Tag Archives: charcoal portrait

Morning Glow – an original charcoal drawing of an egret

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This Moment.
Sunrise at dawn.
Wading into each others lives.
Togetherness and warmth
(Jack Thompson 2015)

Meet Denis, he’s an egret.  I mistook him for a stork initially but I am better informed now.  Many thanks to Diane Pickering for the kind use of her reference photo.

What I loved about this image was the soft glow of the morning sun hitting the twigs around Denis’ feet and illuminating his bottom feathers, making them glow a lovely warm yellow.

Quite a large piece I had initial decisions to make, do I keep it large and include the habitat or exclude the habitat and focus on the bird itself.  I decided to keep it large – he’s a large bird afterall and have a go at working with the habitat.

It became apparent that I would need to find a method to work with the habitat, I am not used to working on landscapes, my mind was overtaken with all the detail in those twists of twigs and stick.

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After experimenting with several different methods I settled on darkening the whole image and placing the dark shadows in first, then lightening it gradually, reinforcing the dark areas and lifting out the lighter areas.  This is how I work my portraits and fortunately it worked.  The trick is to keep a really light hand with the charcoal so you can blend it in or lift it out.  Here’s a quick video of me drawing it……

and another little video where I am describing the process …

Once I’d cracked the habitat I was able to work calmly on the bird itself.  Being a white bird it was necessary to keep a very light hand and concentrate on the lighter end of the grayscale.

Here is a little slideshow of all the bits of my progress shots…

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I hope you have enjoyed the progress shots of the making of ‘Morning Glow’, Denis has been framed in a dark wooden frame and is ready to hang.

Morning Glow - framed

Denis can be purchased from my online shop, click here or on the image above.

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Bird Art – Maxwell – original charcoal & watercolour sparrow

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This is Maxwell.

I named him after a character in a historical novel I was listening to whilst drawing him.

He’s been a saved photograph for quite a while, and in fact I have tried to draw him a few times.  Due to the fluffy nature of his coat it would only work with certain mediums.  Also, interestingly, I always have a problem with brown.  Lots of birds and animals have quite a lot of tan colour in their feathers and coats, for some reason that colour or tone always seem to be absent from my sets of pastels.

In the end I had to mix it myself.  It’s the first time I’ve used watercolour with charcoal but they work quite well as long as the charcoal drawing has been fixed before you start applying the paint.

Here are a few progress shots….

Maxwell, as with Betty was painted in charcoal initially.  It gives the bird a good flowing undercoat before working in my detail with the sticks of charcoal.  Probably a bit more controlled than with Betty.  Once the charcoal is dry its very easy to manipulate it, move it around, lift it off etc.

He always seems to be quite chirpy to me, singing away merrily…

The finished piece is available in my website shop – click here to go there!

Or click on the framed piece below…

Maxwell - framed

Father Figure – graphite and charcoal contemporary portrait

charcoal and graphite drawing of two men one a father and son portrait

Father Figure

 

This idea for this drawing came from a commission request.  The client, drawn at the front of the piece requested the drawing as his ‘father figure’ – to whom he always referred to him (I still don’t know his name) had recently died.  He also would have celebrated his 70th birthday some time during the portrait’s execution.

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The photo presented lots of questions.  The main subject was at the back of the photo, the setting and background were not particularly interesting or added anything to the image and it is a typical selfie photo where the subjects are looking straight into the camera, not really showing any expression or emotion and are frozen for the pose.  I wanted to show the bond between these two and so my main focus and the thing that showed that bond most strongly was the arm around the shoulders.  I decided to therefore allow that to come forward out of the drawing towards the viewer.

These are some of the materials I used for this portrait.  A combination of charcoal and graphite.  I also had a couple of new deliveries during the process so I included them too.  One was Grumbacher charcoal which I’m looking forward to using more in the future.  It seems very similar to Nitram to be honest but the hard sticks seem a little more useful than the Nitram hard which can be very scratchy.  The other thing I tried out was some carbon pencils.  The combination of charcoal and graphite in these pencils seem to help work over the some areas that had either been heavily charcoaled or graphite.

Some early progress shots.  I used Bristol board for the background but won’t be using it again for a combination of the two materials.  It’s wonderful for graphite but the charcoal struggled with the smoothness.  I had to work it in really hard to get it to make any significant effect.  Laying down the shadows and initially working out where to go with the charcoal and where to go with the graphite.

Here are a few more shots of the progress.

Successes for the drawing were that I achieved a looseness with the drawing that I wanted as well as keeping it tight and fine around the facial features.  In the past the charcoal has prevented me from working on fine details in a portrait, this is something that the graphite allows me to do.  The two materials work well together with some restrictions that are also probably dependent on the surface.

Failures for the drawing is that the pose was restricting, I shall in future be looking for more expression and I worked the eyes of the younger man in graphite far too heavily which has given it some shine.

More charcoal portraits from life, drawing Moeen Ali and thoughts on County Cricket…

Whilst welcoming visitors to my studio through Cheshire Open Studios I have been continuing with my portrait from life practise.  I visited Two Doors Studio in Alsager again on Friday morning, this time the second owner, Ruthie sat for me whilst I sketched away.  We talked and talked, it was quite therapeutic but during the time I took lots of photos with my phone and began sketching.  There was a certain look when she talked, gazing into the distance that I liked, a playful little light in her eyes…..

Here are some progress drawings..

and here is the finished portrait…

original charcoal portrait of a lady woman drawn from life wearing glasses

Ruthie


At the end of the week (23 – 25th September) I will be running my first art auction online.  It is something that quite a few artists do via facebook.  I have decided to keep it to my cricket drawings and prints initially to see how it goes.  The purpose is to obviously make sales but also allow customers to possibly get some discounts and to get to see all the drawings and prints in one place.

If successful I will run another along with a selection of other artists to bring you original drawings and paintings in an auction style event.

Here is the link to my event – DON’T MISS OUT!

https://www.facebook.com/events/235281573540614/

 In line with the auction I am also working on an original cricket drawing.  My first that will be available for sale for some time. ..here is a progress slides show..

 

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 The finished piece I have called ‘Extra Special’ as he is a very special cricketer and he is executing a great extra cover drive.  Here is the finished piece, you can view it on my website in more detail here or click on the image below…

original charcoal drawing showing movement of a batsman hitting a cricket ball by uk cricket artist

Extra Special


No sales this week but lots of excitement in the world of cricket as the County Championship comes to its conclusion. It’s my first year following championship cricket, I can’t really believe I have not followed it before.  Previously I have only really followed England cricket and had began to listen to it on the radio via TMS as I worked in my studio.  It is a great companion, light hearted, addictive, funny and a real breath of fresh air from all the rubbish usually on the radio.

Missing my test match special days I started listening to the county cricket coverage on Radio 5 Live Extra.  It seems an age ago that I first listened to a cricket match at Durham where they went off for snow and you could hear the wind whistling around the commentary box through the radio broadcast.  Living in Cheshire, without a first class county I have no real team to follow so kept an open mind.  Having to get used to a whole host of local radio presenters was a challenge, some are better than others, some are very funny and sometimes it can get quite heated.  All held together marvellously by Kevin Howells and the BBC radio team.

The real positives that I have to report are the following:  I now have a better understanding of how players move up through the ranks – previously they had just turned up for England and I didn’t know their history.  Now there’s a great range of talented cricketers all vying for national selection.  The real passion and knowledge of county cricket comes across so strongly through the radio coverage – these broadcasters know so much, they’ve seen so much and they share that with us in such funny, brilliant ways.  Finally due to the wonders of the internet you can follow the matches you choose, since most of them are broadcast on the bbc website.  As a result the last few weeks of the season were so addictive and so compelling I’m surprised I got any work done.

My favourite moment had to be Cally (Yorkshire) explaining how the ground would empty at Scarborough in time for the B and B brigade to get back and get settled in time for the evening meal – usually about 6pm

My thought and word of wisdom is this – as a result I went to watch a county game at Warwickshire.  I am a cricket fan and I have always been one.  There isn’t a whole lot of unconverted cricket fans out there, but by making county cricket more exciting, more accessible (possibly cheaper) with more competitions and opportunity to watch it gives more of an opportunity of current fans to get along and watch.

Exhibition & portraits from life

I have two pieces in an exhibition in Macclesfield, Cheshire.  Typically the day I needed to drive to drop them off coincided with Stage 3 of the Tour of Britain.  The route went pretty much on the route I needed to take, there seemed to be no best time to go, so I had to bite the bullet and head off.  I managed to get there and back without delays which seemed a miracle but it meant I needed to hang around Macclesfield for an hour.  Not daunted I wandered off to check out their Art Shop, a real rabbit warren of a shop where you could not see what you wanted on display but they managed to produce everything from various hiding places.

Being blessed with more than their fair share of cafes, I was spoilt for choice and settled on a cafe with tables outside, a lovely cappuccino and a great view of the pedestrianised street to sit and sketch on my new watercolour sketch book.  I don’t really like sitting in cafes on my own, unless I’m busy and this seemed an ideal opportunity to try a bit of plein air sketching.

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Having swotted up on this arty activity I took the right reference photographs to complete later or in case I was met by a sudden change in the weather…

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No sooner had I put pencil to paper and begun to plan out this challenging composition than a rather large lady practically dismantled the table and chair next to me to plonk herself down in the chair that virtually touched mine.  I ignored her as best I could, trying to concentrate the tricky lines of perspective when out of my peripheral vision I saw her slam down a packet of cigarettes, a lighter and her phone – she meant business.  Not wishing to spend £2.30 to be smoked all over I asked her ‘do you intend to smoke?’ ‘Yes!’ she replied with a curl of her lips and a definitive crossing of her arms.  I packed up my stuff and left – even leaving the lovely cappuccino (but not the cookie) and wandered off.  There is nothing you can say, we are outside, there’s ashtrays on the tables….grrrr.

So I moved to another cafe – this time inside and ordered a second cappuccino.  It’s a lovely cafe (though no chocolate on my cappuccino 😦  ) and I began on a new page to sketch this view…

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I love drawing but I am not a fan of watercolours.  You can’t blend them and they seem to have a life of their own.  I made a bold attempt and completed the sketch from the other cafe but next time it will have to be pastels I think…

 

On Friday we went along to the preview evening (my first one as an artist).  Its quite nerve wracking wondering firstly if your work is up, if it’s put anywhere decent (or is it round a corner where no-one can see it).  To be fair it was positioned really well.  I have entered my cat and mouse drawing….

charcoal drawing of a cat looking into a mousehole with the silhouette of a mouse in shadow

Cat and Mouse

and my Ballerina Waltz drawing.  The cat and mouse drawing had a lot of attention, people were just staring and staring at it, one chap stared at it for ages then went away and came back to stare some more.  If it doesn’t sell I will be really surprised.  A great collective of work on show at Charles Roe House in Macclesfield for the next two weeks.  I will pop along some time next week and check out how they are getting on.  I picked up a leaflet that said they are turning part of the building into an Art Cafe which is great news.

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Here are a couple of snaps about the open studios and a photo of my entry in the brochure.


Portraits from life

I picked up from where I left off drawing Lorna on Friday morning last week.  My plan was always to begin the drawing from life – take lots of photos and then complete it in my studio.  I see a lot of portrait artists doing this, it’s a good idea as it allows you to get a good sense of the expressions and little facial uniquenesses that we all have and can not be captured in a photograph as well as allowing you to calmly work on the fine details in your own studio.

Here is a make up of some stages of the drawing starting from where I had got up to from life and then the finished piece underneath.

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portrait drawing from life by alsager cheshire portrait artist

Lorna

It’s a fairly good likeness, although not perfect.  I wasn’t really happy with the paper because it was too smooth and didn’t hold the charcoal well. Also being grey the white charcoal stands out really well so there is a tendency to go mad with it.  On Friday I will try to draw someone else from life at Two Doors studio gallery in Alsager, Cheshire.

As a ridiculous challenge to myself (sometimes you wonder why you start such things) I decided to draw this photograph posted by Kate Wimbush Jewellery – she is a local jewellery maker and sourcer of great material.

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I think I was entranced by all the bright colours and the fresh fruit feeling – here is a progress drawing:

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I went through the motions with this one, firstly I wanted to focus on a row of 5 fruits and then make the other fruits background, loose and out of focus.  This didn’t work as the background fruits looked scruffy and lacking care and attention.  So I had to change and draw them properly with each little fruits individual highlights and shadows.  It was at that point that I realised what a massive undertaking it would be and began to loose heart.

However, not wanting to give up I decided to give it one more day and see where we were.  Adopting the mindset that this was an excellent opportunity to show the beauty of pastel colour in a bright and happy drawing I immediately began to love it and then the process of taking control artistically took over….

This should be finished over the next few days….

Faith & the Goose – original charcoal drawing

In my studio this week I have been working on my competition drawing of Faith and the Goose.  I am entering it into the Society of Graphic Fine Art’s Draw 16 competition.  I don’t expect it to win but it would be lovely if it got accepted and hung in their exhibition in October.  This is part way through the drawing as I have begun work on the goose, blending and shaping the charcoal.  I want the goose to look friendly because that will soften the look of fear on the girl’s face making the drawing quite sweet.  I want the drawing to make people smile, not for them to be afraid for Faith.

charcoal progress drawing of a young girl standing on a bench in a park with a goose walking over to her she looks scared

Progress drawing

I am also preparing my studio for show,  I would like people to feel they can come and visit, take a look at the original drawings and prints, chat about commissions and see me work.  So I’ve been busy framing and putting pieces on the walls, preparing prices and ensuring that its the comfy cosy place to visit and stay a while that I think it is.  If you would like to visit drop me a quick text, email or facebook message and I will let you know when  I am in.

art studio gallery of alsager cricket and pet artist

Taking the day off on Saturday we went for an art trip to Kirkstall, Leeds.  This was a fact finding mission to take a nose around their art trail.  I have entered my studio into the Cheshire Open Studio event in September and wanted some ideas.  It’s surprising to think there are so many artists who live so close to each other.  But, I reckon the same could be said of quite a lot of areas.  There are quite a few in Alsager that I know of.  It was so lovely to visit other artists in their studios and although I was worried about getting studio envy I was ok.  The only envy was possibly for the wonderful summer house at the end of one beautiful garden.

The tips that I picked up was to have a bowl of sweets or nibbles, to have a write up on display about me and my art, have a visitor book for people to sign, add their contact details and comments.  The things not to do was to have lots of friends in the studio.  It’s a tricky balance because in some places it felt fine and we were left to browse but in other places we felt intrusive and uncomfortable.

The great line I’ve picked up this week in my reading is The artist sees only that in the model which may help him to build up the look he would record (Robert Henri)  To me this means that when I’m looking at the model or the subject of the drawing I need to consider what it is I am trying to portray.  For the Faith & the Goose drawing it was the expression on Faith’s face, therefore everything needed to relate to that.  I had to draw the goose to show what she was afraid of, to draw the bench to show her position in relation to the goose and to show she was at a park.  Hmmmmm

charcoal original drawing of a little girl standing on a bench looking at a goose with a frightened expression on her face

Faith and the Goose

This is the finished piece of Faith and the Goose which has now been emailed off to SGFA.  Fingers crossed and we will see how it gets on.

Finally for this week I am going to explore drawing portraits from life – a true ambition of mine.  I would like people to come to my studio and sit for me to have their portrait drawn.  Initially it would need to be as practise because my drawing skills are not up to scratch on portraits or from life.  Plus I’m not sure what materials I would prefer to use – charcoal, graphite or pastels so lots of experimenting needed.  If you feel that you have an hour to spare and would like to sit for me then please get in touch, I can’t pay you but I give you a cuppa and lots of chat.

Faith & the Goose – progress drawing

This is a progress drawing as I am part way through it.  The drawing will be entered into my very first competition.  I am entering into the Graphic Fine Art competition.  I have no real hopes of it winning but I would love for it to be selected.  Selection means it will go on display in an exhibition in London – a real dream.  I  have picked for my subject my friend’s daughter who had a scary but quite funny reaction when a goose tried to say hello.

I loved the photo when I first saw it and asked if I could use it as a subject.  It should be completed this week.  I am working it in charcoal because that’s the best way to achieve the extremes of light and dark within the drawing.  The obvious focus is Faith so everything is drawn from her.

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