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by JuliannaKunstler.com

Grid or freehand self portrait.

Charcoal is a natural material commonly made of charred willow. It can also be compressed into solid sticks. Great medium for spontaneous drawings, sketches, drawing on canvas and delicate value drawings.
Charcoal pencils are harder that charcoal sticks and graded. They can be sharpened to a fine point for precise work.

An important part of this project is to produce a wide range of values - from light grey to dark. Don't forget about white and black values as well.



To practice the charcoal technique - you are going to start with a black-and-white photograph of yourself. If you've done self-portraits before - you can draw yourself freehand. Though it will be less easy to capture the exact resemblance - you'll have more fun by capturing your personality and mood. You decide....

If you choose to use a grid - tape a 1"-square grid onto the photograph. Count the squares.
You'll have to draw the same amount of squares on the charcoal paper. Usually you draw a grid with squares being 2"x2", 2.25"x2.25", or 2.5"x2.5"

I am sure you've done it before... I mean a grid drawing.

Use a charcoal pencil to sketch lightly (very lightly!!!) the main facial features. Remember - try to use your eraser as little as possible. If you are really uncomfortable with using charcoal at this point - use a pencil....

Use charcoal pencil for drawing/shading details, like eyes, mouth, other detailed areas (jewelry, clothing, etc...)

Use stick charcoal for larger areas.

Don't use your finger to smear or blend the charcoal - the oil in your skin will make it difficult to erase the shading.

Use soft or gum erasers so that you don't ruin the paper. Charcoal paper is very delicate and does not like erasing...

If you use a tinted paper - you can use white chalk for highlights.

Start shading with the facial features.

Find the darkest and the lightest areas.

What is really white on the photograph? Usually there are only few spots that are truly white. The rest of them - are shades of grey. That means - when you're shading - only truly white areas should remain white. The rest of the drawing should be shaded.

What are the darkest areas? Start with the darkest areas first. Remember - you can always make values darker, but it's not always easy the make them lighter...

Eraser is a great drawing tool if used correctly. Use it to accent the highlights and to add texture to hair, clothing, etc...

The final step is to spray your drawing with FIXATIF to prevent charcoal from smearing