Charcoal portraits: lessons learned

These pictures, the first two I drew for Felicia Forte’s portrait drawing class, should have gone with the post Drawing the portrait: week one. But they didn’t make it, so I’m showing them now.

Week 1: Charcoal portrait on rough newsprint

After 4 years learning to draw at the atelier, I can hit a likeness pretty well. But although this first drawing (above) might resemble the model, it’s not hanging together drawing-wise. Too many scratchy lines and no clear shadow pattern. I know that. I knew that when I drew it. But I’m afraid of making those kind of marks. I don’t know why. Sometimes as artists we fear unreasonable things.

Week 2: Charcoal portrait on rough newsprint

This second drawing is better. Felicia stopped me midway through and said, just draw the shadow pattern around the eyes. Don’t worry about the eyes themselves. She was right.

Getting caught up in details right away doesn’t improve a drawing. Lesson learned on this drawing: Simplify. Look for the big pictures, the big shapes; the rest will follow.


2 thoughts on “Charcoal portraits: lessons learned

  1. “just draw the shadow pattern around the eyes”

    In a drawing group once, I was annoyed at how my drawings were turning out, so I took my glasses off so I couldn’t see any more detail, and just drew the shadows. It looked far more realistic and detailed than any of my previous attempts at drawing actual details.

    1. It’s odd how that works, isn’t it? I sometimes do the same thing. I can’t see the paper, so I can’t draw any details, only fuzzy shapes.

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