Category Archives: Charcoal

Contains all my charcoal drawings

Portrait WIP

WIP Portrait
WIP Portrait

Greetings everyone! Today’s post is a portrait that I have been working on and off for the last two months. It is still in its early stages, and I am hoping to complete it soon.  The reference is from Croquis Cafe photos archive. The photos are free and according to them, you can “[d]ownload them, draw from them, repost them, do with these photos as you will”. Their only caveat is that you keep their Croquis Cafe Logo in place.  Sweet!!

By the way, I am not affiliated with Croquis Cafe whatsoever. They are amazing, because they have such liberal usage rights when it  comes to their photos! That is a rare thing my friends! Have a great weekend!

Portrait Charcoal Study

Portrait StudyPortrait charcoal study on Canson paper. For this study I employed the “wipe-out” method where I first covered the entire paper with a medium tone of charcoal and then proceeded to wipe out the lights with a piece of leather chamois.  At this stage I am only establishing the major light and dark patterns (Notan) of the portrait.  I am also checking overall proportion, gesture and shape accuracy. Initial darks are laid-in with vine charcoal.

If I feel confident of my major proportions and shapes,  then I switch to charcoal pencil and start to delineate smaller forms lightly, being careful not to make any permanent marks (I have a tendency to press to hard with my charcoal pencil).  At this stage I am searching, adjusting for smaller forms, again checking proportions and shape accuracy and how the smaller forms fit within the whole. My darks are still relatively light at this stage.

After massing in the smaller forms, and feeling confident about their placement, I start to model; taking the relatively flat shapes and making them 3-dimensional.


Charcoal Figure Study

Figure Study
Figure Study


Following along with Steve Houston at NMA.  Charcoal on Stonehenge paper. This was a nice tutorial on rendering gradations. Started out with an initial lay-in, demarcating the light and shadow side of the figure. From the core shadow scrubbed in a smooth gradation working into the shadows and then the light side of the figure.

Value Study

Value Study - Portrait of a Woman
Portrait of a Woman




I just love doing this value study of William Merritt  Chase’s “Portrait of a Woman”. It supposed to be a preliminary sketch for an oil painting value study that turned into a full charcoal value study.  The support is for oil, not charcoal, and therefore it was challenge getting the values just right.  It was difficult laying my darkest darks as there was little tooth to the surface.  There was something haunting about this peace, however it could be the music I was listening too whiles drawing:  Wars of Faith by Audiomachine. Anyway, it was a great study and I think I will do another one from this artist again. Hopefully, I won’t get  carried away again in charcoal.

Portrait Study

Head Study
Portrait Study

Portrait Study. Charcoal on smooth newsprint (Pro Art). The reference was a Russian academic figure drawing.

It took me a few hours to complete, multiple sittings.  I started out blocking the overall head. I then rough-in the features, no measurements (that is why my proportions are always off 🙂 ). At this stage I am using vine charcoal. It gives me  great flexibility in the beginning; I can make a mistake and it can easily be corrected. The early stages are the most scariest for me when doing portraiture, because it does not look anything like my reference. Whiles I am drawing, I always feel like I should just trash it and start over. This drawing was no exception, however I hung in there despite that overwhelming feeling to start over. After I am happy with the placement of the features, then I go over the drawing with a 2B charcoal pencil,  solidifying the features and darkening the darks.

I left the ears undone, blocking-stage. His mustache  needs more tone, to pop out more from this face. I will do that, but it won’t be reflected in this post, though 🙁 Already took the picture  and uploaded it. Also,  the width of his head can be smaller.

The biggest thing I have learned is to measure, check, measure, check, measure, and for good measure, Measure! LOL.

It took some time, but the drawing came together at the end with mistakes and all.  At least I think so.

Let me know what you guys think.

Ruben’s St. Sebastian Study

Old masters's Copy
Old master’s Copy


Charcoal, White Chalk and Graphite on watercolor paper.

I have been working on this study on and off for a while now. Decided to come back to it today for about 30 minutes.  I swear I have redrawn that head at least six times! The only part that is drawn in graphite is the head, which  I did today, again. 🙁