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Pictures within pictures flatties and hollowfolk
& Comic Book Pictures 23, The Consultant and 24, Genie Therapy
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In everyday vision we are rarely confused about where the real world ends and pictures of it begin, but in the graphic world we can easily be confused. It can be hard to tell a picture in a picture. A famous example of that is on the ceiling of the Jesuit Church in Vienna, painted nearly four hundred years ago by Andrea Pozzo. Look up at it from the centre of the church and its trompe l'oeil effect, as if we are looking up into a dome, is so cleverly constructed that it is hard to be sure where the real architecture of the church ends and the architecture at the edges of Pozzo's painting begins. You can see that on my other site at

In the scene to the left it's not difficult to spot the pictures: they are on pages of a book seen at an angle, and are therefore seen with distortion. At this point in comic book picture 23, The Consultant, things are not quite as obvious. The consultant can seem at first glance to be sitting behind his desk, but he's actually just a flat cat, pasted onto a cut-out board and screwed upright to the back of the stool he seems to be sitting on.

To experiment with drawing pictures in pictures, you can emphasise the surfaces that are images rather than reality by adding characteristics of surfaces, such as distortion, texture changes and shading gradations.

As in comic book picture 24, Genie Therapy, something a bit more complicated has happened to our demonstrator, to the left. He's a picture in a picture, but the image of him is not on a flat surface, but instead on a surface that has just the same three-dimensional shape as he would have in the real world. He is therefore hollow, but we only know that because I've cut rings out him.

Both Mauritz Escher and Rene Magritte developed the idea. Heads in their pictures appeared not as if on rings sawn from a hollow sculpture, as to the left, but as if onto continuous spiral ribbons. See Escher's prints Rind and Bond of Union on:, click on "gallery" and then on Recognition and Success.

The genies are also reduced to ribbons of this kind by the consultant's experiment in comic book picture 24, whilst the flat-cat consultant himself de-laminates from his mounting board and becomes mere lines vanishing into the teapot.

To draw your own ribbon heads, start with the whole heads, and then try out different overlays of ribbon, to work out which will leave the heads still looking most recognisable.