1000 Heads: the book

1000 heads, my illustration book

Inspiring books for the creative type


My handwriting and other home-made fonts

I get quite a few questions about some fonts I designed a while ago. Amano is a well-known handwriting font, which has been used in a variety of designs, posters and products. Answering some of the questions: yes, this is my own handwriting (or very close). Another font that is based on the way I write with a pen or pencil is Phalopha, and so is Honcho (and its alter ego, more clean, Manualita.)

There is another experimental font called Fontorio that also captures (more or less faithfully) my writing gesture. But in this case I did it straight with the mouse. Something quite challenging! Anyway, I am still pleased with the results. Why not try it?

Typephases Fonts is the only place to get those fonts and other designs. Actually most of them are pictorial typefaces, or dingbats, traced from my doodles and drawings. Only a few experimental fonts are alphabetic, like the handwritten ones and some others. Scroonge and Plantiya are very popular. You can also find my comic fonts very useful: CU-TBO family (I love especially the rough version) and Sinky.
Here are just a few samples of the fonts and dingbats:

There's a lot more to see at Typephases!

Jim Flora

James —Jim Flora is best-known for his wild jazz and classical album covers for Columbia Records (late 1940s) and RCA Victor (1950s), but his influence is clearly felt in much of contemporary illustration and design.
Flora authored and illustrated 17 popular children's books and flourished for decades as a magazine illustrator. Few realize, however, that Flora was also a prolific fine artist with a devilish sense of humor and a flair for juxtaposing playfulness, absurdity and violence. Cute — and deadly.
JimFlora.com exhibits samples of Flora's fine art, commercial assignments, sketches, prints, books, and memorabilia. Jim Flora once said that all he wanted to do was "create a little piece of excitement." He overshot his goal with much of his work.
Two books have been published by Fantagraphics, anthologising his work:

Alvin Lustig, Modern American Design Pioneer

Alvinlustig.com anthologises the editorial design, architecture and interior design, ads, identity and other print designs by Alvin Lustig, the modern design pioneer (1915-1955). A feast for the eye and a wealth of inspiration.

The interface of the site is very usable and attractive, making it a further tribute to the talent of Lustig. For example, in some of his books and periodical works, you can choose to see each work sequentially or display all of them in a page to get a global view.

Arthur Rackham's illustrated books

A number of books illustrated by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) are available for free in the Project Gutenberg site.

You’ll find Aesop's Fables, Tales from Shakespeare and English Fairy Tales, all of them illustrated in the characteristic and precious style by Rackham.


Making your own watercolor paints

Carol Gillott, the artist who paints the delicious Paris Breakfasts, claims that she uses paints made by herself. She doesn't give lots of details, except some pigment mentions. I am curious about this — I have made my own acrylics quite often, but I never thought about making my own watercolour paint. Seeing the beautiful granular look of these delightful works, my curiosity has been stirred.

So here are some preliminary results of a brief online research...

Everything about paint formulation and pigments at handprint. An article detailing how watercolor paints are made.

The people at Purciful Toys explain some details, also here.

One of the most tiring parts of paint-making is to mix the paint and the binder thoroughly (about 1.0 g of the dry pigment and 20 drops of gum arabic solution (gum arabic, honey, glycerine, and sodium benzoate). This involves using a mullet and a lot of work!

Recipe from the Earth Pigments company:

  1. Prepared Gum solution (Arabic or Tragacanth)
  2. Honey (Acacia is preferable) in a 10% proportion to the weight of Gum solution used
  3. Pigments

Mix all the ingredients and crush them on a glass plate using a spatula to obtain a paste with a thick, creamy consistency. It is recommended that you finish the mixture by crushing it with a glass muller (available at art supply stores). Transfer your paints to saucers for painting. When creating your initial gum, you may wish to add Glycerin as a plasticizer to prevent cracking and brittleness. The ratio would be 1 part Glycerin or less by volume to 5 parts of your prepared gum solution. Add the Glycerin after gum has been completely dissolved but while still warm.
(Preparing the gum arabic solution requires 1 part gum to 2 parts water. Boil water and pour over the powdered gum, stirring to make sure there are no lumps. For example, for 300 grams of powdered gum arabic, use 600 grams of water.
Add three drops of Clove Oil to retard spoilage. Allow the mixture to soak 24-48 hours for full absorption.)

I've done a few trials with earth colours (ochre, burnt sienna) and I'm not dissapointed with the results. Obviously, the hard repetitive work is the downside of creating your paints this way, but it's far cheaper than commercial paint and if you use big quantities, it's something you might consider.

Ottorino De Lucchi

Ottorino De Lucchi is an italian artist, born in Ferrara, now working in Folgaria (Trento).

In recent years, he has developed a painting technique based on watercolor drybrush which allows to mantain the brightness of the watercolor.

His technique is very impressive — either in his still lifes or in his portraits.

Artist proof: acrylics and ink in digital

Artist Proof is a very nicely packaged and presented collection of patterns and designs by House Industries. Find out more in the product page and related products like the Artist proof 2 package, the Artist proof cards and 20-card combo. The product pages display the ink and acrylic images, usage examples and a nice PDF booklet.

It's just like those guys brought their brushes, paints and ink over to your place. These huge images ship on two DVDs with enough resolution to work everywhere from tiny color classified ads to gigantic high-speed bullet train wraps. Includes 50 Artist Proof Ink and 50 Artist Proof Acrylic images. Ink images are saved as bitmapped tiff files at 1200 dots per inch at an average size of 8.5 x 11 inches. Acrylic images are saved as jpeg CMYK files at 350 dots per inch at an average size of 14 x 22 inches.

Rendera: very easy digital watercolors

I saw a reference to Rendera in the Portable Freeware archive. Rendera is a free graphics program suitable for artistic painting, photo-retouching, colorizing, and seamless tile design. It emulates common art tools and features an easy-to-learn, albeit ugly, interface. What I like more about this utility:

  • Very small program file
  • No installation needed
  • Very responsive
  • Awesome watercolor-like tool that mimics paint spread very well.
Some weeks ago I used Rendera to create a fast e-card to greed the newcoming year:

The Daily Mammal: 14 years drawing daily mammals

Jennifer Rae Atkins states at The Daily Mammal that

"One of my long-term goals is to [try to] draw [close to] every mammal on earth. So here goes, a mammal a day. Since there are about 5,000 named mammal species, give or take, it should take me about 14 years to meet this goal. That's not so bad!"
Another promising —and no doubt dedicated—daily art project.

Cheap Joe's at YouTube

If you visit the Youtube page of the art materials retailer, Cheap Joe's, you'll find sample clips of art instructional Videos and DVDs, as well as complete quick art lessons from Joe Miller himself. Full length Videos and DVD's are available From Cheap Joe's Art Stuff.

Cheap Joe's features a complete selection of fine art supplies with an excellent mail- or online ordering system.

Turner: the sketchbooks online

It is possible to browse many of the sketchbooks left by J.W.M. Turner in the Tate Gallery website. The images have a limited resolution, but if you click the "enhance image" button, a more contrasted spread, digitally processed, will replace the original.


Punch, Stamp, Patch, Doodle, Draw

YUVA Studio is a Flash-based application with five activities: Punch, Stamp, Patch, Doodle and Draw, to encourage your children to explore the world of shapes.
The idea is not very dissimilar from Ed Emberley books.

Joanne Greenbaum

I like the style of Joanne Greenbaum: both her colour choices and the accumulation of seemingly unconnected shapes, signs and doodles build up and create surprising and appealing works. See some of her paintings at the Saatchi Gallery.

Joanne Greenbaum’s playful abstractions approach painting with a sense of liberation. Primarily concerned with the formalism of plastic arts, her canvases don’t follow proscribed formulas of conventional painting, but rather continuously test and expand the possibilities by which painting can evolve. In Poster, Joanne Greenbaum’s graphic composition unfolds with its own rules of logic: bold shapes and colours are mapped out and dissected by the improbable blueprint of their design. Joanne Greenbaum’s diagram motif acts as both a structural device and an extension of her painterly consumption; her delicately drawn lines exhibit a contemplated intimacy and dimension of fantastical space, suggesting an inexhaustible microcosm of illusionary delight.
Read a short interview with the artist and find out more on Artnet and the D'Amelio Terras gallery.


Ghobad Shiva, an iranian designer and illustrator, whose works can be enjoyed visiting his site, ShivaDesign, creates especially colourful designs.

It's remarkable that Shiva is one of many very interesting graphic designers in Persia, like Iman Raad or the 5th Color collective. Iranian design never ceases to surprise me because of the quality and variety of their graphic language, and the exquisite arabic calligraphy.

What to do with art supplies catalogues

The Flickr user Tortuga del Desierto has a good answer (click to see the original post at Flickr):


Napoleon's Cat (from a soft ground print)

A preliminary stage of a soft ground (soft varnish or vernis mou) print. I prepared the zinc plate with a layer of soft varnish and then drew over a pencil sketch made on a sheet of paper.
When I pulled off the sheet, this transfer appeared.
This drawing now is transferred to the plate and I am making some texture work on the white areas. The quality of the line intrigues me. If you just draw on the soft ground, it is possible to create prints with a pencil-like look, unlike dry point or etching lines, which resemble more pen-made lines.


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