- Lesson details
Steve Huston will share with you his techniques for preparing materials, mark-making, and rendering a finish, all while explaining his thought processes! In this lesson, three different models pose for Steve. He chooses a body part or region that catches his eye and then demonstrates his approach to long pose charcoal drawings. He draws Rajiv’s forearm, Bridget’s back, and Barry’s thigh, head, and hand.
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Hi I'm Steve Huston. Today
we've got some models coming in the studio. I'm gonna show you how I do my long form
charcoal process. This is a technique I developed by looking at Sargent's
beautiful and famous charcoal drawings. Steve Huston is an internationally
renowned painter and draftsman who has worked for such clients as Caesars Palace,
MGM, Paramount Pictures, and Universal Studios
and has taught drawing and painting at Disney, Warner Bros.
Blizzard Entertainment, and Dreamworks Studios. So with our models
in hand, we're gonna get our materials under control and then I'll do a few spot
demos where I do mainly body parts and show you how to apply it to all the different
strategies of creating a beautiful figure drawing. So let's get
using and how we use it.
Then we’ll be able to do some really fun things with this.
This whole drawing style is not really the style.
I draw the way I draw, but the technique is based on looking at Sargent charcoals, those
beautiful, rich charcoal drawings he we do.
I found the contemporary materials that best matched that,
the richness of those charcoal drawings.
So the basis that I’m working with is the alpha colors.
You can find others, but what they are is a nice square.
This is broken a little bit.
They’re a little bit longer.
It’s a nice chunk of charcoal and it’s nice and soft.
So when I lay it down there it puts down a lot of pigment quick, and it gives me the
ability to blend and work it and turn it into these rich values of dark, darks and light
lights and beautiful, smooth, rich kind of buttery gradations.
I just love them; they’re great.
And they’re cheap.
I love them for that too.
You can actually get them in any color.
I’ve got the black here, obviously.
You can get them in white which we won’t need.
We’re going to use an eraser.
We’re going to use an additive process.
We add pigment and then with the eraser we will use a subtractive process, taking some
of that away.
I won’t use it today, but you can actually use an electric eraser to kind of zip back through.
I’ll show you some play that we do with the erasers.
Anyway, alpha color.
When I do some of my lessons, my New Masters or Art Mentor lessons, you’ll notice me
doing big drawings oftentimes in the lecture stage of a lesson, and I’ll be working with
big colored chalks and creating two-tone drawing of an eyeball or a torso or something.
I’m using alpha color there too.
I’m just using a package that will have a rainbow set of colors.
There will be different packages of different color types.
I’ll use those.
But for now, black.
The other black tool I use is Conté of Paris.
Let me show you the package on that.
They come in—this is a multipack.
You can get little packs of just two charcoals.
They come in different colors: White, various versions of sanguine, and a rusty orange and
black and brown, so in kind of that limited range.
This is an old standby material.
If you look at Watteau drawings and Boucher drawings, you’ll see Conté drawings, basically
two-tone black and sanguine.
Again, we’re just using the black as opposed to the browns or whites on them.
But anyway, great stuff.
The difference between, so one of kind of the helpful parts of the technique, this alpha
color is pure charcoal.
This Conté is chalk, and chalk is a slightly waxier version.
It’s charcoal with a binder, basically.
It’s a waxier version so when you use it it’s not going to blend as well, and it’s
not going to smudge as easily.
It will a little bit, but it’s a littler waxier.
So for really tight detail, if I have to dig in under an eyelid or if I need—mainly for
contour line I will use that.
Anyway, I’ll create my rich shadow shapes and values with the alpha.
I’ll do some of my fine detail and my contour lines with the chalk.
There are my two additive tools, my pigments.
I should say a little about the paper.
The paper itself is Strathmore.
It’s a high-quality and pretty expensive paper, and it comes in a big sheet.
They are packaging a little bit differently now.
It used to come in loose sheets, and you’d have deckled edges, so kind of torn edges,
kind of torn edges.
Now they’re starting to put them in small packs.
This came in a pack of four, and I don’t even know how much it cost in US dollars,
but it’s pretty expensive.
It’s a few bucks a sheet.
But you have a nice big one.
Oftentimes, I’ve got it on camera filled up here, but oftentimes I’ll fold it in
half and then work in a smaller format, or you can just cut or fold it in half.
Then you can get four sheets out of this maybe.
That’s the paper.
It’s Strathmore 500 series.
What we want from a paper is something that has a little bit of a tooth.
You can see as I lay down the charcoal, you can see the texture in here.
Now, as I start to render and blend, I can force that pigment down into the fibers and
lose the little white coming through, background white, and so I can dig down into the fibers
and into the valleys of this surface.
This is a Bristol finish.
There is hot press.
There is cold press.
Hot press is plate finish.
It’s called that sometimes.
Cold press is kid finish, and kid finish will work.
Bristol is slightly smoother.
If you use the plate it’s super smooth and it’s so slick the pigment won’t hold.
You need to have a paper that has a little bit of tooth to it so it will hold the pigment,
and then I can blend out so I can render it so that I lose the surface texture.
The paper doesn’t destroy the illusion of the gradation.
I can come back because it’s got good texture.
Come back with darker pigment on top of it, and it will hold a ton of pigment.
We want that tooth just to be able to get our deep darks in there.
The other thing I like about it is notice when I don’t render it, don’t blend it
super aggressively, then we’re going to get a little bit of the pores of the paper
coming through, and that feels a little bit like the pores of your flesh to me.
It feels more alive than just a clean airbrush gradation from old airbrushes or in computers,
Creating that slight texture to me is critical to kind of bring humanity into your drawing
so you get this really lovely sense of the pores of the flesh if you’re doing a nice
big head or whatever.
So that’s that.
Now, let’s see here.
Let me show you two of my supportive tools.
Just any kind of sandpaper.
What I’ll do is I’ll take my alpha color and I’ll just scrub it against the sandpaper,
and it will let some of the pigment come off, and I’ll take what’s called a stump.
A lot of you have probably heard of it.
But a stump is just a pencil.
Instead of a pencil with lead or charcoal in it, it’s a paper that’s just rolled paper.
By kind of rubbing it into or dipping it into that little of pile of pigment we’ve created,
now I’ve created a tool where I can make marks like the Conté,
but they can be much lighter.
And they are in the charcoal as opposed to in the waxy chalk.
Then where I really use this is I can then use the stump to also do gradations.
They’re particularly useful if we have to get into a little area, you know, that that
big, chunky alpha color is not going to let us do.
It’s too big so I can lay that in there and pull that back and do subtle gradations.
I use my finger a lot to make corrections and to create gradations.
Again, the finger is a big, crude tool.
The stump is targeted.
You have a little point there and you can really get into little areas like so.
So sandpaper stump.
There are different sizes, different tapering that goes on.
There are variations.
I like this one but any of them will work fine.
And then to subtract, I have two different erasers.
I’ve got a kneaded eraser.
This is Faber-Castell brand but there are other brands.
Kneaded erasers and they come in wrapped cellophane or they’re starting to come in these neat
little packs like this.
It’s basically eraser clay you can turn into any shape.
And so you can take this and come back and drag it in there and create a little finger
of an eraser or pencil of an eraser and get in there and touch up.
You can see how you can make fine detail or subtle, just subtly lifting the pigment off
It’s a soft eraser so it’s not going to, I’m not going to be able to get this darkened
area back to white.
If I want to get in there and be more aggressive then I can use this.
I use the Staedler but any hard eraser would work.
Don’t get the pink ones because the pink pigment can actually stain your page.
Now I can come in there and erase back aggressively and bring it back close to white.
You can see how it’s dirtied up there.
Get it back close to white.
Then to get it to white I can use, as I alluded to before, an electric eraser, which I’m
not going to use today.
Or you can use any kind of razor blade or X-Acto knife and actually scrape it back.
Notice how I’m actually damaging the fibers of the paper to do that.
That will allow me to get back to a white highlight or something.
Also, the reason I got into using the razor blades and X-Acto knives, when I did the boxers
I would actually scrape back the paper to create highlights on the boxer’s flesh or
just on the composition, and to me that was kind of scarring.
I was damaging the paper as these characters were being damaged in their endeavor.
They were trading blows, getting punched for a living.
In some ways, in some senses it was kind of performance art in a way.
I was trying to create a technique that was wounding just like the subject matter was
wounding, so kind of a method drawing as opposed to method acting.
That stuff can get silly or it can be irrelevant, or it can be a great motivation
so whichever it is.
You don’t want to do it if it’s just going to be just kind of silly and obvious.
You do want to do it if it helps you get into the mindset of your work and to help built
the concept a little bit.
So that’s that.
The last thing I’ll use is a paper towel.
And so for the bigger areas I’ll just use a cheap paper towel and just work it over.
So that’s that.
In any medium, when you have any medium, what happens is if you can get a hard edge, a graphic
shape, let’s call it, of pigment, whether it’s oil paint, or in this case a pastel
If you can get a graphic shape with hard edges and you can get gradations, soft blended edges.
Hard edges, gradations, you’ve got mastery of your technique, basically.
Any material, if you can make beautiful gradations and you can make really solid, crisp, hard
edges, you’re in control of that material.
The only other thing you might want to do with that material is create textural differences.
For example, you might have a library of strokes
on how you put down the paint to show different material surfaces.
If we want to make oily skin I might use thicker paint, longer, looser brushes.
If I want to show kind of shaved hair on the scalp I might use a scrubbing technique or
even a wet-over-dry scumbling or dragging technique of the brush, so the brush stroke
might change quite radically depending on what I was trying to create,
burlap as opposed to silk.
Flesh as opposed to grass.
It might be a short little hatching, wispy strokes, maybe even splaying the brush out
There are all sorts of tricks you can do with the application that will help create a textural
difference within the piece.
That’s the only other advanced technique, but you can do just fine, and a lot of painters,
especially alla prima, wet-into-wet painters, kind of in the tradition of the Sargent school,
which is huge worldwide.
All the ateliers kind of come out of that.
That’s big and it’s been a big influence on me.
This technique is out of Sargent.
The knocks on Sargent’s work from the moderns, the impressionists and post-impressionists
was that everything looked like silk or satin.
Everything was so juicy and lush.
There was no surface differences in the paint.
In the rendering it all looked the same.
Silk had its different value range and it was tailored into the shape of the dress of
the costume and hair had its color choices and all that kind of stuff.
He would identify through the drawing and by the color and value ranges, but that was
a different, and by the context, that’s hair on the head.
That’s a mustache and not a lip.
That’s flesh and not costumes, that kind of stuff.
But the actual movement, the gradation of dark to light didn’t change really from
material to material.
It was all lush.
And Sargent did pretty well in his career.
You don’t have to have that third aspect.
You can just have hard edges and gradations.
You don’t have to do the rest.
But, I even alluded a little bit to the surface by talking about the pores of the paper.
It’s one of the reasons I chose this particular paper.
We’ll deal a little bit with that, but for the most part we’re just going to deal with
our two ideas: How do we create a hard edge and how do we create a gradation?
Now when we go back to our chalk, notice that it’s a rectangle.
It’s a little block, and so it’s got a corner that creates a nice hard edge.
If it’s not hard enough, crisp enough, we can come in with our Conté stick and sharpen
that right up and get a nice hard edge.
At any point, we can decide to turn that hard edge into a soft edge, and that soft edge
into a full-gradation and/or a lost edge by using the zigzag technique.
They call it the zigzag technique.
What that does is two things: As I go along the long axis of that tone, for example; if
I’m going to draw a tube here, then I’m going to go down the long axis of that tube
with what we call the core shadow, the beginning of the shadow and mark that off.
One of the hallmarks of this style and this lush range of values, these rich darks on
the white paper, is I’m going to have a shape of form.
I’m going to draw a simple construction of the form.
Then I’m going to draw the shape of the shadow on the form.
Specifically, I’m going to go to the beginning of the shadow, the core edge, and that’s
the point where the form turns out of light and goes into shadow.
I’m going to make a mark to find that core edge by the long axis.
Now, if I come back with any number of tools, in this case just my finger, and started zigzagging
back and forth along that long axis and slowly move, in this case, to the right as I do it,
notice what happens.
I get a beautiful, rich gradation pretty easily.
Now, notice when I go down that long axis it’s going to be pretty easy for my tones,
my blended tones to overshoot my form.
This is where the tube was supposed to begin and end, and I overshot it.
Of course, that will be then where I’ll do one of two things.
I’ll let another shadow shape hide that bleed that I didn’t want, and I’ll zigzag
into that to make sure the rough hatching of applying that value onto that end of the
tube looks nice and clean.
Then I’ll use my eraser.
Since it’s a dark against a nice, crisp light on kind of the non-background of the
paper, I’m going to use my hard eraser.
I do a lot of blowing to blow off the extra pigment and to blow off the eraser, spillage
of the eraser, the little bits that come off, like so.
Notice when I put in my shadow, I get a beautiful gradation, but I didn’t get good coverage
I might need to come back several times and in several different ways.
You’ll see those several different ways as we get into our actual drawing.
I may need to come back in and add more pigment to fully cover.
What I’m going to do is I’m going to make sure that I’m designing my structures off
a two-value system.
The shadows are dark and the lights are light, and I don’t want the two to compete no matter
how nuanced, beautiful, expressive, artistic, whatever adjective you want to use.
No matter how much of that I put into it later in the rendering, I want to make sure that
it’s a two-value system.
The easy way to make sure it’s a two-value system is just to squint at it.
If I squint, I’ll notice that all of the shadows grouped together against the lights.
Notice that the way I’ve drawn this form, constructed it, it was a tube.
It was round across.
The way I’ve rendered it, it’s actually a box.
It’s square across.
I’m going to render everything like it’s a box.
I’m going to give it a two-value system, and I’m going to make sure that the core
shadow sits at the corner, the perceived or imaginary corner.
In this case, it’s an imaginary corner.
Since it’s a tube there is no true corner.
I’m going to consider it a corner, and I’m going to break it into that two-value system.
Then, if, as I almost certainly will, want to make it rounder, I’ll do that as a second step.
What I’m going to do then is I’m going to draw the shape of the form, the construction
drawing like I would in any 5-minute constructed drawing exercise.
Then I’m going to draw the shape of the shadow on the form.
Then I’m going to give the shadow a nice, dark value.
It doesn’t have to be dead black or super dark like it is here.
I’m just doing that for construction purposes.
It just has to be dark enough that when I squint at it I get that two-value system.
The shadows are dark.
The lights are light, and it’s clear to the audience which is which.
There is no confusion.
We use the squint test to double-check that.
Very simple four steps there.
Draw the shape of the shadow.
Draw the shape of the form.
Draw the shape of the shadow on the form.
Give that shadow a value, and it can be, notice it can be shape of the form, shape of the
shadow on the form.
It can be hatched in like a pen and ink artist or cross-hatch.
It can be in any technique, but that would be the—and then I squint to make sure that
this shadow value separates from that light value.
Even though this is very subtle compared to this contrasting statement, when I squint
all the shadows from the most part group together.
All the lights separate.
That’s all we want.
Once I have that, then I can come back to my core shadow, and I can use whatever tool,
the stump, my finger, I’ll use the paper towel in this case.
I’m going to do the same zigzagging technique and I’m going to slowly go into the half-tone.
By the time I finish those half-tones, I want to make sure that I squint again.
Make sure that now the dark smudges of the half-tones don’t compete with the light
side of the, the shadow side of that form.
I want to make sure that the half-tones, as dark as they are, when I squint at it and
I’m squinting at it now, when I squint at it, all of the lights separate from all the
Notice by coming back and forcing that border a little darker as I did earlier on and then
gradating out of that.
It started at the core shadow.
It leaves a little core of darkness which is truthful.
In nature we actually have not one light source.
We have two light sources.
We have the direct light and we have the indirect light.
The indirect light is the bouncing or reflected light that comes off the floor or the wall
in the environment that the object is in.
The light strikes the object.
It’s also striking the tabletop and the wall around the object.
Then that bounces light back into the shadows, but not as strongly.
It’s a secondary light, a much weaker light than the initial,
than the main direct light source.
Now what we can do is come back and give stronger reflected light.
Now, here is what happens with our kneaded eraser or any of the erasers.
Look at what I did.
I erased a little bit and it dirtied up my eraser.
With a kneaded eraser, what you do is you just fold that under and get a clean spot
and go again.
There we go.
It’s starting to dirty up again, isn’t it?
This time I’m not going to clean it.
I’m going to go ahead and start in the area of lightest shadow and then go towards the
Notice as I go toward that dark core shadow, more and more pigment dirties up my eraser
so the eraser can take off less and less pigment.
We get a natural gradation.
Let’s do it again over here.
I’ll start here.
I’m just going to keep erasing it.
I’m going to slightly lighten my touch as I go, but because that eraser gets dirtier
and dirtier, I’m taking less and less pigment off and I get a natural gradation.
There we go.
Now, here’s the problem.
When we start doing that, getting in our nice half-tones, we can get our background in here,
You can see very quickly a quite realistic statement.
It can also start to look metallic like a water faucet pipe and also get that same technique
of dirtying up my surface of my heart eraser and get a nice gradation.
Work it back and forth.
Notice that the lightest shadow is very similar to the value of the middle and darker half-tone.
That’s a little dangerous.
You can get away with it because I’ve got a really good core shadow.
There is no confusion.
I’m going to clean off some of that.
There is no confusion about what’s shadow and what’s light because I’ve got such
a strongly drawn shape.
In terms of the value range there is confusion because some of the shadow is the same value
as some of the light, and that’s going to start confusing us.
In nature that happens all the time, but since we’re not in nature, we’re working on
a flat surface and only giving the idea of form.
The idea of the form is that form is a two-value system.
The reason we’ve reduced all of nature to such a simple model is because our audience.
We understand as artists that our audience, as we, will see different values
as different planes.
So if I've got...
Two values here.
The audience is going to see two planes.
We can make—if it’s three values it can be three planes
Different value, different plane.
If we make them the same value, if we start to make the half-tone a similar value to the
shadows, it’s going to look flat.
We want to make sure that the shadows group darker and the lights group lighter after
all the rendering.
There are times where we can cheat on that.
There are times when nature won’t show us that.
But if we want to get the most bang for our buck out of our rendering of our flat paper
then make sure that the light side overall
looks consistently lighter than the shadow side.
So back off on your half-tones a little bit.
Back off on your reflected light a little bit.
Then it’s going to be, it’s going to read better.
You’re going to get a tonal composition where things separately graphically.
We won’t have a fully rendered ball with all the values against a fully rendered table
with all the values against a fully rendered background with all the values because then
they’re all going to compete for attention.
They’re all going to be wanting to be the main character in our story.
Instead I will design it so that if a dark ball on a light background or a light ball
on a dark background or a full value ball on a limited value background or vice versa.
Notice each of those designs stages the realism in such a way that the object, the foreground
has a different value or different value range than the background, and that creates interest.
We’ll do it in two or three value systems.
Then that’s going to give us the most bang for the buck.
That’s basically our technique.
Let me show you a couple other things, one that I neglected.
If you’d prefer not using a chalk, a stick, but you’re more comfortable with a pencil,
I’d still recommend you get the pastel chalk, the alpha color because you want to be able
to get coverage, fill in big areas of shadow.
But for the fine work, if you’re working real small or you get the contour lines and
those little detailed shapes, you can switch to any kind of charcoal pencil.
This happens to be Conté of Paris.
It’s brown but you’d want to get black.
Of course, you could absolutely get a brown alpha color and get brown pencil and do it
any color you want.
I don’t recommend bright colors.
Don’t get a bright colored red pencil because the bright color confuses the eye of the viewer
Shadows are supposed to be kind of the absence of light.
Color is the presence of light, and so if we have a bright color in the shadow it can
happen, especially outside.
When you paint outside like the impressionists it can happen.
We’re programmed to think of shadows as kind of an absence of light.
And so if we take out most or all the color in the shadow it’s going to feel more shadowy
and we’re going to get a better pop of form.
If we put in a bright color in the shadow it’s going to feel like it’s the presence
of a strong light source, and our eye views bright colors as lighter in value than they
It’s going to steel away quite a bit of your value range, potential value range.
For that reason, when you’re doing these kind of exercises, work in black and white
or very limited Brown School colors, kind of rusty burnt umbers, burnt sienna, that
kind of stuff.
You can absolutely use a pencil instead for application and detail.
The other thing is—give me a second here.
When you get your Conté chalk, I want to turn it into a pencil shape, but it’s going
to start out as a brick, a block form like that.
What I’ll do is I’ll take my X-Acto knife, and I’m going to whittle it down just like
a would a piece of wood, and for a setup here I’m going to do it on this just so dust
doesn’t go in my lap.
I’m just going to scrape off those corners basically.
I’m going to start about a half-inch back.
You can start way back.
Some people start way back and make this long, tapered beautifully sharpened conical shape.
I always break those.
I’m too heavy handed to do that so I like to do about a half-inch or so.
It’ll get stubby and worn down.
This one is just beginning to be.
Then you just take a break from your drawing and keep sharpening it just like you would
a pencil in a pencil sharpener.
I’m just going to keep whittling that down.
If you push hard you’ll break it so you want to be fairly gentle.
Keep whittling and whittling until you’ve got it.
You can get it beautifully sharpened just with this technique.
Or you can get it roughly shaped and then switch to your sandpaper.
I just grabbed sandpaper from the hardware store, but you can buy little sanding pads—most
of you are probably aware of them—from the art store.
They’re just more expensive but they’re more convenient too.
They’re just several sheets stapled on a little flat stick, kind of a tongue depressor
type of stick.
I’ll just keep rolling this back and forth, just roll it back and forth as I’m sharpening it.
You can see how quickly I can work out a stubby or a long beautifully tapered.
There it ends up being about a quarter-inch, and that would be fine, too, for the way I work.
Then I’ve got my nice crisp line.
Notice I can start out really light like so.
That's our materials.
And that's how we use our materials.
That gives us a good basis to start with our wonderful models
that are going to show up here
and get on stage for us, and we'll come back and get that going in just a second.
get some of the body parts. We're just gonna grab body parts and
just play with some of the technique. Because you get a bigger shape,
you know, draw a pretty big hand, almost a life size hand. It's probably a little, even
maybe even a little bigger than a life size. Then you can really get into
knuckle shapes and the tendons and the cable muscles.
You can get a lot of shape design, you can pack a lot of detail
in there. You can have big, broad expanses of simplification. Just
gives you more room to play when you have that real estate. So I'm gonna draw
a lot of these pretty big so you can see them, so you can get close up on
your screen and so we've got a whole range of ways
we put down these tones and the shapes that end up
and gradation and hard edges that end up happening because of that. So here we have a
forearm. I lay again - as always - I'm laying it in like a five minute
figure drawing sketch and then I'm just building
my technique over it. And notice, as soon as I put in the tone I lose the
constructed shape. And that
brings a good point in painting - in this case we're really painting with charcoal, but painting with oil
or any other, you want to be a good enough draftsman
that you're not totally tied to your drawing.
And that way you can always find it again and you
can let the rich materials not feel tentative
but confident. And you can see I'm putting in that little cable there and
then I scratched in a little stair step. And that's what I'm thinking. I'm thinking of
box logic. Everything's a stair step. It may be a
very curved, wandering stair step. I may end up
carpeting that stair step by bringing half tone and rounding it off, but
I think of top and side, in this case. Everything that turns up
and to the left gets lighter. Everything that turns down and to the right gets
darker. And so I have the box logic in mind. Two value system. Everything
works off two values. And then when I start rendering it becomes two value ranges.
I use a lot of line in this technique because I love
line. So you can absolutely, and if you're a good Italy
style, good card-carrying traditional realist, you would
really play down, or completely eliminate the line. If I wanted to separate
the forearm, I wouldn't put a line separating the forearm
foreground from the background, I would put in a
new value and separate it. And if I'm gonna deal with a real strong foreground,
background relationship, then instead of a two value system I'll do a three
value system. So
anyway, you can take that for what it's worth. If
you'd rather not have that linear quality, some people like it, some people don't,
then you just put a silhouette of a different value up against it and you're set.
Now one of the things - a little snowman there - I just wanted to
remind that it looks more
sophisticated if - and be more realistic -
if you have one form intrude into the other form, rather
than just bump up again. A snowman the head just sticks on the body
and it's lumpy. As opposed to these forms, these
cable structures cut well inside the contour of the
form above it in this case. Here I'm putting
a gradation of a little bit of the bicep there. But really I'm
putting all those marks, those dark tones on either side of that.
light chunk of forearm, that top plane of forearm, so I can gradate the top
of the forearm darker, down to the hands that are gonna be lighter.
And so, if you get a nice shape
of forms, construction, nice shape of
shadow on the forms, by laying in that thick
rich core shadow, then giving a nice
value to the shadow that's distinctly darker than light side
it's gonna pop beautifully. And then if you do a gradation - you don't have to -
but if you do a gradation throughout, from top
to bottom, left to right, any kind of gradation, it's gonna make it look
very sophisticated and complex. It's gonna be dramatic because that
gradation is gonna move the eye through,
in this case kinda down through the arm into the hand.
And it's gonna feel more realistic without ever having to do any rendering.
And if you come back to those simple, two value systems of
shadow and light, come back to that core shadow and gradate not up and
down but gradate across, it's gonna round that off. It'll look even more
sophisticated. And then you can add, if you want, secondary,
tertiary, lesser forms. There is doing a little bit
of mark making, going across the forms. Just to mix things up, so not everything was up and down.
Going up and down like that you get these ribbons that stair steps, these
facets down the length of the diamond basically. Going across
the form can give kind of a sense of tension, kind of like
stretching fabric across a bulging muscle. Like
a super hero costume or something. It gives just a different direction.
And those long axis marks that we're making, whether they're core
shadow or contour or now highlights,
when we do the long - mark down the long axis form, they're
actually gestural too. They're taking us down through the next form.
So notice by pushing that upper forearm really dark earlier, now it gives me
a base of dark - relatively dark half tone. And I can lift the lighter
half tones and highlight out and get that secondary
dramatic pop of highlights popping off half tones.
So when I decide on a half tone, I'm gonna decide on it based on
the value of the shadow first, make sure it's distinctly lighter than the shadow.
So the darker I make the half tone the darker I need to make the shadow.
And then also how much I want the highlights to pop. So on the wrist
I can't have any highlights at all because it's not dark enough. So if
I want that into the wrist as it goes into the back of the hand
to have highlights I'm gonna have to knock it down. The upper forearm
I've got plenty of value to pop out lighter halftones and
highlights. And so that gives me a secondary, dramatic
statement and I'm
able to get into some really wonderful, little details, lesser details on that big
real estate, that big architecture that that created.
So it's just a matter of priorities.
And then you can go back and forth. I can say well I love all that, but those
highlights and lighter half tones are a little too strong, so I'll dust them down.
Or the dark half tone's a little too dark, so I'll
lift them up with a kneaded eraser. So
any or all those things.
it was actually Rashid, he's a great model. And then
we're gonna do a new one, I believe it's Bridget we're gonna do.
And do a more full figure.
When I'm trying to practice doing the figure with this technique,
if it was a new technique, or I'm teaching it to students, or I haven't done it for
a while, or I'm just not warmed up,
so my confidence level isn't up, I'll often times do a
back view because it's quicker. There's not the breasts, the bellybutton,
you don't have the features of the face, the throat and neck. You just
have the torso, kinda the hourglass or bean bag design
of the torso. And so they're fairly big shapes. Of course you can
get into all sorts of details of the shoulder blades and erector
muscles and there's lots of - ribcage and all that kind of stuff. But you can make
it very simple. And then
deal with less complexity, makes it a little easier. So I like doing
back views for that reason. They're gonna be quicker, they're gonna be simpler,
probably feel more confident in doing
Okay. And again, work from the core shevs, not the only way to do
it, it's the most efficient way to do it. And I've actually, from almost all my
career, even when I illustrated, was know for being very
quick. Being able to work quickly. And it's because of
my construction of style and because these kind of short
cut kind of things. Working, coming up with a process,
where I get the most important things down first. And if I have time with my
deadline, if I'm an illustrator, or if I have time with the model
before he or she leaves I could add more information. But I've got the big picture
stuff and so I can stop sooner than a lot of other
artists and it will feel finished. Also, by doing the big things,
when I get into the little things they won't subvert, or less likely to
subvert the big things. For example, if I add on
several rib and serratus structures
into something, or add the shoulder blades onto the upper torso for example
I'm not, I'm gonna more likely not make the mistake
of having the little ribs overwhelm the big rib cage
I'm gonna have that big barrel of the rib cage because I did that first, turning
out of light into shadow. Or dropping out of
strong, powerful light into more ambient
light, farther away. Notice I can change my mind very
quickly, just like I could, would in oil paint. I can
make a different statement, go a different direction, or just correct a bad
proportion or a bad shape design choice. Here I'm laying
in some of the dark fabric that she's on. She's sitting on a
stand, we got dark fabric underneath her with a pillow so that she's comfortable
and then there's a - just a block, a constructed block
of wood, you know a big box that we have the pillows and the fabric
going over. So those create these fun folds and I'll pick those up to give
a vignetted environment. That way if I decide to turn this into a painting
that has a full environment, I've already got some of the feel of that.
You can see when I rub that in, I smeared out some of that rich black
cast shadow stuff on the left side of her torso
and dragged it in and it's this kinda weird smudge in there
that I'll want to correct. But with my eraser it will be easy. I'll just come up to the,
just like the zigzagging technique to blend dark tones out of the core shadow
I'll come up with a, my eraser, and do a zig zagging
technique from the edge - from just off the edge of the
dark shadow edge and zig zag back into the -
up and to the right of that form and clean that up.
It will be easy to fix.
Alright, let me let the model take a break
there. Usually we do about 25 minutes,
20 minutes depending on how difficult the pose is.
And then the model takes a break, comes back fresh
and I have her get back into the position. And it's never
exactly the same as it was before, it's a little different. And I actually kind of like that.
Because then she settles up there and maybe the spinal -
the shadow on the spine's a little bit different. I like
it better. Or I like it better the old way and I'll just stick to my
original, constructed shape that I did. or I'll ask here
to adjust her position a little bit. Life your chin up, scoot your hips
out to the right, away from the supporting block, whatever it is. So I have choices and so
she'll get up, on a pose like this it's, whatever it is, two
hours or an hour or I'm not sure how long it is,
she will take several breaks. And I'll come -
and so I'll have - it will always be a little different and I'll have
maybe three or four or five slight variations of the pose
as she settles into them each time and I can take the best
constructed, most beautiful shadow, shapes, or
contour from those four or five choices.
S notice I use
the - put in the shadow to correct the
And also I find that when you use rich
values, or rich colors,
it just is different. It has a different
overall proportion to it than line.
When you do line you'll say oh that looks about right and then when you do
the value you'll see - think oh it should be a little
thinner, or the head should be a little bigger, or the spine should be a little
more curved. It just has a somewhat - and sometimes they have
surprising great amount of difference. There I'm cleaning up that smudge there.
Zigzagging along the border
between the two values and then, you know, cutting
those smudges away as I move up into the light.
Just the reverse of what I'm doing with the core shadow, where I start with the core
shadow and zigzag blend it down into the shadows.
Now I'm gonna zig zag and blend it into the reverse
in the subtracted method with my
eraser. I'm picking up some of those shoulder
girdle areas where it comes off the armpit, into the shoulder blade, all those
connective muscles, the teres major and minor, the infraspinatus,
all that kind of stuff. And just laying those in. And this can
be - I do a head a little bit later in this series. You'll see
it in a little bit. It can be more painterly or it can be really
tight, like that form was quite tight.
Here, it's not quite as tight but the process
will be the same. If I want to make it painterly then I'm not gonna -
I'm gonna lay those strokes a little more raw. If I really want to dial it in
then I'll really scrub and work the surface
strongly so that those tones really embed in, like I did
on the forearm. This is probably going to end up somewhere in between the two. Pretty realistic
but not as perfect
of gradations and not dialing in on all the less shapes.
just do a thigh. I love -
and this is from live models. This is
Barry. Model Barry - terrific model I've used a few
times. Rajiv I've used for years, Barry I've only used a few times
but he's just terrific. And I
love doing body parts because then I can get in there and I can spend
whatever, half hour, just studying knee
caps and knee structure and how the thigh
quadricep muscles come into the knee structure, the patella,
the protective sacs around
it that protect that joint, the patellar tendon,
the common tendon on the quadriceps, connects in the shin bone.
How the tibia comes to the surface and then submerges.
You know all that stuff, all the structural stuff, anatomy
stuff, engineering, leverage systems of the body.
You can really get in there and really take the
time to understand it, to see the possibilities of design
of pushing it, you know, figuring out the character of that particular
area because we get, especially if you're on the West coast in America,
we tend to do a lot of sketch classes so we can get the energy and the
vibrancy. Also there's the entertainment industry and so there's a lot of deadlines.
There's animation where we want to keep it simple and alive with the
energy so getting that sense of life is critical.
So for all sorts of reasons - we have the beautiful sunsets and the sun's gonna constantly
be changing so the landscape painters - all that has influenced us
fairly fast. But there's the - and so
you tend to spend five minutes, 25 minutes, maybe a couple
hours on the whole figure. Maybe even a whole day on the whole figure.
But you only get a certain level of finish and a certain
level of analysis on each body part and then that's it.
And so maybe that's okay for the torso where you have relatively
set, relatively a big set
of a few muscles, a few architectural shapes. But
the hands, the joints, the individual features, those
things often times we have just kind of a general knowledge, not
a real specific knowledge. And we may well not have, at all,
a real opinion on how those shapes should
go down and how they should be pushed, compared to how
they are in nature.
You know, how we might want to stylize them.
it's nice to pick a body part - and if you're practicing a technique we wanna
be able to focus in and develop that technique when we're learning it. Here I'm
talking about adding secondary forms. Notice that everything I did in that
thigh and knee, all those half tones, were connected to the
shadow in some way. So if I do a little detail, a
half tone or a little shadow shape that floats out in the center, it's gonna tend to just
be stuck there. It's gonna be lonely and isolated and surrounded.
If I can somehow attach it to the core shadow, bring the
half tone out of the core shadow, or bring that central shape
as I just did to the right there. That little zigzag, that little
secondary form is coming out of the primary, architectural form.
But if I can't do that, at least I can get that little
lonely shape through the alignment of other shapes.
Like all the pearls in a necklace or the half tone that draws out of the
long axis to that shape. Then I can have it relate back
to something else. Maybe the contour, let's say. So that's
what I was doing there. It's important that we don't have these lonely, just spots.
That we make everything
a community. Everything is in relationship, in connection
with something else. Okay so now, this is Barry.
He's doing this nice standing pose and I'm just picking out the head.
Just to work on the head, to
try and play with the shape designs there. I'm not
trying to make it a likeness, although it's vaguely so. I've made
a little more burly, kinda a little more heroic -
not that he's not, maybe, heroic, but
a little more, I dunno
tough. A tougher version, more craggy
version of it. But also I wanted to do a more painterly version of this.
So I'm doing the same level, sophistication
of the lay in. I'm working out that skull in the forehead
making sure that the inside, central eye, his right eye,
in the center of the head, is higher than the other eye.
Make sure the ear is lower, make sure I get that same high to low,
front to side relationship, not just from the eyebrow line to the ear but
on the skull. The front of the skull to the side of the skull. So I'm thinking like a box.
So now I might round the box into a tube or an egg. I started out with a square
box idea, adjusting how long I want the beard.
Figuring out how the mustache and sideburns beard area
track over the barrel of the mouth and track along the cheek and jaw
and once I'm pretty happy with that I come in again,
pick whatever area I want to work on. Sometimes it's a little tiny form,
sometimes it's as big as possible form, sometimes it's a difficult form
that really excites me. I'm really excited to get the shape design there. Other times
it's an easy form so I can build my confidence and kinda get to know
the features and the personality I'm drawing.
And then I'm just gonna work all the way, in this case, up the forehead
getting the shapes of the skull cap, fitting into
brow ridge and the corrugator muscles and all that kind
of stuff. Deciding I wanted a little bit more skull there than my initial
lay in. Feeling that chiseled -
real chiseled silhouette of the
thinner, rounder skull against the sharper, wider
ear. Getting a little bit of the shaved head, actually the value of
the hair of the shaved head, like you might have a two-day growth on a
beard. And then go to the core shadow,
load it up with pigment and then use that to blend out
to get all the shadows in. Letting it
fade into the background, overlap the background knowing that it's a dark background.
And then knocking down the half tone of the nose so we get a highlight
of the nose and some of the secondary structures of the nose.
I'm seeing the front of the nose, the whole nose goes
darker because there's blood in that nose except for the highlight. Only the front of
the cheek and the front of the eye socket with the eyeball in it is dark
for the face shape.
And then the side of the forehead, the top of the
skull, side of the cheek and the ear, which is on the side set lighter.
I'm getting that beard and mustache area, working around
peekaboo mouth, lips showing up.
I'm not blending that beard as
aggressively to smear it in, letting it be a little more textured although it doesn't show
up real well on the camera. But the texture is a little more textured,
a little more rough. More like the rough
tones I've got going off camera to the upper left.
Just so that the hair has a slightly different texture, it's not as smooth.
There I'm using the stump to work out those little shapes.
of the ear. So I put a little mark with my chalk and then
blend them with my stump. Accent the ears, it bumps against the
side of the cheek there, off that zygomatic arch,
into the zygomatic arch. You know, pick in that little
interior accent. Notice how all of those half tones on the front of the face attach
to the nose bridge and work up into
and around the brow shadow and the inner eye
shadow. So I'm
keeping this painterly. And you'll see that with Sargent and his loose sketches
in oil or in his
loose - his sketches in
charcoal, which is what this style is based on. He'll usually have
some pretty painterly marks, like I have in the beard, around the cheek
and he'll come into other areas and dial it in a little bit more like I did on the ear.
And so there's kind of a,
you know, a lost and found or a coming and going
of more careful design and realism.
I'm really just knocking down the whole front plane, inner front plane of that
shadow. And then sketching out in line, which is not
realistic the limits of the head and calling it good. I'm
not really picking out the eyelids and the eyeball and iris on the eye. Just spotting
the ball in the hole basically. But it gets
the idea across, especially since there's such a dramatic shadow.
Or a dramatic light situation there.
Bringing a little painterly hatching up in to the hair, the shaved head.
Let that feel a little different than the buttery, smooth
skin. Showing off his neck,
you know, and not
paying too much attention to that neck wouldn't probably be quite that long.
I made the beard a little longer to make it more substantial. And I kinda chiseled the
bottom of the beard. So you got a front - kind of a front, top plane
coming off the lower lip that would be catching light if it was able to,
but it's so dark you don't. And then that bottom of the
beard, that bottom thickness like a wedge, like a cigar
box tilted so we can see underneath it a little bit. So there's
a squareness to the bottom right corner of that beard that suggests
a boxiness even though there's no light and shadow form on that.
So then I just finished dragging a little bit of that lower cheek,
which is also a front plane down around the mustache. So now I'm gonna do a
hand and a forearm. Before I just did a forearm actually. This is
Barry's hand too. He was holding kind of a ring against his
hip. And there's a really, pretty nice hand there with the
forearm and you had these nice tenuous connections off that
forearm and you had these nice tenuous connections off that thenar eminence
that flesh underneath on the palm side of the thumb. And so you have
that big egg there, and then coming off that you have the
ligaments and tendons of the wrist and forearm so
that you've got that thumb structure attached to the side of the
hand with the fingers on it. And then all of that thumb structure,
the back of the hand have these long, tendonous,
gestures that flow back into the meat of the forearm. So you have this
nice interlocking. You've got these littler structures in the hand
that then, because of their tendonous connections, you got these
stringing forms that cut way back in. So you get this nice,
fluid movement like current down a river.
that interlock the forms in front
with the forms behind.
So again, just come into the shadow shapes, blocking those out
You know this is pretty quick sketch so I'm not
being super careful, but at some point here, if I hadn't already done it,
I stop and I actually walk up because
I'm about twenty feet away from him. So drawing a thumbnail from twenty feet away
it's gonna be, you know, a 32nd of an inch visually
to me. So I'll go up there and take a look at it. And that's a good strategy, get up there.
If I really wanted to detail the eye on our bearded figure there
on Barry, I would have walked up and gotten really close to that eye and taken a look
at the eyelids and exactly how
the pupil and iris set and if there's light catching on the thickness of the
top edge of the lower lid and all that kind of stuff.
So don't guess there. I think at this point I've gone up and looked.
So don't guess, actually go up and observe it. Unless you just
want to stylize it and make it up, go up there and take a look. How that
nail fits into that, kinda spoon shape of the thumb.
And how those, how the
end of the fingers in shadows separate from the finger behind it.
Maybe the fingers behind it - really be clear then. And go up several times if you need
to. Oftentimes we're shy to do that in class, but it's really important.
When I was teaching semester-type classes years and years ago in college
I would demand that
they go up. It would be part of the assignment. I would say you can't get out of here unless they go up
there and take a look.
Actually at this point I think he's maybe taking a break.
And the nice thing about taking a break
is you kinda get a fresh eyes on something. So I saw
something when I came back to the drawing of the hand, I had saw something
that I didn't quite like. I wanted to change it a little bit on the face.
So I make those little adjustments.
And then get back to business. Okay, now I'm gonna pick
those overlapping rings of flesh, kind of like a garden hose
rolled up. As they wrap around that inside of the
thumb there. And I'll visualize that, the coiled
garden hose, coiled snake idea, and that will give me a sense of
the shape design of those several things together.
And, you know, the spoon of the end of the thumb, that kind of stuff.
Gives me some in, some personality, some
visual to work with that can help.
You got the dome of the knuckle and the tube
or box of the finger. That kind of thing. And how does that lumpy tube of the knuckle
meet that long, relatively long, smoother
statement of the body of the finger. And
how does that role into a coiled up tendon
or a vein.
That's a wild compound curve on the top
of the back of the hand. That's just a vein coming over those tendons.
So now I'm kinda working out the knuckle joint.
It's almost like a dumbbell. You've got a big lump on one end and
thinner rod between and then a big lump on the other.
Big boxy shape or big egg shape or spoon
shape, whatever it is. And so it's kind of a dumbbell idea.
There I was trying
to establish the top of the hand, the back of the hand, a little
darker than the side of the hand where the thumb sits on. So I laid a tone across that whole
top plane, or most of it. Now I'm pushing those overlaps
That thumb's inserting way into that bulging
thenar eminence. Here I'm making that top of the
knuckle going even a little deeper. There's that tendons.
They can just be thin, little strings of tone or
And then kinda that
tear drop shape of the thinner wrist into
the thicker forearm.
correct and thin out that wrist a little bit. I'm gonna want those,
you know, the cast shadow over
the ribcage casting over the forearm. Cast shadow tracks over
the character and the volume of that form. So that shows us that
egg like form nicely. And then I'm picking up some of those
tendons on the under side of the wrist and on the flexor side of the forearm.
just to stretch the
momentum of the hand and the wrist well into, up into the forearm.
And that's gonna help us
feel that insertion and that sense of deep
connection and deep perspective, where we're much closer
to the thumb than the thenar eminence and the thenar eminence much closer to
us than the wrist, and the wrist is much closer to us than the forearm itself.
And then I'm just using line as I will usually do
in these sketches that are - although this is quite
tied, it's not fully finished. And even the paintings I will tend to default to
line in the shadows as
Sargent would do in these or Rembrandt would do in these.
Just keeping it really
simple in the shadows. And so all of the real nuances
are in the lights and how shadow, half tone
turns into - or light, the half tone
turns into the shadow. There I'm getting the back side of that knuckle.
Alright that was
our lesson, I hope it helped. We got to see how the materials worked, we got into
some areas to show the fine details of like the hands, with all those
intricate parts, the rhythms, how to build it up, how to start it out
I hope that helps in your own work and I hope to see you next time. Thanks so much.
Free to try
1. Lesson Overview1m 0sNow playing...
Watch the whole lesson with a subscription
2. Materials for Charcoal Drawing13m 9s
3. Tips for Mark-making24m 51s
4. Rajiv's Arm7m 12s
5. Bridget's Back8m 30s
6. Barry's Thigh, Head, and Arm18m 56s