Portrait in charcoal

This is a recent portrait I made in charcoal. He is a new character in the book I am working on and I spent a huge amount of time practising this guy as I didn’t have any useful reference photos, or a model for that matter, and I didn’t want it to end up being a caricature just because I was trying to do it from my imagination.


Different races have key characteristics which an artist can refer to but that shouldn’t be an excuse to over exaggerate features just to make your point.  Gary Faigin (from Craftsy) briefly covers the differences in skulls and explained that Caucasian skulls in profile are flatter, African are sloping outwards (with the jaw sitting further out in relation to the forehead) and Asian skulls fall somewhere between the two.  I did a little more rooting around on this subject and there are even more skull types to learn about. I actually ended up drawing upon a variety of sources to make this drawing, including google for information and images about the skull, Faigin, graphic novels and I used an image of Christie from Alien Resurrection for his expression and age.

I stayed with charcoal for this drawing to be consistent with the rest of the portraits I have been doing but mostly because I am really enjoying learning to use this messy, unpredictable medium! I love blending with different brushes and I am discovering that depending on the coarseness of the bristle you can manipulate the charcoal in different ways. A small, flat, soft synthetic brush can push the charcoal in different directions, a finer brush loosely used in a circular motion can help blend small areas. Courser bristles can push the charcoal into the paper to help lay down a darker tone, and when finding the initial shapes this can be pretty useful in preventing greasy finger marks on the paper.

Bibliography and Inspiration


Faigin, G., The Artists Complete Guide to Facial Expression, Watson-Guptill Publications, 1992

Skulls and Race in google images

Alien: Resurrection, Directed by  Jean-Pierre Jeunet and written by Joss Whedon, 1997

Music I listened to

Faith and the Muse

Dear Love: A Beautiful Discord – The Devil Wears Prada

Don’t Stop Believing – Journey

The Big Stink – The men who will not be blamed for nothing


I love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness

2 thoughts on “Portrait in charcoal

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s