1000 Heads: the book

1000 heads, my illustration book

Inspiring books for the creative type


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.



The current theme of the week at Illustration Friday is “Grow”. As I usually do (see previous posts), I filled some sheets with vaguely related thumbnails. Then I dipped the brush in some leftover watercolour in the palette and quickly did this sequence on one page of my journal (click the image for a bigger version).

The Growth idea can accomodate many different interpretations, notably personal growth, and I will probably revisit it during the week and include some other images here.


Bibliodyssey: Amazing Archival Images from the Internet (The book!)

Bibliodyssey has long been one of my favourite daily visits, and one of our recommended links on the sidebar. I am pleased to hear that a printed version with a selection of some of its amazing discoveries has just hit the shelves.

BibliOdyssey's mission over the past two years has been to diligently trawl the dustier corners of the Internet and retrieve these materials for our attention. Thanks to the daily efforts of this singular blog, a myriad of long-forgotten imagery has now re-surfaced, from eighteenth-century anatomical and architectural drawing to occult and alchemical engravings and proto-Surrealist depictions of the horrors of industrialization (for example, the half-plant, half-people illustrations of J.J. Grandville). Each of the images is accompanied by commentary from "PK," (Peakay) author and curator of the BibliOdyssey blog. The book also provides details for each image and links to the source website. With a foreword by artist Dinos Chapman, BibliOdyssey is a true cabinet of curiosities and a journey in discovery and delight.
More information to purchase the book here.



(Theme of the week at Illustration Friday)
Watercolour on paper, 33 x 22 cm. The second image is a spread from my journal with some ideas about this theme.
Click the image to see a bigger version.


Daily art projects

There are a myriad of daily projects scattered on the net. The idea of forcing oneself to come up with something daily is a natural creativity enhancer, but something must be done each day, no excuses admitted. A very interesting scene is growing around this kind of project. Let's see some examples:


Kirsty Hall: The Diary Project

Kirsty Hall's Diary Project is a one of the many year-long art projects you can find across the net.

Every day in 2007 I am drawing on an envelope, placing something secret inside and posting it to myself before my midnight deadline. When these envelopes return to me they will be kept unopened until they can be exhibited as a whole artwork. Members of the public will then be able to open the letters and investigate the contents.
Here's a slideshow displaying the envelopes that make up Kirsty's special diary.

Sometimes, this kind of forced creativity gives interesting results, besides the conceptual nature of the whole project.



A two-page spread from my journal with some thumbnail ideas for the theme of the week at Illustration Friday: “Open”.

I planned to take one of these sketches and develop it a bit, time depending...
Click on the image to see a bigger version.
I have used pencil, ink and soluble (watercolour) pencils. The notebook is a Moleskine sketchbook large, 13 x 21 cm (5 x 8¼").
This assortment of ideas include: open windows, open to the outside and the reverse, a maze, the welcoming open jar of marmalade to open the day, opening a new parcel of art supplies to open new art routes, open tubes, and a few open thoughts & thinking loops...


Cathy (Kate) Johnson

Cathy (Kate) Johnson is a professional watercolourist, author of many books about painting and drawing. She can draw nature scenes and wildlife very confidently. She defines herself as an "Artist, writer, naturalist, teacher, reenactor, workaholic and general all-round crazy person."

Her watercolour technique is very solid and she has an incredible arsenal of skills. Fortunately, she shares some of her advice not only in her many publications (34 books to date), but also in her website and journal. But I especially recommend his Flickr space, packed with plein air watercolours, water-soluble pencil drawings, lots of page spreads from her notebooks and journals, tutorials, sketches... many of her works are commented in detail, making it a very pleasurable and useful visit. I cannot recommend it enough if you have real interest in perfecting your watercolour technique.

Cathy has a new book, published by North Light Books, called Creating nature in watercolor, without a doubt another good addition to our art reference library.

In her website you can download lots of painting lessons and tutorials in PDF format. One recommendation to get and manage all the lesson files: the best you can do with these files is to download them all automagically, for example using the Downthemall extension for Firefox, then merge all the files in a single (big) PDF. You can do it in seconds with the tool PDFTK (I use a graphical interface for PDFTK.) Give the separate files this treatment and you will get a very convenient single "book" with all her useful tutorials, tips and tricks. You will get a 140 page-book, with a size of 40 Megabytes, approximately.

Bhupinder Singh

Indian-born Bhupinder Singh is a gifted watercolorist, now living in Canada. His website displays many of his watercolors with an attractive Flash interface, organised in collections. For those interested in the pigments and paints used, the kind of paper the works are painted on, and other details about his art-making, Singh offers detailed information.
He also gives a painting demonstration, showing how he paints the Legislature Building in the autumn light and foliage.
Overall, a very interesting visit with beautiful landscapes and a very good use of texture, granularity of pigments and other qualities of the watercolor medium.

The complexity of Evgeny Kiselev

Being myself fond of complexity, accumulation and organic shapes, especially in my sketchbooks, the art by digital artist Evgeny Kiselev
has an obvious appeal to me. His website features many examples of his creativity and exhuberance.


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