This week’s critique comes from Dina Pecci Art. You can view more of Dina’s work on her Facebook page. Dina Completed this portrait of Katheryn Winnick from the Vikings in graphite and charcoal. Her goals were realism. This is beautifully drawn! Your initial drawing is extremely accurate which is huge all in its own. I can’t stress the importance of starting with a proper drawing enough! You’ve got great contrast here as well. I really like the lights and darks that you’ve created in your background too.
Looking at a few things that we can adjust to improve on this piece even more, first you had said that you were having trouble with getting a gritty look with your softer pencils. This can happen for a few reasons. The biggest is that we just aren’t getting the graphite into each tiny crevice of the paper, so that white is showing through. This is more obvious when you’re using softer/darker pencils because of the contrast there. The softer pencils lay down so quickly that we don’t always take the time to make sure we have full coverage. Sometimes the paper can make this worse, but usually if we just spend a bit more time, slowly layering the pencil to make sure the graphite gets into all of those little hills and valleys of the paper, that will cover it. Another reason this often happens is from not keeping your pencils sharp enough as you work. We get faster coverage with those softer pencils while working with a more blunt pencil, but that increases the gritty look. Work with a really sharp point, moving the pencil in tiny circles and you should be able to cover the white of the paper better, avoiding the gritty look.
The photo you submitted has a yellow tint to it. Because you worked on Bristol Vellum, I suspect that your paper was actually white, so I’ve adjusted the photo to remove the yellow. After adjusting your reference photo to black and white, we can more easily see the values in each piece. In the two rows of color samples, I’ve taken swatches from the same area on each photo. You are really REALLY close on your darker values, but your lightest areas lean towards the darker side, both for the hair and skin. This causes you to lose a lot of the contrast that makes this reference photo so great to work from. I know it’s scary to leave things really light when you’ve got dark areas right next to them, but it makes a huge difference in your end piece.
The next thing that I notice about this is that you’ve hyped up the contrast in a few areas that draw your attention to the wrong areas. First, the line below her chest is really harsh. The spot where her neck meets her body is also too sharp. It stands out just as much as her eyes do, so that area should be softened up quite a bit. The shadowing on her nose, eyebrows and lips are also too dark. Last the area where her bra meets her skin next to her arm has a light line that is creating the look of the skin curving outwards there. When drawing portraits you have to be very careful about where you put your highlights and shadows. If they are slightly off, this will make it appear that there are waves or curves that aren’t really there. This same thing is happening under her eyes. The highlight is so sharp that it appears that there is a vein under the eye. For her eyes, the lower lashes can be softened up quite a bit. You just want a hint that they’re there, but not quite that dark.
My last tip is on her hair. You had said that you wanted to clean up her hair a bit which is fine, but I would still throw in a few individual strands in the mix to make it look more natural. I LOVE how you’ve created the hair in clumps vs all individual strands which would make it look stringy. To take the hair up one more level, just add a few whisps into the mix, or a few fly aways 😀
This piece is absolutely stunning! I’ve checked out your work on your facebook page and you are an amazing artist!