Today’s submission comes from artist Natalie Linaweaver who completed this portrait in charcoals. She said in her submission “I’ve always tried to work in this style but now more than ever I’m looking for more technique and cleaner details. My goal for this particular piece was to correctly capture lighting on the skin.”

Your drawing is SO close! I can see you’re going to be absolutely amazing at portraits!! Great job on your shading and not being afraid of getting that contrast!!

 Taking a look at some things we can adjust to improve on this even more, first let’s look at your edges. Charcoal blends REALLY well. Too well sometimes! Watch your edges in areas like the hands and fingers. If you over blend these areas it ends up looking more fuzzy than realistic. In the hair you’ve done the opposite where you’ve got harsher lines for the individual strands of hair, but too many individual strands. Remember when drawing hair that you want to build the clumps and clusters of hair. If you try and put in too many individual hairs it starts to look more wirey (am I making up words now?) instead of like soft hair.

Next let’s look at the actual drawing. You are pretty accurate in many areas, but the main issue is that you’ve widened her face a lot. That one thing will completely change how someone looks and throw off everything else. Make sure before you start that your proportions are just right.

You had said your goal was to capture the log in her face. When working in black and white, I recommend adjusting your reference photo to black and  white too. It makes it much easier to check your values. In this case, we can see that your values are far too dark throughout her face. If you can leave more of the white of the paper showing here it will capture that glow even better. Charcoal gets dark REALLY fast, so start layering slowly to avoid having it get to be too much. One thing I like to do when I know I’ve gone too far but I don’t want eraser marks all over is to take a kneaded eraser and just press it to the paper to lift the charcoal from the areas I want to be lighter.

I’m a huge fan of contrast, but be careful not to put too much in the wrong area. That shadow between her fingers is so dark that my eye is being drawn right there. It’s also much larger than it should be, making her fingers appear to be much thinner than they really are.

There is so much I love about your drawing skills here, keep it up, you’re going to be so amazing!!!