View Full Version : Human figure study, modified with charcoal

10-01-2006, 05:06 PM
I first did this drawing in pencil, but then decided to go over with charcoal for effect. But there's enough hard lines left by the first effort that interferes with the illusion of volume the charcoal is trying to create. Also, maybe I went a bit crazy with the white highlight. But otherwise the model's back is facing away from the light, and the figure becomes a dark blob when I try to be faithful. Any suggestions?

10-01-2006, 07:35 PM
the shading gives more mass to the figure, but i would have not put the shadows on the wall, this blurs the form, i think

wonderful piece though :D

D Akey
10-02-2006, 01:55 AM
A few things:

I'm only talking about studio style life drawing like you're doing here. This is assuming you are going for a natural look.

The tone -- I would simplify how much info you're trying to put in there with full dark (black). Also, I think the tooth of the paper may be too big. It's hard to finesse.

It helps to have a visual heierarchy. The way the darks are usually handled in this type of drawing is that the form outlines are most distinct and accurate for your taste, followed by a core shadow that is the next dark.

Then there is a light wash of dark tone to fill in the rest of the shadow - this is usually formless, often indicated by faint parallel lines with the broadside of the pencil or conte crayon (chalk). And you can pop in a little detail, but be sparing about it. All depends on how cluttered the areas are getting.

Then you would be really sparing with the highlight (white). But let the paper do your work for you and be your flesh tone. Then the white would be either the high spots or indicative of hard light. It's usually for volume though. Sparing usually.

Your basic linework is quite nice, like around the feet. . .

I would recommend that if you have layers available, to do the basic linework on one layer. Then do a separate laayer for each of the elements I mentioned (core shadow and all that). And you can either vary the opacity until it suits you, or toss the offending layer altogether. Keep doing it till it's right for you. You'll get a lot of mileage this way.

Have fun with it. You have a pretty good start on this kind of drawing style. :D

10-02-2006, 02:56 AM
thanks D. I think I got suckered into rendering the back too much, and also went a bit overboard with the highlights. The tone of the paper is off, and so it is not half way between white and black, and that didn't help either. So by core shadow, you mean the darkest parts, right? So do you establish those areas first? My problem is that I keep going back to the darkest areas and make it darker to stand out, but then the rest needed to be adjusted darker too, and so eventually the whole drawing keeps on getting blacker and blacker and I still didn't have any "hierarchy" of tones.

Another thing is how do you blend charcoal/cryon in ArtRage? The eraser is too hard and the painter's knife doesn't move the pigment around at all. Is there anyway to simulate the finger or the kneaded eraser?

D Akey
10-02-2006, 01:54 PM

Doubtless you will find arguments for and against the things I say. But this is my take.

You don't necessarily need a flesh toned paper. It's more about the value of the tone. And even at that it's a matter of taste how light or dark it is to begin with. And really intense colored papers are going to be distracting to the drawing.

Remember that drawings of this type, because they are quick, are still mostly informational, as pleasing and artistic as they can get, One is usually exploring form, and training the hand and eye. But since they are so cool looking, the good ones have become an end in itself.

Depending on the type of information you are after, you might want to be able to make marks that don't obscure each other. . . unless you are exploring something else.

And I have seen good artists do drawings with excessive white to my taste. So it's open. No absolutes.

Addressing your other questions, Yes, the line is darkest, the core shadow is the next darkest. That's the edge between dark and light.

The way I would do it is to do the basic outline type drawing, then I would indicate the core shadow with a broader line. This delineates the border between the light and shadow. Take care to follow the form accurately if you can. This will tell the viewer a lot about the musculature or girth or boneyness of the subject. To me it's a make or break step -- assuming you have a decent line drawing.

And then fill the shadow area with a lighter shadow tone. This can be less precise because it's lighter, so less impactful.

Then at the end, I would put in the white hot spots, only just enough and where it would be useful for your ends. It's part of the drawing, afterall.

You ought to have a good drawing without the highlights. But depending on the lightness or darkness of the paper, it adds some good information and flair in some cases.

Anyway. . .

The rest of the shadow is lighter for clarity and because it's generally accommodating bounce light.

This is a link to a drawing that shows minimal highlight.


Scroll down to the figure drawings.

It's nice. But you will find what works best for you.

Smearing? Perhaps someone else can answer that.

The eraser has edge control over it (I think). But if you're talking about a smear fading type eraser, I don't think it does yet?

Hopefully others will chime in with their take on it all.

Have fun.

(Note: I changed the above link to the right one. Also put it again below.)

10-02-2006, 06:45 PM
Thank you for the pointers.

10-02-2006, 08:31 PM
hi salvo,
i really like this portrait the way it is but it is quite harsh..if you want to try a gentler version you could soften the highlights a little,particularly on the face.

Ilike the second version of the background colour the best too....i reckon if your gonna go there you might as well go there and have fun with the colour:)


10-03-2006, 02:00 AM
I agree it's "harsh", but I think that's the effect I was going after. Maybe it refected my mood. Not all women are tuddly and docile creatures, after all:)

D Akey
10-03-2006, 02:33 AM
Drat! I put in the wrong link above in my previous post.

Try this one:


It doesn't get into the core shadow as I'm describing it, but it's generally in the ballpark. It has a pretty good line, on toned paper, and has minimal highlights.