01 October 2009

Charcoal and White Chalk Portrait


During a 3-week break from classes I'm spending some time testing new techniques. I really like 3-color chalk drawings (such as the type Robert Liberace does) and charcoal drawings heightened with white chalk (2-color drawings). The portrait today is one of the latter. My source image is a photo taken around 1900 of a Navajo warrior, from the book Native American Portraits by Nancy Hathaway. This image has nice directional lighting and some interesting shapes, and I really like that silver squash blossom necklace. It also gave me an opportunity for some creativity and personal interpretation.

The method is simple. Charcoal in the shadows, white chalk for lights and highlights, and the tone of the paper for halftones. Keep the charcoal and chalk separated, when they mix you get an odd gray. Paper color should be based on the value of the halftones in your image. I started with a freehand charcoal lay-in, filled in the shadows as a single medium dark value, drew in the lights and highlights, refined the shadows, and finally, restated the lights and darks. That's pretty much all there is to it. I used Conte 1710 B and 3B charcoal pencils and a General White Charcoal pencil on dark gray Canson Mi-Teintes paper. The drawing took about 8 hours to complete.

Navajo Warrior 2009, 14 x 11, charcoal heightened with white chalk on paper

18 comments:

  1. You captured the lights on this subject perfectly!

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  2. Fantastic work Candace! This approach is one of my favourites, especially when there's a strong, direct light source as you have here.

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  3. Yes, light captures body and spirit - just poetic.

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  4. Candace, this is beautifully drawn and although you make it sound straightforward to draw, it is clear it has been drawn with such expertise and emotion. r.

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  5. Very well done. This is one of my favorites from you.

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  6. Great work and feeling in this piece, must be my favourite so far, look forward to seeing more

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  7. This stunningly beautiful drawing highlight the day. Candace, it is simply wonderful how you translated so much soul in this one.
    Thanks for sharing,
    have a nice weekend.

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  8. This is absolutely beautiful!

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  9. Wow Candice! Really fantastic work here. Such beautiful, dramatic and effective use of black and white and volumes. Many, many congrats. And, if you get a minute, take a quick look at my latest post - latest in my adventures. Might give you a laugh. All the best, Aliaena

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  10. Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment on this piece. I don't like form letters, but have been travelling and been offline for a few days.

    The quality of that high-contrast light really is appealing on a primal level somehow. Very satifying to draw such a beautiful subject, and this method is so effective. I'm in the process of exploring further. Thanks again for your comments.

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  11. This is a beautifully balanced composition and drawing. I love the way the necklace is left without any shading around it giving it an almost 3D effect. More please.
    I have added you to my artist links ;-)

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  12. Hi Candace,
    Just stumbled across your blog through, I think, Rahina's. It's bittersweet for me to read about your atelier classes--I started in the Colorado Academy of Art, an ARC atelier, and it shut down when I was near the end of my second year. That was about 2 years ago now, and I haven't found any instructor since then. Such a bummer.
    I'm adding you to my blogroll.
    Cheers,
    Jala

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  13. Perfect!! Congratulations.

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  14. This looks beautiful, and like it was a lot of fun to do. Great job! Maybe I'll give this technique a try.

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  15. Kelley, Thanks for your comment. This method is fun, highly recommended. Produces lots of satisfaction for the amount of effort and a great way to study value. Best regards.

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  16. WOW, this is really beautiful. I mean, the details are just exquisite. I don't know what else to say but that I want to sit here and study the beautiful craftsmanship you've portrayed here.

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  17. Just fantastic!! Great Job!

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