Challenge: creating tone with cross-hatching

9 examples of me practicing crosshatching

I really like using pen and ink to create pictures. Cross hatching is a very useful tool to help build up those images. Using hatching and cross hatching you can build different tone values and you can use those tones to build a picture.

So I decided to set myself the challenge of doing 9 drawings using 4 or less tones.

Pen and ink, working with tone

Pen and ink, working with tone

I set my tones in the grid at the top of the page. I use 1, 2, 3 and 4 lines to create various shades from light to dark.

Too many tone values!

My first mistake?

There’s actually 5 tones all together because white space is also an available tone.

Part of the exercise was trying to limit my options but I decided to run with it anyway as I had already started before I realised.

The challenge

The challenge is then to do 9 images using only those tones. ( I chose 9 because I could get 9  7cm square boxes in a 3 x 3 grid in my sketchbook, which appealed to my sense of symmetry).

At first I thought I would use the tones with the lines in exactly the same orientation as in the grid, but after doing a couple this seemed like an unnecessary constraint. For example, the long strip of pavement in the image below, if it had been more horizontal, using only horizontal lines to shade, it would have resulted in it containing just one line which would have looked weird.  Actually as it is now it would have probably worked better with horizontal lines as it would have given a sense of the plane of the ground. As it is now it gives me a sense of wetness, oddly, it looks a bit like its reflecting the horizontal lines of the building.

Pen and ink experiments with tone

Pen and ink experiments with tone

Cross hatching by numbers

A method I have been trying is “crosshatching-by-numbers”. I initially draw the image lightly with pencil and then number the areas with the tone I want in that area.

Cross-hatching by numbers

Cross-hatching by numbers

Then fill in the area with the appropriate cross hatching.

Cross-hatching by numbers

Cross-hatching by numbers

Voyage of discovery!

This is quite an enjoyable discipline. There are the constraints of only 5 tones and the small size of the image. Within those constraints I think there is a lot to discover.

For example while I was doing the sea above I realised that the white spaces in the cross hatching looked like the foam on the sea. I thought that (though I didn’t do it here) if I varied the density of the cross hatching I could capture more the texture of the sea.

I think the foaminess of the sea is captured where the sea meets the boat, the black part of the boat has a “hard-edge” except where it meets the sea which is “soft”.

Faces are harder!

Trying pen and ink portraits with 5 tones

Trying pen and ink portraits with 5 tones

All the faces are slightly freakish in their own way.  I think the first, top left, is probably the best because it’s the simplest in a way. The simplest use of tones, the others look messy in comparison.

And they all have chapped lips!

The top left looks like she’s (yes it’s a she) got a halo on the left hand side.

It got messiest trying to do hair. There’s a conflict: am I trying to do tone or texture? You can especially see this in the bottom left image.

9 examples of me practicing crosshatching

9 examples of me practicing crosshatching

Conclusion

Lots of things wrong (especially with the portraits). Lots of opportunity to improve.

I liked this exercise as nothing takes too long, you can practice a lot of different things in a short period of time.

I will do it again.

Posted on: January 13, 2018