Charcoal Portrait

edited September 2018 in Drawing
This portrait is an 18 x 24”charcoal drawing from a workshop I took this month in our area.

I used a modified version of the DMP drawing method picking out key points to measure from to get the proportions; however, I used the left eye as a unit of measure to go from one point to the other rather than a proportional divider.
It was drawn from life over several sessions, so I do not have a photo to use for comparison. However, everyone seemed to think it is a very good likeness. The light source was high on the ceiling and not very bright, hence the shadows on the face.

I was satisfied with it; however, the instructor suggested I push the darks and lights closer to what I actually saw to better define the features and structure of the face. The changes made it much closer to life (like Mark’s recent video on getting values right would predict). The class ended while I was still working.

Any thoughts on how I can improve it technically, or is it best to call it done? I was satisfied earlier, but I have to admit the instructor’s challenge to develop the darks and lights improved the drawing and helped me to see deeper into the features and structure.

Martin_J_Crane[Deleted User]dencalSummerElizaEstherHRosanne


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  • I would have to see the reference, but I like it very much and would call it done.
  • Kevin and Martin, thanks for the input.
  • Don't know what the light was like, but if the light came from above there might be more shadow under the chin. That would help bring the chin forward and neck back. They seem the same value right now, so they sit on the same plane. Agree with the eye problem, sometimes older people seem to have squinty eyes because of age and the drop of the face features. In general there is a eye width between eyes, give or take depending on the person. Push the collar back so it goes around the back of the neck. If you use a line will have a hook on it as it turns in and back. This will make your neck appear more formed. Very nicely done. Sometimes its hard to catch the important stuff when you are in a workshop. Most people go for the details first. But form should be first, just like in painting.
  • Charcoal is not the easiest medium. I would call this one done, but next time, I would concentrate on the shapes of the shadows and light and try really hard not to outline them. Get the shapes in first with the side of a soft stick, then start putting the lines in later. My observation of this drawing is that there is a lot of medium gray. I see light, I see dark, but the middle ground has little definition. This area is where the meat of the drawing is done. The little bit of dark and little bit of light is where the depth really shows but it doesn't matter if the middle ground is all the same shade of gray. Maybe darken the background a little bit to bring the face forward. It's okay if the dark hair gets a little lost in the background. Our eyes actually enjoy those lost edges.
  • I like it a lot and to me this is a very good portrait drawing! I cannot only see a face but I have a sense of this person (if this is proper English?) …

    Did he really look at you this way all the time? Wasn't this difficult? I don't think I would be able to draw with somebody looking at me like this... or maybe one get's used to it?
  • Looks like it's finished on the portrait but the background could use work. Said with respect!
  • Thanks to everyone for the suggestions and feedback.

    PennyM – Your detailed critique is very helpful. The shadows on the neck were much darker than I see now on the drawing. I probably erased too much when trying to model the light I saw that did hit the neck.

    MeganS – Thanks for the drawing technique ideas. I think you are right; having some of the hair lost or nearly lost in the background would improve the drawing, although it is not what I saw I think it would help as you suggested to improve the drawing.

    EstherH – Thanks for your feedback, it was good to know you could get a sense of the person and the expression he conveyed.

    Ron – I agree with you on the background. The instructor wanted the head to take up the whole drawing for this exercise. The background in the studio was very busy, i.e., easels, tables, and shelving so I simplified it for the exercise. I think something like you are suggesting would help to improve the overall portrait.

    Once again, thanks everyone, it gives me something to work on and improve for the next one.
  • Thank you David, I apreciate your comments.  No, I don't know an Melanson's. Enjoy your work. Thanks again.
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