I was pleased to be asked to join another of Tony McNeight‘s sketching classes on the weekend; the topic – cross-hatching, and the medium, ink. It was some time since I’d used the technique but I was keen to give it another go. True, my tools were ancient, but in good form, since I’d recently cleaned my pens out and replaced the ink cartridges.
My Art pen is nice to hold and the ink flows fluidly from it’s nib but I was the only person using one. Most use a smaller pen with a flat circle-shaped tip, so the hand is held more upright. With mine, the handle is long and rests on the thumb. However … onto the first exercises. The term contour cross-hatching was familiar to me, as I have used it often with pencil sketches. But using ink is a different matter. I was like a rusty chain to begin with. We sketched circles, trying to make the cross-hatch appear three-dimensional, by adding more line to create depth of tone and lessening the line near the light source.
Cross-hatching has been around from the Late Gothic/early Renaissance era, when it emerged as a fine line drawing technique. Albrecht Durer is a name synonymous with this technique. He first practised silverpoint: the dragging of a silver rod across a primed surface, a technique learned by his father. His early self-portrait clearly demonstrates the use of contour cross-hatching. Quite an amazing work for a thirteen-year-old.
Cross-hatching was well-used during Durer’s lifetime and continues to be used today, in print-making, etching, engraving and woodcuts. Drawing on the surface of paper is quite different as the pen does not penetrate the surface. With my particular pen, my hand fairly flew across the paper; nice if I was wanting to capture a scene outdoors, but hard to rein in and produce a tighter control. In this instance I wasn’t trying for anything in particular, prepared to just experience ‘whatever’.
‘Whatever’ came in the form of a taxidermied paradise shelduck. Yes indeed, but it was an interesting object to draw. The duck was still robust looking (from the side I chose to view) albeit its once white feathers being more of a grubby grey. It was quite a task, but all the group produced very interesting drawings, and definitely did well with the cross-hatching task. I got a bit carried away, but enjoyed the model regardless. I was not that keen to add watercolour, knowing I’m no expert in that medium and have a habit of making a real mess. But I was a good student that day and gave it a go. Love it? Mm; still, I did it.