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Gorilla - Work in Progress

Image showing first stage of drawing

Given that I've never worked with Charcoal Pencils before I could only start this drawing in the same way as I would with Graphite pencils. I drew a light grid on my paper and also on my reference photo and lightly sketched out the main features. The Eyes are the key to a successful portrait and so that is where I started. I knew that if I couldn't get the eyes right then there was little point continuing with the rest. I soon discovered how 'dusty' charcoal is compared to graphite and I also soon discovered that I would need to do a lot of blending to get smooth blacks with no visible pencil marks. I also found that I didn't need to build up the blackness by adding many layers .... two layers with a blending after each seemed to do the job nicely.

Image showing second stage of drawing

From the eyes I worked downwards towards the cheeks but thought about the problems of working near the top of the paper with my hand on already drawn areas. I doubted even resting on a sheet of plain paper would prevent this stuff from smudging, so I abandoned the upper cheeks and concentrated on the forehead. I also decided that it may be beneficial to bring each area to finality rather than relying on another pass over the entire work, as I do with graphite. I had planned to use the sharp edge of an eraser to draw in the white hairs but that didn't work very well at all .... charcoal just doesn't like being rubbed out. After several experiments I found my Tombo Mono eraser (see below) sharpened to a chisel edge with a ladies emery board made the best impression on the charcoal. His fur is a combination of short black strokes and short erased strokes.

Image showing third stage of drawing

With the top of his head finished I returned to his face and continued with his upper cheeks and his nose. Blending out graduated tones to suggest recesses and wrinkles in his skin was very trial and error as I found the charcoal much less controllable than graphite. Pale thin lines were also difficult to judge and often came out too black. A dab or two of Blu-Tack rectified that.

Image showing the finished drawing

Continuing to work down the paper I completed his mouth and chin next, and then finally shaded in the rest of his head and shoulders. In the reference photo his right shoulder (left as you look at it) was out of focus so that was very easily replicated. The left side of his head was just fur so I used the same technique as I used for the top of his head .... black strokes from a sharpened pencil and white strokes from the eraser.

Unlike graphite there is no way I could create white highlights of area's already shaded over, so careful attention to leaving white space is important. Though the charcoal was more difficult to work with than graphite, there is no escaping the extra 'drama' a picture has because of the deeper contrast the juicy blacks of charcoal can produce.

Materials Used