Peugeot 403 digital watercolour

A tribute to France Belleville-VanStone and her exceptional blog Wagonized.

Sketch from photo by voz on flickr. Digital watercolour in mypaint. Paper texture effect in Gimp (based on Zoe Piel’s tutorial)


Creative commons and collaborative art

I had found the gorgeous lineart by Princess Elemmiriel on DeviantArt.com who kindly invites people to do their color version.

I then tried my luck with digital watercolour in mypaint (open-source painting software). I then added textures added in Gimp (open-source photomanipulation software). The background paper texture is by Dierat and the decoration texture by Mouritsa.

Watercolour re-coloring of freely contributed lineart on DeviantArt

This is a great example of what can be achieved by combining free contribution from various creative-commons sources. This ca only be done with free and open-source licences such as creative commons. I would never have done it if I had to pay for any of these resources, even a single penny: just having to signup for an account would scare me into doing some other project that does not require all that hassle. QED – copyright kills creation – period. Now if I had done the project as a paid commission, I’d be glad to contribute in return, but ex-post, once the work is completed and the customer is happy.

Therefore I want to thank warmly all those who contribute their work freely.

CC – attribution – noncommercial – noderivatives (as per PrincesseLemmiriel’s specs). “please do not redistribute without crediting”.

How to sketch a convincing portrait

Getting portraits right is a skill outside the reach of the beginner. Or is it ?

One of the crucial factors in drawing a portrait that resembles the model is to get the exact proportions. It takes considerable talent to get these proportions right when sketching from real life (as one has to rescale and project from 3d onto 2d), and even from a photo this is a particularly frustrating endeavour.

But why do we always want to draw with the photo sitting next to our drawing and not draw directly on the photo? I guess that’s just historical technological constraints turned into ill-placed dogma. After all, if classical painters used grids and other contraptions to get their proportions right, why should we stop short of what the digital era allows us?

Placing the original photo in a separate layer below the sketch layer is exactly the same as drawing on a light box (if you do not have a graphics tablet, a light box is certainly cheaper – or you can tape the photo and your drawing to a window). Now this will not teach you where to put your pencil strokes, but at least the mouth will be in the right place, with the proper angle etc. The higher the resolution of the original picture, the best it is, even for a rough sketch, as there are always fine subtleties than you want to zoom into in order to get the pencil stroke just about right.

Once the sketch is complete, you can either carry on in the digital world, or print out your sketch as many times as you need to practice painting on it.

The portrait below was painted with this technique. I still have a long way to go to avoid the temptation of photorealism when painting from a photo, but I can tell you the model approved the final result.

Sketched from photo in mypaint

Sunny street in Nice

Sunny street in Nice (digital watercolor with MyPaint)

A few things that are much simpler with digital watercolors:

  • colors within the same layer never dry (no need to rush)
  • colors in separate layers are always dry (no need to wait)
  • you can always erase
  • you can often undo
  • you can trash a layer and start over (keeping the sketch and all other layers)
  • no need to scan for online publishing