Harry Houdini, 1874-1926


Harry Houdini was a Hungarian-born American magician and escapologist. Milk Can Escape, Chinese Water Torture Cell, Suspended Straitjacket Escape or Buried Alive Stunt were some of his famous performances: he captivated audiences worldwide, and his legendary escapes instill awe to this day.

These days an exhibition about his figure is taking place at the Jewish Museum of New York city, and before my next visit I wanted to learn more about Houdini and make my tribute illustration.

From all his performances, Chinese Water Torture Cell was his most successful one, so I thought I could get a good effect fitting the cell in the canvas and making it fill the whole illustration, like there is no extra space, no air to breath. This is the sketch:

The most relevant visual details are his “retro” bathing suit and his hair, they are going to tell us who he is although we can´t see his face.

Apart from that, the most important parts of the illustration are the handcuffs, chains and cage: they are what the illustration talks about and we need them to look heavy and unbreakable.  These are the references I used:


But, again, hands are the key in lots of illustrations, specially in this case of an escapologist, so I worked on them separately based on the following picture:
And I did the same for his feet, to show the anxiety of the situation pushing out the cell with his toes. I used my own feet as a reference (I am my best model!):
We need to show tension: we can not see his face, so we will show all his strenght and anxiety through his hands and feet. This is the illustration of the feet separately:

Finally putting altogether we get the center of the composition in his hands and we go from there to his head and feet. Line illustration, before adding color and textures:
Colors and textures will give it the appearance of a heavy iron and glass cage full of cold water and personality to the whole composition.
More to come! Thanks for reading!!

One thought on “Harry Houdini, 1874-1926

  1. […] The high quality print of my illustration Houdini is available for a limited time at Printastic.org. Master of escapology at his finest: the Chinese Water Torture Cell!! Read all the creative process at my blog josefragoso.wordpress.com […]

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