Benoît, alias Minetti, alias BEN, supported me in various watercolour projects, in particular on the Ricochet project .
Not only did he provide me with his guitar recordings (with an S because he has many guitars, including string instruments of his own making with a bass-like tone), but he also shared the stages of design and production of watercolours during our regular lunches.
To close the Ricochet project, I offered to paint his portrait under 2 conditions:
that he accompany me in the Medina for half a day, so that we soak up the place;
that he provide me with an original song, that I can loop while I paint.
One morning in the Medina
To integrate a foot figure, so vertically, I chose a radical composition:
A single vanishing point, located on the right at the top of the painting. Easy to locate, follow the neck of the guitar;
A light source placed in symmetry, so that the shadows lengthen in the direction of the vanishing point.
This results in a construction in two triangles. The delimitation is a 45 degree oblique, in line with the portrait American .
The triangles are of opposite values: one white, the other black. They have contrasting areas:
the woman's head and silhouette for the dark part;
Benoît’s shadow for the light part.
Maze of the Medina
The subject is recomposed from the different photos I took during our morning immersion. I prepared my drawing on the digital tablet. This is part of my creation process, I can position the subjects, move them, take over areas.
I asked Loriane, who has an expert eye, for advice on whether Benoît should be more or less in the foreground. We put it in the 1st vertical third.
I am preparing what I call the jumble of the Medina: we do not really know where it is going, there is an unexpected in a profusion of forms. I would like to keep all of these features in the final drawing.
On this detail of the face, I work on the resemblance: which parts to highlight, which to conceal. With a few hatches, and by insisting on a few lines, the face appears.
Define the beard that will appear white, mark the ear, the eye in profile, the shadow of the neck.
How will I deal with the patterns of the shirt?
It's time to move on to my brushes. To stay in the Ricochet style, I choose 3 main colors: ultramarine blue, yellow without cadmium and permanent rose. I really like the ultramarine blue, which turns purple very gently, and which the permanence of rose can revive electrically.
I really like the ultramarine blue, which turns purple very gently, and which the permanence of pink can revive electrically.
Face and hands
Bright red to mark shadows
Full color face
I had developed the theory of polychrome faces in the latest Ricochet paintings: replacing black with a clear color. I choose red, but frankly any color can work. The main thing is to match the other parts of the face with the main color. On my board, I want the warmth of the Medina, and a chord with the electric guitar. The hair helps bring green, purple, brown. The reflections on the glasses are a good pretext for a touch of blue.
The shirt is yellow and purple, I want to balance the areas of red. I compared different colors on my digital proof, taking the advice of my expert consultant (Loriane). Yellow and purple are validated as Rock’n Roll Gipsy. The circles are reserved for the liquid to be masked, then filled with the tip of the brush.
Day after day, I treat part of the character.
After the face and the hands, I go to the guitar. It is painted with application, in very neutral wash to bring out the red and the white boundaries. Work of great precision, to trace the strings by omission (negative painting of the fretboard, details of the buttons, microphones and amps). I continue with the gray jacket. First the sleeves and the collar, in very light tones to mark the darker folds. Then the jacket section with more intense colors, always applied wet on wet.
Character on white background
Jeans and sneakers
I can go to jeans, which I want very graphic. The zones are treated in geometrical sets, sorts of triangles and rectangles with very contrasting intensities. This will restore the harsh light of this Casablanca morning.
Sneakers are a real challenge: the one on the right in the light, the one on the left half in the shade. The feet are important in this painting because they are the source of the character's shadow. I finish the strap of the guitar by writing Robatong , the name of the African group of Benoît. I carefully texture the strap in dark gray.
After a week of painting, I finished the character. Do I risk ruining everything by painting the rest?
From watercolour to drawing
Black is black
As explained at the beginning of the article, I have a precise idea of the final painting. And then if I miss, I can always start again.
I start with a blue background to mark the dark area of the painting. The profile is enhanced with a deep black, which blends with ultramarine blue on the right. Diffuse shapes suggest clutter.
On the left of the head, the black loses its intensity to make way for a texture between ultramarine blue and Vandyke brown. They make the transition with the gray areas that I will paint later on the left of the picture.
Blue and black variations
On the left of the painting, I give free rein to the colored grays. Going from blue to pink, from orange to blue, the colors mix and texture.
With mischief, I slip subliminal ideas through a few advertising words: Class, Câlin.
With reference to the hen seller, I improvise a cartoon chicken coop.
When the gaze moves to the right, the colors give way to the lines. I thought for a while going completely to the lines of felt on paper, and finally, I kept gray watercolour washes.
I appreciate the mixture of forms that get lost in the perspective of a covered alley, which contrasts with the sun spots in the foreground. Here and there glimpsed faces, hanging objects, and the intricate architecture of wooden door tops.
Watercolours of Casablanca
The painting is finished
It is a large format of 50x42 cm. I had stapled the wet sheet on a board to stretch it, it was very useful so that the washes do not curl my sheet and do not ruin the gradients.
This watercolour totals 50 hours of work, including 35 of painting. It was carried out in 9 days including 2 weekends. As I work during the week, the painting sessions were from 5 to 7 AM, then from 10 to 11 PM. A nocturnal adventure, in the deep silence of the rising day.
This Tuesday morning, I made an appointment with Benoît to give him the painting in our offices.