Step by Step Charcoal Drawing Tutorial with Derek Harrison

Artist: Derek Harrison
Title: “Hawk in Profile”
Medium: Charcoal on Paper
Size: 17 x 11

Materials Used:
-“Generals” Charcoal Pencils: 4B, HB, White (Sharpened with a razor blade)
-“Prang” Charcoal Pencil: Soft
-Kneaded Eraser
-“Tuff Stuff” Eraser Stick (Tip is cut to a sharp point with razor blade for very fine details)
-Bristle Brush: #6 Filbert

Step 1:
An accurate “block in” drawing is done. I’m only concentrating on drawing the silhouette, major shapes and angles with the HB Charcoal Pencil. This is the most important part of the whole process. If your initial drawing isn’t accurate, no amount of blending or detail can make up for an inaccurate drawing (especially with a portrait).

Step 2:
Roughing in the divisions of shadow and light shapes. While squinting my eyes I find a “50/50” break-up of shadow and light. The shadows are massed in with the 4B Charcoal pencil. The light areas with the White. I’m only concerned with the large masses of shape at this point. All details will come later on top of the larger shapes once they’re laid in. It doesn’t necessarily have to be perfectly smooth at this point, just a solid mass of light or dark charcoal.

Step 3:
Using the Bristle brush I’ll “scrub” the 4B (dark) charcoal into the paper making it smooth. Followed by doing the same with the white. Once they’re both smoothed out and scrubbed into the paper a nice gray tone will remain. I’m basically laying a base of shadow and light tone to work on top of…all the while staying attentive to keeping drawing accurate and fixing anything necessary as I go.

Step 4:
Now using the Prang Charcoal pencil (which is the softest and therefore the darkest) I’ll put in the darkest darks of the piece. After the darks are laid in I’ll do the same with the white pencil, basically placing the highlights and areas of lightest light.

Step 5:
After the primary darks and lights are established I’ll use the HB charcoal pencil to add some mid tones, bring together the dark and light shapes and begin to define and refine the planes of the face.

Step 6:
After the clear and main values are laid throughout the drawing I’ll use the Bristle brush to “brush back” a certain amount of texture and soften the transitions between the tones that were roughly laid in. I try to be very careful while doing this to not overwork the paper and/or lose the drawing and defined planes. I’m aiming to get a nice smooth face that has the solid range of values I’m looking for.

Step 7:
Now that the shapes and values have been established I can really start to pay attention to edges and details. Working with only the HB and White pencils it’s a matter of going back and forth to create shape, value and edge relationships relative to my subject. Pushing and pulling areas of focus and refining drawing.

Step 8:
After the face has reached a certain level of completion and refinement I’ll add the most detailed part of the subject (her head tattoo, earrings, etc).

Step 9:
Now it’s a matter of stepping back and examining the piece for any flaws, areas that need more attention, etc. Really trying to bring the drawing to “life.” Sometimes it’s the most minor of alterations that can help bring the piece to the level of finish I’m looking for. Since Charcoal is such a forgiving medium, I can continue to go back and forth between the dark and light charcoal, pull areas with the eraser, soften edges with the brush, etc. At this stage I try to take all of those elements into consideration and complete the piece.

Step 10:
COMPLETION!! After a couple days of working the drawing, stepping back, etc. I’m happy with how the piece looks and call it finished.

Close-up of the face with the various textures and “strokes” created by the charcoal pencils, brush and eraser.

The model hired for this piece is Samantha Fairley. Having such a unique look, I was very interested in painting (or drawing) her. She’s posed for numerous pieces of mine. This one in particular was done where she posed in my studio and I shot numerous reference photos to work from. I had her sitting under a single light source (in this case a soft box) with a neutral gray background.

Artist Bio:
Derek Harrison is an artist currently based in Los Angeles. Spending much of his youth drawing, he began his career tattooing and continued working in the industry for six years before transitioning into doing fine art full time. After some successful exhibitions and exposure he now works solely in the fine art world dedicating all of his time to painting and drawing in his Pasadena studio. He has studied with a number of accomplished artists and most recently has been studying at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art where much of his knowledge and skill has been developed. He says, “Drawing and Painting are crafts that require skill, devotion, hard work, and knowledge in order to execute your own vision to the fullest. Taking classes and workshops with artists who produce work that I find moving has been the most crucial and beneficial part of my work. I can’t thank them enough for teaching me all they have. Specifically Sergio Sanchez who taught me how to execute charcoal drawings just like this one.”

Visit Derek Harrison Art: ONLINE

Step by Step Charcoal Drawing Tutorial with Derek Harrison