, and newest color themes posted to the site) or searches themes. With time, some interesting results will appear! Some more information here.

The themes in Kuler are tagged, and you can search by those tags, usually given by association, look and feel.

With Color Hunter you can both create and search palettes made from images (5 colours).
The Kuler talk (forum) discussion about the uses of the application. You can subscribe the RSS feed of this forum. The palettes in Color Hunter are also tagged, and you can search particular schemes that contain a certain colour.

Colr.org offers a wonderful set of tools to create, play and experiment with color schemes. You can load images from Flickr: a specific image or a random one. Hover your mouse on the image you've just loaded and it is decomposed in a series of color swatches, so you can single a specific hue to create or search color schemes. You can then fine-tune the selected colors with a color dialog that pops up in the selection box.

Better still, you can load pre-made color schemes searching a specific tag or loading it at random. When the colors and palettes are loaded, you can see the individual colors with their hex codes, and save the complete scheme as an .aco color table (a format you can later load in Photoshop and other image-editing programs.) Let's load one of my images to see it in action:With colr.org you can even use a Google gadget to see what's new on the site right on your Google homepage. And you can subscribe a RSS feeds with the latest color schemes created.

Colr Pickr is a "Flickr toy": it provides a color wheel linked to photos in the Flickr website with similar overall colors. Very intuitive and funny. Of course, each of the images you load can be fed in turn into Colr.org or Color Hunter...


Making colour wheels in watercolour

Getting to know your paints is an important step towards good results in your painting. Colour wheels are a good tool to locate pigments around their hue / saturation space. Then you can decide more easily about which colours you might use in terms of harmonies and combinations.

To decide which pigments you prefer to use for mixing colours there are other factors to take into account: transparency, flow and staining nature. And the issue of neutralizing pigments is another complex question, without a consistent pattern around the wheel. However, it is still good to have a basic wheel around to remind you of the alternatives you have when starting a new painting.

Here, on a 65 x 50 cm sheet, I have created swatches of all the single-pigment watercolour paints in my paintbox, using several references. Each tube or pan from the professional brands now indicate which pigment(s) have been used in the manufacture of the paint and this makes the job easier.

In this wheel there is a big gap in the green pigments area. The reason is I only have three single-pigment greens. The rest of my green colours (Sap green, Hooker green and others) are commercial mixtures prepared with different pigments. For the rest of the palette I have very few multi-pigment paints (I think the only one is Sepia.)
Other interesting exercises with your paints:

  • test as many different mixes as possible, thoroughly, using different proportions and dilutions.
  • test combinations of transparent or semitransparent pigments with other transparent pigments, or combinations transparent + opaque. Two opaque colours usually produce undesirable muddy mixes.
  • test glazing effects using transparent or diluted colours over dry washes of a different colour
  • try granulating washes
  • experimental mixes and wet-on-wet interactions.
These are topics for another post!

Bruce McEvoy, in his very informative site, Handprint, already commented here, offers a wealth of details about colour wheels. Check out the sitemap of his website to explore it in detail.

Some good books and tools for colour mixing:


James McMullan

James McMullan is a well-known illustrator with a special fondness for watercolour. His long career (he was once a member of the Push Pin studio) has been anthologised in several books, such as Revealing Illustrations and The Theater posters of James McMullan. He also wrote a book on drawing, High focus drawing.

His website features a good selection of his art. The reproductions aren't very big, but you get a good overview of his style and his mastery of the watercolour medium, and his attractive use of colour. The sections are clearly organised and easy to navigate: cover books, posters, his famous theatre posters, some interesting portraits and other works.

Triton Gallery in New York exhibits and sells some of Mr. McMullan's work, together with other theatre-related posters and art.


Vectormagic: online, free bitmap to vector autotracing

For those who like to work with vector drawings (or those who must work with them), there's an interesting free service offered by the Stanford University: Vectormagic. It's an online autotracing engine with a step-by-step wizard offering many options. If that's not enough, see their screencasts for further help.
It's a good link to bookmark, because you may find yourself working in a computer without your usual tracing software. In this case, if you have internet connection, that's it: you can trace the image with the highest quality with Vectormagic.

Vectormagic is a Stanford University Artificial Intelligence Laboratory research project by James Diebel and Jacob Norda. Check out the comparison of the results of Vectormagic if compared to other tracing utilities. Pretty impressive!

Its excellent output is something to take into account to trace letters, logos or any other vectorising job where precision is desired.


Katja Gruijters: Play with your food

Katja Gruijters is a designer. Food and drink are Katja's ‘material’: fascinating and an endless source of inspiration. Because eating habits, culinary preferences and lifestyles are constantly changing.
Katja 's work

Painting: the return to the studio

After some hard cleanup, tidying things up, repairing work and buying new supplies, I have started some new work on the painting studio.
This is an acrylic on canvas (89 x 116 cm) in celebration of a cleaner and more inviting space to create new works. I've written on the back, as a title The return to the studio. September (click if you wish to see a bigger version.)

The photo isn't that good... the purpose of the painting was to celebrate light, ambience, and the whites are really glowing on the canvas, something that hasn't got through to the photo. I'll add some closeups later!


Rare bits, rarebits, rabbits and fondues

Here's one Rarebit Fiend in action, gulping the nightmare-inducing mealThe Welsh Rarebit meal puzzled the translator of a spanish reissue of the classic Winsor McCay stories, now anthologized in a magnificent volume celebrated here in a previous post.

The translator in the spanish Laertes Editorial (Pesadillas de cenas indigestas, 1984) apparently didn't know what to do with this peculiar recipe. After some investigation, he found that Welsh Rarebit was probably a misspell for Welsh Rabbit (as the recipe is known in some places), but it wasn't a rabbit meal at all. Instead, it is a toast — topped with a sauce made from a mixture of cheese and butter, poured over toasted bread which has been buttered, although there is a number of variations and some more curiosities to take into account. Finally he decided to use tostada galesa (Welsh Fondue), as he dutifully explains in the preface of the anthology.

The basic storyline of each dream of the Rarebit Fiend is very similar to Little Nemo's, but instead of a regular character, each strip portrayed a nightmare experienced by a different protagonist, who (usually) had made the poor choice of consuming too much rarebit before bedtime, something we are aware of in the last panel.

Edwin Stanton Porter even directed a Rarebit Fiend film (a short, around 6 minutes). You can watch it online: just check out this Google Video page.

An example of the pages of this classic in the spanish translation published by Laertes:


Nights in Welsh rarebit, never reaching the end...

This book is neither new nor cheap, but you could do much worse than spend some money in the magnificent reissue of the long lost and (sadly) almost forgotten Dream of the Rarebit Fiend, the Winsor McCay classic. I had only a tiny fraction of the Rarebit stories in my personal library, and this edition is very, very welcome. I must admit I am especially taken by vintage imagery, top hats and all!

To speak of McCay in terms of a true classic of comics and his unparalleled imagination in illustration is to state the obvious. Now we have a long-awaited opportunity to enjoy his incredible world.

Some data of this awesome book: Published in Germany by the expert in McCay work, Ulrich Merkl; ISBN 3-0002075-1-1. Includes 369 reproductions of the best episodes of the series and a DVD with high resolution scans of all 821 episodes known to exist; hardcover, handbound (the large horizontal format required handbinding, making each copy a unique piece of superb craftsmanship) 464 pages (139 in color) Illustrations: 1010 (219 in color, 791 in black & white) Dimensions: 17 x 12 x 1.2 inches / 43,5 x 31 x 3 cm (horizontal format) Weight: 9.5 pounds / 4,3 kg Language: English Cover price: € 89.00 / $ 114.00.

If you already know Little Nemo in Slumberland, this is another fascinating exploration in the world of whimsy, dreams and the unexpected with one unique guide, McCay. Many reissues
of Little Nemo are still available from several publishers.

Some background information about Winsor McCay, and both the Rarebit Fiend and Nemo are available, of course, in the Wikipedia.

If you want to experiment some Welsh-rarebit induced nightmares in your own nights, try the recipe provided, where else, in the Wikipedia.


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