Release of 'Five Wounds', the Chinese Edition.

I am very pleased to announce the release of the Chinese edition of 'Five Wounds' by Azoth Books, Taiwan. (English first edition, by Allen & Unwin, is top left).

As well as maintaing the innovative design of the book's original layout, the Azoth edition also features a great new cover with a leather-like texture. The Chinese edition can be viewed and bought here.


Five Wounds. Cur, the Archetypal Werewolf

The character Cur. 'The rabit leader of a sect of dogs'; intentionally infected with a mutant strain of rabies and raised by a pack of dogs in an abandoned part of the city. 

 As Jon puts it, Cur is "animated by the same conflicts that drive the character type of the werewolf (human vs. animal, reason vs. instinct, free will vs. involuntary response". Through fencing Cur learns a disciplined and rational form of self control, opposed to his instinctual rabid urges.

In my post 'Five Wounds: Geometry' I discussed the design and annotations in the above illustration. 

The first version of the above illustration. This was originally intended to be included in the book as one of the 'plates'.

In our original illustration, as well as the annotated fencer, the image depicts a dog-like human face alongside a dog's face. We looked at the illustrations of Charles Le Brun, which compare human features to those of animals.
Le Brun's "Relation of the human face to the goat". 

Le Brun created these studies at a time when it was widly believed that a person's physical features could reflect their character. All the senses can deceive the brain, including sight. 'Tricking the eyes' is necessary for any illustration. 

Above are studies by Albrecht Dürer, who illustrated various annotated diagrams of the proportions of the human body. 

One of my sketches of the stuffed wolf in the Barcelona Zoology museum, to be used as reference in the Five Wounds Illustrations.  

'Cur's First Murder' 
Jon has an earlier version of the above illustration on his Flickr with some of his comments and corrections.
In the final fencing illustration, we did not include the dog-human faces, but instead, we used collage. But, the illustration is collage made of my own drawn material intended to look like collage.
Jon sent me Max Ernst's graphic novel 'Une Semaine de Bonté' as inspiration. Above is one of Max Ernst's collages from 'Une Semaine de Bonté' made up of cuttings from various magazines and books.

An ink-blot which appears in the book. Ink-blots have always been linked to the idea of interpretation and today are related also to psychological analysis.
It took me quite a few attempts before I got an ink-blot which looked like a dog. 

The Clay head I made of Cur for drawing reference.

Cur waiting to be shaved.

For further reading on the character of Cur:


I Feel Tower


Aleksandr Rodchenko. Guard at the Shukhov Radio Tower, Moscow. 1929. This photo was one of the  inspirations behind my head-stand drawing, on the right.

turtle shells
 Sketches from the Zoology Museum, Barcelona.


Five Wounds influences: Escher & Geometry


"I have seen Escher quoted a few times as an influence; this would be in relation to the 'Gabriella's Palace'.I created this illustration as a kind of automatic drawing, picking out furnishings and architectural features from my photos and constantly turning the image whilst working on it; so although I was referencing Escher's work, the illustration that I created has none of the mathematical logic and structure typical of his. The image is intended to reflect Gabriella's desire to remain lost in an incoherent web of rooms."


The title for 'Gabriella's Palace' is in fact 'Many Mansions'. The first rough is above, the concept was to create the idea of disconnected rooms. We also considered a cross section of a building similar to Chris Ware's cut away images of houses.

'Waterfall', by Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher. When I was at school I was set drawing this for homework for maths class, as I was good at drawing. It was beyond my capabilities at 13 years old and It would still be a pain in the neck to draw now.

Escher was interested in incorporating principles of mathematics and physics into his work. In the same way that a drawing, through light, shade and colour, creates a visual illusion of reality; Escher used concepts such as infinity, multiplication and the mathematical laws that govern reality and included them in his work. During a trip to Granada, Spain, he was particularly inspired by the geometric division in islamic art.

Above: photo taken in the Alhambra, Granada. The complex and repetitive patterns in Islamic art express the infinite and continuous creation and recreation of life. Or, as Laleh Bakhtiar puts it: "...(geometric patterns) symbolize the cosmic process characterized by extension in all directions, by boundlessness and by infinite divisibility". The art form also reflects the deep interest in numbers and mathematics.

Today we are familiar with the fractal like patterns and symmetry of snowflakes, molecular structures, cells and crystals, including the recently discovered quasicrystals that resemble some of the tiling in the Alhambra. An example of this type of tiling is shown below. I once attempted to create a repeating textile pattern based on this tiling, but found that it is not very symmetrical. This tiling appears in Kepler's note books, many golden sections can be found in the design; which attribute to it's asymmetry.

A Meeting of Minds.


The number 'Five' is a recurring theme in the book; five senses, five protagonists, etc. In geometry the number 5 is represented as a pentagram, in which the golden ratio plays an important part. I incorporated pentagonal designs into the arabesques that appear on the cover.

Although I did not create any geometric patterns for 'Five Wounds' or attempt to represent infinity, I did divide the compositions at the rough stage using laws of golden ratio geometry. This seemingly excessive method of working integrates into the conceptual world of 'Five Wounds', as an anti-historical novel and the narrative's obsession with codes and interpretation. 

geometric composition


Nicoletto Giganti's fencing manual. An example of the images Jon sent as reference for the above illustration.

An annotated fencing diagram from Joachim Meyer's - Gründtliche Beschreibung des Fechtens 1570. I found this image on BibliOdyssey. The concept of the 'Five Wounds' illustration, however, was to emphasise the pure, rational drawing; a reference to the separation of 'disegno & colore': "rational form to sensual content", as Jon describes it in his blog post 'Colour in Five Wounds', an important concept in art theory. 

Illustration from Dürer’s ‘Four Books on Measurement’. The Roman engineer and architect Vitruvius wrote a book in which he put forward the argument that a building should imitate nature. He based his architectural measurements and proportions on (idealized) proportions of the human body. Artists like Dürer and Da Vinchi created annotated diagrams of the human body inspired by his writings.

Some of my own 'studies' depicting movement and postures using 'Vitruvian' proportions.

Above is an illustration from Cesare Cesariano's book, which includes an Italian translation of Vitruvius' treatise on architecture. Below that is a page from 'Pistols! Treason! Murder!', in which one of Vano's victims is 'framed' in a similar pose.

A mandala I drew with felt tips and geometry.


FIVE WOUNDS: Alchemical Illustrations

This illustration accompanies a passage in 'Five Wounds' in which Magpie (Thief and spy) is preparing to take a daguerreotype of two corpses in the laboratory of Crow, the alchemist. Whilst considering how his subjects would wish to be photographed, Magpie contemplates the nature and essence of life and death.

Coal/Diamonds, Black/White, Presence/Absence, Life/Death. This illustration was inspired by images of alchemy. Both Coal and diamonds are primarily carbon, the same material in two different 'states', so appear to be equally balanced, of equal value. The scales suggest the idea of judgment; a concept very much linked to life and death at a time when alchemy was used by scholars to understand nature. The same material in two different states is also a reference to transmutation and transcendence associated with alchemy.

The laboratory of Crow, the Alchemist:

This illustration is explained in my post 'Jean in the Jar'. Alchemical Illustrations.

This illustration was created by Thomas Vaugham in the 1600's. Which possibly advises against possessiveness in order to live a dynamic life. I can't say for sure however. This drawing may even use the possibilities of steam power & the wheel to symbolise mobility. It may just depict a 'cycle' of life and death; in which the same material passes repeatedly through various stages.

"The King swimming in the Sea cryes out with a Loud Voice: He that delivers me shall have a great reward." From Michael Maier's 'Atalanta Fugiens'- 1618. Maier also composed a 'soundtrack' to go with the book. Alchemical illustrations such as these, together with a passage of text (and music in Maier's case), invited the reader to make interpretations and associations. The way of reading emblem books like Atalanta Fugiens is relevant to what Jon and I attempted with Five Wounds; as Jon says about our collaboration: "...the combination of words and images itself forms part of the argument, and that the latter can and should invite or require decipherment. They can therefore sustain alternate readings. Moreover, their relationship to the text does not need to be either fixed or obvious".

At a time before sophisticated scientific tools, alchemists attempted to depict, via metaphors, universal rules that could be applied to our understanding of nature. The illustrations were an early version of what we would refer to as a scientific 'models' today.The raw material that made up DNA was known, but before James D. Watson and Francis Crick created a model of how the chemistry was organised, DNA was poorly understood.

Alchemy unified various fields of science; chemical experimentation would also include variables such as astrology, mythology, spirituality and ritual. To the alchemist, what was practiced in the laboratory would correspond to movements of the cosmos and even other dimensions.


A scene from 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' depicting non-scientific reasoning.

Another illustration from Atalanta Fugiens; a lion with wings being attacked by a, possibly jealous, wingless lion: *See the comments at the end of this article for further interpretations of this image. Many meanings of the motifs and 'models' are today lost or defunct as science moves on and theories are improved. In modern science this is also the case; I write this at a time when neutrinos have been recorded traveling faster than the speed of light, casting doubt on our current 'models' on  which physics are based.


I attended a seminar last year in which the speaker (an academic who's special interest was in comics and films) attempted to explain how Fellini's 'Eight and a Half' related scene by scene to Atalanta Fugiens. I was not completely convinced, but it was a very interesting talk.

This illustration was partly inspired by the above scene in Fellini's movie.


An alchemical illustration that did not make the final edit of Five Wounds.