Jose Maria Cao – Caricaturist

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Guillermo White in “Caras y Caretas” 1906
(Click the pictures to enlarge them, please.)

A brief bio of Seňor Cao reveals that he was born in the North-East of Spain (Galicia) in December 1862. He showed a precocious talent for drawing, and from a very early age put his artistic talents to use in a decorative ceramics factory, where he learned to sculpt with Jose Lopez, making altarpieces.

In 1886 he emigrated from Galicia to Argentina, like so many of his compatriots who could not make a living from the land and who set their sights on the chance of adventure in the Americas.

Arriving dirt poor in Argentina he made his living as a quick sketch artist and portraitist on the Paseo Colon in Buenos Aires.

After working as an engraver, Cao took a job as an art master in a school from which base he was able to freelance for several magazines, and in 1887 he worked alongside the Madrileno Eduardo Sojo on a satirical magazine called Don Quixote that got them both into deep political trouble (If I’m translating the text on this page correctly.)

Argentina was going through political turmoil at the time, and despite working under synonyms, someone made an attempt to assassinate Cao because of a caricature he’d drawn of General Capdevila. A public scandal erupted when Cao and his colleague Sojo were both imprisoned for eight days before being released by General Roca. The dissenting magazine was shut down by the government.

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Horatio Rodriguez Larreta, Lawyer in “Caras y Caretas” February 1911

“Caras y Caretas” and “Fray Mucho” were two Argentinian political magazines for which Cao was a regular contributor.

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Isabelino Gradin Football champion in “Caras y Caretas” 1903

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Manuel F. Mantilla in “Caras y Caretas” 1904

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Jose Figueroa Alcorta in “Caras y Caretas” 1907

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Percival Farquhar Capitalist & Railway Baron in “Fray Mucho” 1913

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Ernesto Bosch wrestling Indelecio Gomez The Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for the Interior discussing policy “Fray Mucho” 1913

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From “Fray Mucho” Magazine 1912

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Enrique Navarro Viola 1908″

Download the catalogue, and contemplate the abilities that Cao must have gained from his early adventures with kinesthetic three dimensional sculpting, and how that has fed into his amazing skills in two dimensional drawing.

Myself, I’m deeply impressed by Cao’s work, and I’d personally love to see these solid little figure drawings transcribed into 3D animated figures – they have such convincing volume and presence.

Jose Maria Cao died in 1918 aged 55, in Lanus, Buenos Aires.

Just a quick editorial note to say that I couldn’t suppress my instinctive and immediate impulse to enhance the original illustrations, (most of them were horribly brown with age), which means that you will be looking at images that have been tweaked and interpreted by me in this post.

If you object to my tampering with scans of original artwork, please download the Acrobat PDF file from the show of Cao’s work that was exhibited earlier this year in Argentina, and study the originals. It contains dozens upon dozens of fabulous drawings that I couldn’t possibly fit into one post, “improved” or not. So download it anyway!

My reasoning is that I’d like to get as close as possible to the originals, and seeing these amazing pictures through a veil of brown haze isn’t satisfactory.

An appreciative nod to Oscar Grillo for introducing me to Cao’s work.
Edited 28-03-’08

Günther Reindorff & Villu Toots

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Evening Landscape, Günther Reindorff, 1944
(Clickety, clickety to make it biggety!)

I think I came across this beautfully wistful mezzotint on Bukowski‘s auction website. I can’t be precise because I was not using the researcher’s friend, ClipCache Pro at the time.

Google didn’t yield much on this Estonian artist apart from some rather badly scanned prints. An example below –
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Someone’s scanned or converted this picture to a greyscale image, and blown away all trace of the tonal subtlety it might have once had. Shame. (Why is this delicate job so often delegated to the office junior?)

Here’s another really wonky scan, this time ruined by cackhanded overuse of the sharpen filter…
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Stream And straighten it up!

A little more digging, and I wound up on a page showing the work of many Estonian typographers and calligraphers.

Now the history of this part of Northern Europe is complicated to say the least, up until the Fall of the Wall and the eventual acceptance of Estonia into the EU in 2004.

The territory was occupied first by its Russian neighbour, and then by the Third Reich during the second world war, and once more illegally re-occupied by the Soviet Union in 1944.

Consequently, Reindorff had a complicated client list, to say the least. He has designed banknotes and postage stamps for a succession of governmental bodies..

Most of his work was within the graphic arts, with a strong leaning towards calligraphy, and that’s how I found him in the company of his compatriot and fellow pensmith, Villu Toots. (What a wonderful name!)

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Stanley Morison Villu Toots

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Tahestik Villu Toots

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Hermann Zapf (If that surname rings a bell, check this page.)

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Kodanic Brych

One more Estonian designer whose work on that page grabbed me was Rudolf Koemets. There’s an invigorating balance between clarity and mania in this poster from 1965. It looks like the work of a Zen master wielding a very large Japanese brushpen just like a Samurai sword….

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Raamatu Graafika Rudolf Koemets, 1965

If anyone has a link to more work by any of these artists, please get in touch!

Airborne Paper Castles

Ruminating about the utter madness of making animated films the other day, a vision featuring a meeting of two people in a screening room flitted through my mind, and in this fantasy, person A showed person B a feature length live action film, and, after the credits had finished sliding up the screen, turned to B and said:

“OK B, I want you to make a film. It’ll be a special new type of film. What will be new and special about it is that instead of using these marvellous motion picture cameras that can, as you’ve just seen, make it so easy to automatically capture movement on film, what I want you to do is to draw and paint by hand every single frame of this new film, and in full colour mind you, then come back here in say, two years time, and show it to me.

Oh, and by the way, you’ll need at least a couple of hundred highly trained artists and technicians to help you, and a minimum of, what, fifty? sixty? a hundred million dollars?, that’s before all the marketing costs of course, to make the film. Sound OK?”

With a crazed look in his eye, person B turns to person A, and croaks: “All right… I’ll do it. When do I start?”
O.S. Sound of ambulance screeching to a halt outside. Doors slam. Multiple footsteps rapidly approach the doors.
The doors burst open, white coated medical orderlies armed with soothing syringes and tight fitting white jackets quickly subdue Person A and person B, and they are dragged, struggling, out of the doors…
(Fade to black)

If you concur with me that the creators of animated films are, how shall I say, differently gifted, then you should see what some of their audience get up to in their spare time….

Ben Millet has been building a prop from an animated film. Quite a big prop:

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(These pictures get much bigger if you click on them.)

It’s the eponymous castle from Hayao Miyazaki’s 2004 feature Howl’s Moving Castle. (Hauru no ugoku shiro)

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It only took him 72 hours work to complete the paper model. That’s 2 working weeks in European measurements.

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He wasn’t even paid to do it….

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Ben works really fast, though, as this video shows. Maybe someone could offer him a job.

Howl’s Moving Castle from Ben Millett on Vimeo.

You can find Ben’s finished paper model displayed as a Flickr set.

And if you want to make the whole thing by hand yourself, the plans are here. (50Mb Download)
You’ll find the instructions here. (1.5Mb download.)

Via PaperKraft

How Do You Like Your Tea?

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If you’re working in a studio situation and someone asks you how you like your tea, this mug makes it easier for the final result to be pretty close to the colour you want.

You might get a more accurate result if you used Pantone colours, of course, but then you’d need to supply a laminated waterproof strip of the exact hue to whoever was offering you the tea.
Some people might regard this as slightly pernickety behaviour however, and tell you to go and make it yourself, or words to that effect.

If you like the idea, and find it useful enough to stump up £9.99, you can buy them here and here.

There’s even a Pantone gift set of 4 mugs here, for £34.99, which seems a bit steep for studio ware and the colour is only printed on the outside of the mug, which is less than ideal for matching purposes in my experience.

You’ll have to make your own arrangements for communicating how much sugar you’d like (or not).

Update: See scads of Pantone themed products on this page.

Stephen Hanson Rides Again

I’m delighted to include Stephen Hanson’s name in the blogroll once more, since he recently resurfaced on his old blog address.
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Moon Jelly (Click on these pictures to enlarge them, please.)

His blog is chock full of the goodness you’ll remember from its previous incarnation before its disappearance.

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Catch Me If You Can

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Poker Club on the Ark

Here’s the link….
I, for one, will certainly be a frequent visitor.

Hans Bacher, Typographer

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“Architec” Typeface. (Bigger versions of these pictures are available when you click on the thumbnails)

It shouldn’t really come as a surprise, but Hans Bacher has turned his hand to producing a few typefaces in his time.

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“Tuscany” Typeface.

When I saw these faces, I had a sort of “Aha!” moment, which was rapidly supplanted by an “Of course; Why not?” moment.

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“West Of China” Typeface.

Link to Identifont.

BTW, Hans, If you read this, let me know what you are up to. I miss your blogging!

Nautilus House, Naucalpan, Mexico

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(Click to enlarge the small pictures, please.)

“The metaphor was to feel like an internal inhabitant of a snail, like a mollusk moving from one chamber to another, like a symbiotic dweller of a huge fossil maternal cloister.

This home social life flows inside the Nautilus without any division, a harmonic area in three dimensions where you can notice the continuous dynamic of the fourth dimension when moving in spiral over the stairs with a feeling of floating over the vegetation.”

– Javier Senosiain, Architect.

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Here’s one of the architects’ schematic drawings showing the interior arrangement. The model work required “numberless corrections” before the correct volume was arrived at within the fluid shape.
No, I have no idea about how you even start to go about measuring such spaces, either.

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And yes, the couple who commissioned the project have children.

I must confess that there’s an old hippy hi-fi freak still living inside me that immediately starts to think of the mind bending acoustic properties that arise within folded horn enclosures such as this house. You only need to put five watts into the small end of an enclosure like this to get some 4 or 5 hundred watts of sound emerge from the wide end. And the bass would be unbelievable!
(Look at the article titled “Transmission Line” on this page.)
Bower & Wilkins have been onto this idea for a while:
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Nautilus speakers

Meanwhile, back to the houses…
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Group of 4 houses, Satellite City, Mexico City 1995

Javier Senosiain, the architect responsible for this wondrous project, has strong leanings towards the use of organic shapes in architecture – (he calls it bio-architecture in his book), but can turn his hand to more “normal” buildings when the site or the client demands it.

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Prismatic Pair, 1982

Here’s the link to his book that focuses on bio-architecture, and here’s the link to the architect’s website. (‘Orrible Flash interface)

Jeff Healey R.I.P.

The retinoblastoma that robbed him of his eyesight when he was a very small child, extinguished his brilliant life today.

Here’s an amazing clip of him playing Look At Little Sister, with the man who composed it, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. Sorry about the quality of the sound, it was taped from a one off performance on a Canadian TV show (It´s Only Rock & Roll) with the sound up way too loud, and it seems to be the only clip of these two giants playing together available online.

Neither Healey nor his parents knew how to hold a guitar when he first started to learn at the age of three.

Database Server Falls Over – Not Many Hurt

Apologies for the absence of Articles & Texticles yesterday, my web hosting company ( were doing something unspeakable to the MySQL database servers and it took this site down for a few hours.

I’m always a bit suspicious when I see the visitor stats crash down to almost nothing…

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(Click to enlarge)

Fortunately there is a real time information feed to the server data centre, that shows exactly what’s going on at the web hosting company.
Click the image below…

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