New Charcoal Drawing

This is the 3rd charcoal drawing I've attempted using the proportional divider, the first copy of a Sargent portrait. My source is also in the picture.

I am struggling with making corrections because each correction seems to create the need for another one. When to stop, consider it done, and move on to the next one?

Thanks for everyone suggestions before; can see some improvement. I plan to do a few more Sargent reproductions from the same book and then see where I am.

Thanks again.
[Deleted User]Ronna


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  • I try to prioritize the importance of the correction. The eyes, nose and mouth has to be in the correct position. As to know when to stop? Well, that's up to you. I personally can't seem to stop until I'm satisfied with it. There's this pull and tug until I find something in the middle.
  • edited December 2014
    I think that this is a really good effort. I would stop and move on. The reason is that the big lessons to be learned in drawing occur at the beginning of the drawing, not the at the fine tuning stage. Those lessons are:

    1: Always work big to small, i.e., make 100% sure that your big masses are correct in size and placement before working on any details. If you start working on the fine details of a mass that is in the wrong place or out of proportion, you won't want to erase it even though it will never be right. So you make a bunch of other adjustments to compensate and your drawing ends up looking wonky. If you are sure that your big shapes are correct in size and proportion, then your drawing will look right even if you don't get the fine details 100% correct.

    2: Focus on abstract shapes and forget that you are drawing an nose, eye, etc. Turn the drawing and reference upside down if you need to. Again, getting those abstract shapes correct means that the drawing will look right, but attempting to make something "look like an eye" causes all sorts of errors.

    3. Avoid the temptation to exaggerate. A lot of time when you draw you will see that what at first looked like a straight line is actually curved or is slightly angled. When copying, the temptation is to exaggerate your discovery, making the line even more curved or angled than it really is. Get those angles and curves right, but don't overdo it. Same with values or color differences in painting: if the difference is subtle, keep it subtle.
  • Thanks to everyone for the constructive criticism. I agree with the consensus, I think I will move on.

    The corrections I would make now go all the way back to the original layout. It looks like as I tried to add detail I unintentionally moved some the features losing some of the integrity of the shapes and proportions. It's all learning, so thanks for the input.

    There are some more Sargent portraits I would like to try building on the input I received here (e.g., prioritizing, big to small, and avoiding exaggerating) would have helped on this drawing, and then I'll move on to Mark's portrait DVD.

    Thanks again.
  • Hi @Irishcajun. I like what you're doing, copying drawings. It is inspiring. May I suggest one detail? The subject's left eye, the eye on the right of the paper, in your study is missing the dark corner where the eye meets the skin (on the nose side of the eye ball). I think if you added this detail your drawing would match the original more closely and remove the "scary" effect of the eyes.
  • @Jimmy‌, thanks for your encouragement and suggestion. As I continued to ask Mark's question "What's the difference?" I kept coming up with so many adjustments that I had the feeling I was overworking the drawing, and in some cases creating new errors.

    Interestingly, I never did notice the missing dark corner you spotted. I agree it would make a difference, and doesn't really cause anything else to need to be adjusted. I appreciate the input.

    Thanks again.
  • @Irishcajun, You're welcome. I'm happy you considered my suggestion. I think your drawing is very accurate and pleasant to look at anyway.
  • @Kingston Thanks for the suggestions, I will give it try.

    I was using the Sargent portraits to practice using the techniques in Mark's portrait DVD, trying to learn his method of mapping out key points on the picture and then drawing the connecting lines. I was standing at an easel, but not drawing with my whole arm, or in a relaxed manner, and I was trying to be very careful... The differences seem to find their way in as I added more features, and values.

    Connecting the key points with broader, more relaxed strokes would definitely change the look, I will try it in the future.

    Thanks again.

  • @Irishcajun‌ I struggled with keeping likeness at the beginning. (I still struggle, but I no longer fear losing the lines like I used to.) Getting likeness comes with hours at the easel. The more portraits I do, the more confident I become so I am no longer scared to take a risk. Or to wipe something out completely and start over. The more you do it, the higher the chance that you are making the correct mark in the correct place. You'll learn your habits, good and bad. I always tend to put eyes too far apart and nose too long. Drawing a triangle between those aspects helps a lot. You will learn what works for you. Just keep drawing, keep going, and try painting a portrait. You will learn so much. Try hard not to compare yourself with others but with your previous efforts.
    [Deleted User]
  • @MeganS, Thanks for the support and suggestions. I started on my next one, trying to get those "easel hours" under my belt.
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