Here's a charcoal lesson for you to study. It will show you how I achieve realism and drama in my figure drawings. This is all done with charcoal.
This is a charcoal drawing of the late, great blues and jazz singer, Alberta Hunter. She sang into her late eighties in New York. In this portrait, I am striving for a feeling of serenity.
I worked from a photo to draw the face but I completely changed the lighting. The rest of the portrait is my creation.
First I establish my initial drawing and layout in pencil. I indicate areas that will be shaded.
I elaborate on my initial drawing. I plan out the portrait in detail, so once I begin the charcoal drawing, I know where I am going.
Note that the right side of the drawing has very little detail.
The implication here is that this side of the singer’s figure is washed away under the lighting. I did this with blending stumps and brushes.
Rather than adding charcoal, I used blending stumps that already held enough charcoal to create the subtle effect I wanted.
This charcoal lesson demonstrates the importance of light and shade . The light falling across the singer’s dress subtly follows the folds in her dress. (This attention to detail enhances the realism.)
Note that the shadowed side of the figure is not completely blocked out. Close observation will indicate that this area contains a lot of details, which are “peeking” through the shadows. For instance, the shadowed side of the singer’s face subtly reveals her hair, her ear, her cheek, and her earring.
The folds in her dress are also visible through the shadows.
I used a kneaded eraser to pull all of these details out of the shadows. This technique adds drama because you are only suggesting things rather than clearly exposing them.
Kneaded erasers are an important part of my charcoal art technique. In this case, I lay the charcoal down, and then draw on top of the charcoal with the eraser. Kneaded erasers are very malleable so I can shape them into points and then use them like "rubber pencils".
The arm and the hand on the left are also done with very little detail. I used brushes and soft charcoal here.
The arm, in fact, has no outline where it joins the dress, implying that it is washed away under the lighting. However, the viewer still imagines the upper edge of the arm.
I put the microphone in:
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