View Full Version : Slightly Sorry Lulu, WIP

07-26-2004, 06:05 PM
This is Lulu, who is two. 18 x 24, charcoal and white charcoal on tan Canson charcoal paper, naturally. The smooth side. I know I'm going to run into trouble unifiying the lights pretty soon, but I need to see the mass of the shadow side of her dress before I can figure out what to do with it.


07-26-2004, 06:09 PM
Here's one a tiny bit further along.

07-26-2004, 06:16 PM
And a little closeup.

07-27-2004, 12:50 AM
Hi Lisa,
Beautiful work and thanks for sharing. :clap:

07-27-2004, 05:15 AM
This is awesome! . . .I'm just toying with doing a similar style of piece (black and white charcoal on mid tone paper) and just drool over work like this. Would love to hear more about your technique as I've seen several approachess to this type of work . . and I'm learning. Thanks for sharing!

07-27-2004, 09:11 AM
Thanks Olan!

Crumby, regarding technique - I'm using a General charcoal 2B, which handles similarly to a pencil. It holds a point, but is still nice and charcoal-y. And it doesn't break all the time.

The technique is similar to Tony Ryder's technique. I love his book. It starts with the envelope idea you can see in the first picture. When the envelope is right, I go for major contours. This part is different from Tony - I don't actually want to use the contour in the final drawing so it's left pretty light so I can lay tone over it or erase it. Most of the work in this was done without line - just tone (except in the toes which aren't done yet).

Then, from top to bottom and left to right, I work on tones. This way I don't smudge with my arm as I'm going along. In each area, I block in the darkest darks, then wash wash wash.... wash .... wash more charcoal until the values are about right. I don't press hard - subsequent layers ewill still show the first layers and with enough patience eventually the darkest values will just magically appear. I change direction - you can see it in the background. I've found I don't have to be precisely smooth like Tony is - I like the roughness a little.

I use a kneaded eraser to pull out lights if I get carried away. And smudge almost not at all, but just a little with my finger.

Before this is done, I will have to decide about the lighting. In the reference, the light is low, to our left. If that looks weird I'll change it, but like I mentioned, I have to see the large shadow mass on the right before I know what I want.

Too much info?

07-27-2004, 10:04 AM
Very nice Lisa. Were you able to get this child to sit for a photo session or did you get this from another source? The pose is great. One question: when you say wash, wash, wash are you really saying blend, blend, blend? :)
If not, what do you mean by 'wash' with charcoal? Have you taken any workshops with Tony or did you only read his book? I have heard from a few artists that really enjoyed his workshops (oil painting portraits).


07-27-2004, 10:19 AM

This looks beautiful so far. When I saw the one on gray paper I immediately thought of Tony Ryder's book. That's how I'd like to draw someday :D.

I love the closeup of the face - her expression is wonderful.

Can't wait to see more of this piece.

Rain :music:

07-27-2004, 10:41 AM
Thanks Rain!

Hi David! I took the photos for this. It worked out well because I like a slightly out of focus photo, and since I was sitting on the floor and she was fidgeting, the photos are all blurry. What a happy coincidence.

This may not interest anybody, but, this drawing is a neat exercise because I'm trying to interpret rather than copy the photo. I'm attempting to draw on the *left* side of my brain, where I'm asking myself, is this accurate? Is this good enough, or could I make that arm, that dress better than the photo? (The dress is very different - all the folds are invented to describe the form as well as her slightly rumpled attitude. I never even thought of that until Rob commented that my last commission looked like a pile of dirty laundry.) How can I adjust the light to give her that sitting in the corner look? What does that shape really mean - what does it tell me about the form?

By wash wash wash, I mean light layers of charcoal laid over each other, sometimes changing direction, to fill the grain of the paper. There's almost no blending. You can see a little blending on rapid transitions from deep dark to midtone (back of the near arm) but other than that, it's not really necessary. It's like consecutive washes with watercolor - even layers placed over each other.

07-27-2004, 11:00 AM
OK, layers, layers, layers :D . I have one or two commissions coming up and I am debating (since they left it up to me :rolleyes: ) on whether I am going to use graphite, charcoal or nupastel on white (for the graphite) or midtone paper. I agree that a photo reference is rarely good enough for a complete representation...you always have to alter something. If you are going to change the lighting, you might lose the atmosphere you have already achieved. Glance over the highlights again to make sure they are well placed and of the right intensity, otherwise, I would stick with the lower left light source.

How are you paintings coming along?

07-27-2004, 11:27 AM
Regarding my paintings, blehhhhh. The one I got ripped for started to just glare at me and I lost interest. I may yet go back to it because I could really use the money. The portrait with the verdaccio underpainting is a nice experiment, but I'm starting it over in a regular "seeking" manner, because I hate to experiment on commissions. Basically, I decided that my Isobela portrait was my best effort ever, and I've spent the last year moving away from that sort of painting, but now I'll take my new bag of tricks and go back to it. It's time to buckle down!

Thanks for asking! What's your commission of? For the record, I love the feel of the charcoal over the graphite. The value range is much nicer. Which way r u leaning?

07-27-2004, 11:42 AM
I haven't seen that painting (Isobela)...can you post it here? I experiment a lot with different oil painting techniques, but I always go back to the direct painting method, with full colour and many adjustments along the way.

I have two clients that want portraits done but don't want to pay for an oil, or rather, I know they can't afford it, therefore I told them I only have time for a drawing. I think I will end up with the nupastels which seem to have the best of both worlds - dark like graphite but handles similar to a hard charcoal...then again, I will probably choose the most expediant method. Do you bother to use vine charcoal for 'good drawings' or only as a tool to get your image on canvas? The compressed charcoal seems like a better choice for this type of work. Lets see that painting of Isobela.


07-27-2004, 12:21 PM
This is Isobela. I did this about 9 months ago. Since then I have discovered edge control, mixing white, translucent shadows and opaque lights. I just started really studying composition too, and would like to do some multi-figures soonish. Isobela was done right after I found out about value control. That made a huge difference.

I used the vine charcoal at the very beginning to block Lulu in, because it's so easy to wipe away. I find it's too fussy for me on a long drawing, and I'm too lazy to constantly sharpen it.

Do you have a nupastel drawing up? Love to see it.

07-27-2004, 12:36 PM
I have been playing around with pastels, and I just bought a few sticks of nupastels. Something is in the works...in my head only :D . I will get it on here when I do.

The painting of Isobella contains many classical elements. Is it inspired by Boug.? As far as carrying composition and design further, I agree that we all should study and practice this further. I am trying to get away from the blank backdrop or simple backgrounds. The background choices are very difficult to compose properly when you have a complicated scene, but we have to keep trying.

Keep up the good work.

07-28-2004, 03:29 PM
Crumb, here's a detail of the development of a section:

07-28-2004, 03:31 PM
Here's the final, I think. I think the colors are now right - it is tan paper.

07-28-2004, 03:32 PM
And a detail.

07-29-2004, 10:21 AM
Oh, she is just beautiful! :clap:

Regarding one of your previous posts, could you elaborate on "edge control" and "mixing white"? I only started seriously getting into oil a few weeks ago and I'm always eager to learn new things that will help me improve.

Thanks :)

Rain :music:

07-29-2004, 10:36 AM
Hi Rain, I'm glad you liked it.

Edge control is based on the notion that people do not see a whole object at one time, but rather see parts of it with clarity, and other parts are blurry. Edge control is about leaving the sharpest edges at the points where you want attention focused - like the eyes or lips or hands, and letting other edges be soft/blurry. This also helps counteract the copied-photo syndrome, where everything is of uniform crispness.

Mixing white is pretty much anything but titanium white, but I think it's specifically the blend of lead and zinc whites. Mixing white does not turn your colors chalky and coolish like titanium white does. I only use titanium now in the final opaque layers of a painting. Underneath is all flake.


08-03-2004, 10:08 AM
Hi Lisa,

Thank you for giving more info on edge control and mixing white. I think I'll be more aware of that from now on. I'll also be looking into other whites since titanium white is what is currently occupying my palette.

Thanks again,

Rain :music:

08-05-2004, 09:39 PM
Exquisite! Thank you for sharing with us. I also enjoyed your explanation.


08-06-2004, 02:36 PM