Using white charcoal for highlights on toned paper can really make your life drawing come alive!
Here are some of my favorites:
"Twisted girl" Charcoal drawing with foreshortening
This was a difficult pose and there are a number of things wrong, however, I am especially proud of her feet.
I always have trouble drawing the underside of feet but somehow in this drawing I managed to do them well. I think the reason why feet are so hard to draw is because when you stare at them long enough they start to look like some horrible weirdly shaped things and that can freak you out a bit! (I don't recommend looking at her feet for too long!)
The white charcoal highlights are very subtle in this drawing because the paper is a very light grey.
"Girl on pillow" Foreshortened pose in black and white charcoal
This was a lovely pose, the extreme foreshortening makes it quite interesting.
Normally it's difficult to capture this view point in a natural way but I feel that this drawing worked well for some reason.
I really like the patterns of light and shadow as they wander across the curves of her body!
"Seated girl long study" Detailed charcoal rendered drawing
This is a really nice pose and I took my time to get it all drawn in as accurately as possible. It's nice to be able to leisurely sketch away without feeling rushed by a short time frame.
The light was almost directly coming from my direction so there weren't many large shadow areas on the model. I like drawing from this position because it means that there are a lot of fully lit areas that need to be rendered with white charcoal.
I love adding white to a drawing, it lifts the subject off the page and gives it a life of it's own. Of course you can only use white effectively on toned paper.
"Man with hand on head" Life drawing in side view
This is a section of a larger drawing. I like the way the profile of the model's face catches the light.
"Man crouched holding leg" Male nude in charcoal
This is a nice pose of a man sitting on the floor crouching over from the side. I had a lot of fun following all the curves with my charcoal pencil with this one, when you look closely at the lines I think it shows.
I used minimal white charcoal for the most important highlights.
"Man on ground" 10 minute charcoal figure drawing
In this pose you can see some nice muscle definition in the mans back as well as his shoulder blades. I also like how his right lower leg is foreshortened.
"Man sitting face on" Seated life drawing in Charcoal pencil
This was a nice relaxed pose of a man sitting on a chair face on. I didn't bother drawing the chair so it looks as if he's floating in space!
"Man sitting crossed legs" Rendered charcoal life drawing
Just a quick sketch of a seated man on blue paper. I love the light coming from the side, it creates some beautiful shadow shapes.
"Girl with no feet" Reclining nude in charcoal pencil
This is a large A2-sized life drawing and I only have an A4 scanner so I have to scan multiple pieces and stitch them together with Photoshop, unfortunately, the scan of her feet failed.
The white highlights are very subtle on the light grey paper.
"Five girls" A series of quick life drawings on grey paper
Five 10 minute studies of the same female model.
"Seated man in burgundy" Male figure drawing with white charcoal
You can really lift a drawing off the page when you use strong white on a dark paper. The only difficulty with this technique is it is hard to see the black construction lines when you first plan out the pose.
"David look-a-like" Black and white charcoal on brown paper
This model was really great. He has such classical features and this particular pose reminds me of Michelangelo's marble statue of David.
"Side-lit man" Nude male figure drawing
This is just a quick drawing that I liked with the male model lit from one side.
"Angela reading" Charcoal tonal portrait study
This is a friend of mine reading a book drawn from life.
I feel like there are two focal points in the drawing, her face, and her hands holding her book. Perhaps it would have been better if I focused on just one?
See more of my portraits.
"Hands in light" Light and shadow study on blue paper
In this drawing I focused on drawing the highlights with white charcoal and left most of the shadows untouched so the blue paper would show through.
"Seated man" Charcoal nude on brown paper
This drawing worked out well, however I think it would look much better if it wasn't cross-hatched. Sometimes I overwork things a bit. I need to learn when to stop!
I love the shape of the highlighted areas in white charcoal.
"Reclining girl" Charcoal life drawing
I love the rendered highlights in white charcoal in this drawing.
"Sleeping girl" Black and white charcoal life drawing
"Man leaning back" Charcoal drawing on purple paper
Just a nice sketch. I love how the white charcoal looks on purple paper.
"Burgundy girl" Black and white charcoal on burgundy paper
Just a quick sketch that I liked.
The white was done very roughly but it still brings the drawing to life.
Best Charcoal For Life Drawing
The General's Charcoal pencils are my favorite medium for life drawing.
Here's why I think they're the best:
- They have a beautiful sooty texture.
- They have strong charcoal leads that rarely break.
- They make minimal mess because they're in pencil form.
- They come in white which is perfect for highlights on toned paper.
- And there are many grades to choose from.
It works out cheaper to buy these in the following set:
- 3 × charcoal pencils (6B, 4B, 2B)
- 1 × white charcoal pencil
- 1 × kneadable eraser (Bonus!)
I highly recommend you try these out! (Amazon link)
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