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