In this post, I will show you a basic process of drawing a woman’s portrait in charcoal. When I begin a portrait I like to use vine charcoal which is a very soft charcoal made from a willow. It is a very forgiving medium, if you want to adjust some proportions you simply run a chamois cloth across the image and it will completely obliterate the line leaving at most a ghost and it leaves the paper tooth intact. This is my choice medium when beginning a charcoal portrait because you will have a lot of measuring and adjusting early on in the portrait, especially if you are trying to get a likeness of the person instead of just a quick study or stylized drawing.
Setting up the woman’s portrait structural lines
Once I’ve established my proportions by constant measuring and adjusting, I have now built up a structural line drawing in my vine charcoal and it’s time to start rendering the image. I pay a lot of attention to the values as they are the core of a well-done drawing. Without proper values, it doesn’t matter how much detail you add, the image will lack form and structure. Once I have my base values, I now slowly start to build them out. You can’t be afraid of going dark, but at the same time, you don’t want to jump to fast and not be able to go back. What I like to do is find a single point that you are certain is completely black and add that in to establish your darkest value. After that, I then build the other values with that single point as a darkest dark reference point. So, once I am happy with the proportions I switch to compressed charcoal. I usually use three different densities: hard, medium, and soft. I sometimes use extra soft depending on my darkest dark and the mood I want to set.
The final rendering of the woman’s portrait in charcoal
If you enjoyed this post about this woman’s portrait in charcoal. Take a look at my blog for additional art related articles.