Capturing the essence of a person through a portrait is something that continually comes up in the studio at Art&Co. Being an art school that teaches children from ages 7 through to 18, we find that at this stage it is mastering proportions and placement of facial features that the kids often want to work on.
This week we had a bit of a Portraiture Bootcamp….now it wasn’t nearly as painful as it sounds, but we needed to get back to basics and refocus on what makes a great portrait. To do this we decided to strip back to black and white – removing the complication of colour mixing – and use charcoal which is such a fun, messy and expressive medium.
Using charcoal also stops the students getting too fussy and perfectionist while they are drawing – something that can be constructive to a degree when getting your proportions right – but we find that they can also get locked into wanting that ‘perfect’ look at the risk of moving forward and learning more through experience.
So, our top tips from our Portraiture Bootcamp that will help you in your quest for great, characterful faces? Here they are:
1. Make your resource image (when working from a photo) the same proportions as your paper or canvas – whether by folding it or placing a ‘viewfinder’ over the image. This removes excess ‘noise’ from the image and allows you to focus on what you want to actually draw
2. Spend time (but not obsessively) getting your proportions right – this is the bones of your portrait and very important! Draw reference lines on your photo and your paper if it helps!
3. Contrast is Key. When using the charcoal don’t be afraid to go nice and dark where the ‘blackest’ part of your subject is in the photo – and also make sure there is a ‘whitest’ part as well…having that contrast between the black, white and greys gives a portrait in charcoal plenty of punch
4. Vary your line weight. Having nice bold lines along side fine, gentle lines is a way to exaggerate and highlight different parts of the face
5. Don’t be afraid to contour! Make sure you move your shading and line work into the centre of the face – the human face undulates and has ups and downs so be sure to reflect this in your shading.
These are just a few of the tips we worked through in our Bootcamp – what are your top tips for drawing portraits in charcoal?