In Portraits, Part I I discussed how to set up and begin a charcoal portrait drawing. Once you have placed and refined all of the shadow shapes to form the features of the face, you’re ready to move on to a much greater level of detail in the quest for a finished product.
As I said in Part I, the focus here is on how to go through the process of drawing a portrait. So I won’t be discussing the individual features, merely showing the setup and completion f the portrait as a whole.
|Figure 1: Non-Facial Features|
Once I’ve added in all of the shadow shapes and refined them, I will then address the non facial features such as the hair, neck and shoulders (fig. 1). I’m not as concerned with a refined level of detail here because these are not the focus of the portrait. None the less, I am still spending time to match the photograph (or sitter) closely.
|Figure 2: Checking Values|
Once I’ve added the other elements to the drawing, I go back and make sure that my values are consistent throughout the drawing (fig. 2). In this particular portrait, since I was dealing with dark hair and a black suit, I had to darken many of my existing shadows. To do this I put down my charcoal pencil and used some soft compressed charcoal.
|Figure 3: Highlights|
After darkening my shadows I go in and pull out the highlights using a kneaded eraser (fig. 3). Keep in mind that the head is egg-shaped, meaning that it curves from left to right (like a cylinder), but it also curves from top to bottom. This mean that under normal lighting the highlights on the top of the head will be brighter than those on the bottom since the bottom is curving down away from the light source. This is an oft overlooked key to portrait drawing (and painting).
|Figure 4: Background|
Don’t forget to address the background. The photo I was working from had a dark background and I chose to duplicate that because it best matched the lighting on the face, as well as the mood of the piece (fig. 4). However, flat backgrounds are rarely advisable, so I lightened mine on the left side. This is a Rembrandt trick – light the background opposite from the face. It makes it look as if the light is being cast in the same direction. It also adds contrast by placing the dark side of the face next to the light side of the background. Neat!
|Figure 5: Details|
Now it’s time for details. We’ve been working our way down from large simple shapes to smaller and more complex shapes throughout the drawing. This is where the details are finished (fig. 5). They way I approach this step is by going through the entire portrait one tiny section at a time and comparing each carefully with the reference to see what can be added or subtracted.
Once I’ve completed the details I’ll leave the drawing on my easel for a day or two. That gives me time to step back (physically and mentally) and see things that I may have missed before. I’ll then go back and add the finishing touches. In this portrait, for example, I found that the nose was too narrow. This, of course, is something I should have noticed earlier. But once I did, I widened it to match the photo as best I could (fig. 6).
|Figure 6: Finishing Touches|
And this is the way I work through a portrait drawing from start to finish (fig. 7). And by the way, in case you weren’t sure, it’s Al Pachino.
|Figure 7: Finish|