2 Hour Pose From a Photograph
Holy cow! It's my 1,000th Post, already. Time flies when you're having fun and all that jazz... Thanks to all who have been stopping by and checking out my modest little Blog ("modest" and "little" being the key words). In celebration, I am doing something a little different this time.
Usually, I can't really take pictures while working at the figure drawing sessions. First, it can be rude to the model having to wonder if the creepy guy is going to snap a picture of them nekkid and put it on the internet, and so forth. Second, it can take away time which would be useful to keep trying to get the drawing/painting finished and can break the flow of work to take a picture. Third, it would be a distraction to those around you, as well.
However, this time I decided to snap a selfie with some semi-dramatic lighting and take a couple hours to do it up as a step-by-step portrait to give an idea of my process. Hopefully, some of my ramblings will be moderately helpful (and, if not, I guess you get what you pay for). :-D
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STEP ONE: I took a sheet of 9" x 12" Strathmore gray toned paper and roughly marked out the proportions and shading with a very soft piece of vine charcoal. I usually just eyeball where everything should go and don't bother measuring out anything--my stuff usually doesn't have to be that exact (although, there have been a number of drawings with mis-proportioned body parts where I wish I had taken the few extra moments to measure everything out).
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STEP TWO: I then immediately smear everything into a soft, blurry mess and try to work out where the lights and darks are going to fall in the drawing. Also, as the vine charcoal is so soft, smearing it around forces more of it to stay on the paper rather than just falling off in a dust cloud or having it wiped off when I lay my hand on the page.
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STEP THREE: I am also using a kneaded eraser lift out charcoal in areas that I will be using for highlights, or to show the light source. In fact, about a third of the time I am practically drawing with the kneaded eraser. The vine charcoal is soft enough that you can lift out most areas with minimal "ghosting" of the image.
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STEP FOUR: Once I have everything established vaguely where I want it, I begin using charcoal pencils and carbon pencils to begin pushing shadows and darks. I like to use carbon pencils in conjunction with charcoal pencils, as they complement each other nicely. Charcoal pencils can usually be smeared around a bit more easily, while carbon pencils tend to be a bit darker and the binder used to keep them in lead form is a little more "greasy" in texture, which tends to give the line a bit more permanence.
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STEP FIVE: More adding shadows with the charcoal pencils (2B and 4B) and carbon pencils (2B and 4B), and carving out lightened areas with the kneaded eraser...
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STEP SIX: I take a white charcoal pencil and then begin to lay in some highlights. I will save this step for last to keep the whites as bright as possible (when white chalk hits charcoal, the gray that results seems to be both washed out and muddy at the same time). Also, as I am using toned paper, the white highlights really seem to "Pop". Just to show how much of a difference adding even a little white to toned paper can make, I decided to show it mid-way through for a bit of a before-and-after effect.
In fact, I always say using toned paper is a cheat (which is why I use it so much ;-) in that you can get three values (Dark, Mid-Tone, and White) for the price of two (normally just Dark lines on White paper). Of course, the real trick is trying to make sure you don't do too much of a good thing and over use white on the toned paper, as it can quickly escalate and distract from the drawing. I've ruined many a drawing that way, alas.
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STEP SEVEN: I then finish up the highlights and take a few moments to add the brightest brights and push the darkest darks before calling it DONE!