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Portrait in broad strokes

From drawing to watercolor

Associating watercolor and digital is like using fire and ice.
Watercolor is an instinctive, instantaneous medium that forbids remorse. It is not or almost not possible to correct an error.
Each gesture is indelible.

Digital is just the opposite. Any gesture can be done, undone, redone. By superimposing the layers, you can adjust a drawing by specifying the contours (this is a technique used by the authors of Manga). In addition, digital makes it possible to reframe a composition, by zooming in on one part, widening on another.
By combining these techniques, I prepare my drawing on the computer and then execute it on watercolour. Once the contours of the shapes are in place, the hatching simply makes it possible to check the values of the drawing, i.e. to balance the white and the black.

Hatching techniques

On the right, a representation of lemons to mark volumes with a simple stroke technique. If you look closely, the hatchings are represented in 2 directions, and that is enough to mark the volumes, to bring the contrasts.

On the left, variously shaped objects with the effect of light and shadow indicated with hatching.
In this drawing, the hatching is drawn in 3 directions: there are two obliques and a third horizontal direction.
The deeper you want to go, the more lines you draw. Of course, you can also tighten them.

Is there a rule on the orientation of the lines? Actually no, you can even shade a drawing with hatching in one direction only.

The sketch opposite shows different pencil shading techniques.
Hatching or cross-hatching, the one I use.

But you can also follow the contours of the drawings, or represent points, superimpose lines, draw patterns, scribble...
The techniques are free, and on the digital, you can change the hatching on a layer, adjust it.
On the right, a hatching lesson

Crosshatching in Pen with France Van Stone"

Let's go digital

Automatic techniques (which I do not use).

First method, you can select an area on a drawing and apply the Cross hatch effect. This is useful if you want to interpret an existing image or photo. But we want to create ours from scratch.

An alternative is to use a pattern to also apply to a selection area. The advantage of this method is that it provides very clean patterns, which can be changed on successive layers. There is a wide variety of patterns, regular or irregular.

Digital strokes

To use the graphic tablet, we must use a suitable pen (brush).

You must use a tip with hard edges, with an oval shape and a marked dynamic. This is set in the "brush settings", as in the window opposite. Pen strokes are always hard-edged, unlike the soft edges of brushes and other visual arts marking tools. To give your brush a hard edge so you can use it for pen shading, drag the "Hardness" slider from the brush presets drop-down control above the canvas on the far right.

Size your brush tip to match the size of a pen by dragging the "Size" slider left or right to make it smaller or larger. In general, the size should be no more than a few pixels wide, unless you want to simulate a pen with an unusually wide stroke, such as chisel or brush tip pens.

I also recommend pushing the firmness parameter in the Wacom settings to the right, to be able to choose between light strokes, or wider and more marked ones, depending on the pressure of the pen.

mecanat-s.jpg The gift, b&w preparation, Emms 2020

Black and white works

The stylus is used to set up the drawing. I will show this on several compositions.
I start with an excerpt from Mecanat, The gift. To accompany Gabrielle's text, I represented a spider slipping into a florist's stall.

Profusion of flowers and details, how to balance all this? The points of interest are the spider, the cactus, the Mecanat text.
With the shelves and crates, I brought a perspective, chose the flowers I wanted to represent.
Then with a hatching system I positioned the dark parts and the lighter ones, the intermediate tones.

mecanat2-s.jpg Details of the Gift, Mecanat

My hatching system is quite rudimentary: diagonals, doubled on the darkest parts.

You can calibrate some grays with a reference of stripes, which are reported here and there as dark value references.

analyse2-s.jpg Points of interest, Mecanat, Emms 2020

With these marks, the watercolor is much easier to achieve, because I have positioned the light areas and the darker ones. In several passes, I gradually shade this jumble of detail.

Small apartment: To organize the clutter of the florist's stall, I used a few tricks:

  • As shown in the diagram, the colored dots form an arc of a circle whose center is the cactus;
  • I played on perspectives to bring the eye to the gift flower.
9-s.jpg The gift, Mecanat, Emms 2020

ricochet-s.jpg Preparatory sketch of the vegetable merchant, 2019

Continuation of the preparatory sketches

Second illustration, taken from Ricochet.
The difficulty in this drawing is the tangle of vegetables, which must be given meaning.
The foreground is a pile of onions and sacks of salt. Not complicated either. The character stands out well from the background, the much darker shop.

But spinach leaves and leeks are a misshapen heap. The preparatory drawing allows me to calibrate how to restore this, without going into photographic detail, which is not the style I have chosen.

2-s.jpg Merchant's Vegetables, Ricochet

Here is the finished watercolor in green and red tones. Of course, the color comes to explain further.
The character's head is the only part of the painting that is multicolored.

2a-s.jpg Merchant's Vegetables, Ricochet

The shapes of salt packets and onions are easily readable.

The vegetables take up the lines I worked on on my graphics tablet, and are treated as a whole.

When you go down to a fine level of detail, shapes become abstract.

ric7-s.jpg The Vegetable Merchant, Ricochet, Emms 2019

ric3-s.jpg The cigarette blind, Ricochet

Hatching and watercolor

So far, I've covered how to use hatching on a graphics tablet to prepare a watercolor. Set the contrasts, adjust the intermediate tones, mark the shapes. But when watercolors arrive, all lines are replaced by paint. They are only used for identification.

I started this with Ricochet. As is often the case with a series of paintings, the idea comes as it goes and from drawing to drawing, the lines have gained importance.
On the third painting, the blind man with cigarettes, the felt-tip pen drawing comes converse with watercolour.
By conversation I mean that in places, there is only the line, and in others only watercolor. Each one its turn !

1-s.jpg On this left shoe, lines and watercolors overlap, in a kind of unison

Let's end up in the stars

We come to the end of the article on hatching. I hope it makes you want to sketch, on paper or on a tablet.
I end with one of my latest paintings, the Star Fisher. It is a composition in comic book format, and I will take the penultimate image as an illustration, the one where the fisherman touches the stars with the end of his line.
Opposite, the preparation of the entire drawing, made with a digital pen. I spent some time on drawing the character and the seagull.

pecheur2-s.jpg Preparing the drawing with hatching

But we can clearly see the work on the hatching, to identify the dark and light parts and the intermediate zones on the character.
I mainly use the technique of "simple hatching", lines in one direction more or less dense. On the arms, the chest, all the lines are in one direction. And for the darker parts, I cross with other features, and bring out the character.

pecheur1-s.jpg Draft of Head in the Stars

pecheur3-s.jpg Head in the stars, Emms 2022

On the watercolor, I put all the chromatic intensity on the sky, an ultramarine blue. The figure and the seagull are painted more lightly in grays oscillating between Antwerp blue, permanent pink and Van Dyck brown.

I can afford it, because the felt liner will contrast these pastel tones. Indeed, on the final drawing, I marry lines and watercolor, both to give graphic strength, and to differentiate the mortal characters from the eternal sky.

The combination of strokes and watercolor is organized throughout the page.

  • On the left, lines and watercolour
  • Right, watercolor only.
pecheur-s.jpg The Star Fisher, full page