A Charcoal Drawn Portrait
. . . secretly photographed

My wife was secretly taking photos of this charcoal drawn portrait, but I didn't know it at the time.

She started taking the photos when I began the process of working in charcoal.

All of my final charcoal portraits are preceded by a series of preliminary pencil drawings, however in this case, that early stage of development is not included. 

For more on preliminary pencil drawings, see the videos on this page. 

Now Back to Charcoal Drawn Portraits

When I was done a charcoal session, she would quietly go into my studio and photograph what I had just done.

After the portrait was finished and framed, she surprised me with a progression of photos she had taken.

I had never kept a record of my drawings this way, but I found it interesting to be able to look back and watch one of my drawings evolve.

Hopefully you find it interesting too. 

This progression of photos culminates in a portrait of Glenn McDougall, founder of Fury Guitars. Glenn's high quality instruments sell to a world-wide market, yet he remains one of our home town's best kept secrets. 

How to Draw Portraits

Progression of the charcoal drawn portrait

In my final drawings, I always start with the eyes, because I think they are the most expressive part of the face.

If I don’t get the eyes right, I will start the portrait over. 

Careful observation will tell you things like:

  • The whites of the eyes usually are not really white,
  • Eyes are not perfectly symmetrical,
  • The highlights in the eyes often do not match (although in this case they are very similar),
  • The shading around the eyes greatly affects the shape of each eye,
  • When drawing the face at an angle, remember that the eyes do not lie in a straight line across the face. That angle is important, and it varies.

The eyebrows (which are also not symmetrical) play an important role since they “frame” the eyes. Just as the correct picture frame compliments a picture, the eyebrows compliment the expression in the eyes. 

#1: Subtle shading to establish the shape of the face, done with a watercolour brush and soft charcoal.

#2 and #3: These highlights are done with a kneaded eraser after the charcoal is applied.

#4: Important highlight done with a kneaded eraser. This highlighted area provides interest, three-dimensionality, and expression. 

shading has been done with watercolour brushes, blending stumps, and my fingers. Notice subtle variations throughout.

Very seldom is any area shaded with just one tone. Look at the varieties of tones along the bridge of the nose, the lips, and the dark cheek area on the right.

All of this attention to subtleties adds up, and contributes a great deal to the realism and the expression of your final charcoal portraits. 

Note the implication of beard stubble and skin texture along the chin. This attention to detail adds to the realism. This was done with a kneaded eraser, an HB charcoal pencil and blending stumps.

I dragged the side of the pencil lead very lightly across the chin area. The charcoal catches the tooth of the paper and gives it that stubble look. 

I’ve put removable tape on different areas on the top of the guitar (you may barely see them . . . depending on your monitor.)

I often tape areas of my drawings when I begin a charcoal drawn portrait. I do this when I want particularly strong highlights.

Tape keeps the paper clean as I work, so when I’m done, I remove the tape and I’m left with a completely clean piece of paper around which to work my highlights.

Glenn is always seen wearing a denim jacket when he is working, so I thought it appropriate to include his "trademark" jacket. Note the attention to detail.

Capturing the textures of clothing is an art in itself. 

Glenn's charcoal drawn portrait was presented to him on his birthday. Here he is looking at it for the first time.

As you can see its not framed yet...I have trouble with deadlines. 

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