Drawing Portraits in Charcoal

Nathan Fowkes
9 Lessons (9h 11m)
9 Week(s)

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Course Description

Drawing portraits with the beautiful medium of charcoal is an exciting challenge but can also be highly difficult. The good news is that a handful of simple and understandable ideas can make it accessible to anyone willing to put in the necessary practice. This course will demonstrate the principles and give exercises and assignments for students to find success at portrait drawing. Each session consists of a tutorial and demonstrations that will guide students step by step through the drawing process, including:

* Tools and techniques to create compelling drawings

* Simple concepts to solve the challenges of drawing

* Understanding the structure of the head

* Understanding light and shadow

* The design of edges

* The design of portrait lighting

* Building a likeness

* Portrait composition

* Advanced techniques

CLICK HERE to download the list of required materials.

  • Pencil/Paper

Lesson Plan

In my first tutorial and demonstration, I'll give an introduction and class overview including materials, process and procedures. From there, we'll find solutions to one of the greatest challenges of portrait drawing: managing complexities so that successful drawing becomes accessible to any serious student.

When we carefully observe our subject, we tend to look at their features and anatomy in isolation, which can quickly lead to drawing parts of the head that don't relate to each other properly. In this lesson I'll demonstrate how to simply find the placement of the features and anatomy from any angle.

As we introduce light and shadow into our drawings, I'll demonstrate how to keep the process manageable by limiting shadows to only one value so that we can concentrate our rendering in areas of light. We'll take a careful look at how to render convincing form in the light with simple relationships of planes and highlights.

Sometimes, the best way to depict light is to create great shadows! In week 4, we'll take a close look at how to render form in shadows with a special emphasis on plane changes created by bounce light and secondary light sources. I'll include demonstrations with techniques to mass in the shadows simply and clearly, and how to render features within them.

This is our intensive demonstration week! I'll do two in-depth demonstrations of a younger female and older male model, showing the entire process of rendering form through light and shadow. We'll review the tools techniques and processes that will get us results!

Portrait drawing is potentially complex and even confusing but there are many simple principles that can make it manageable for you. In this week's presentation, I'll show you how the simple design of edges can create a tremendous layering of depth in your portraits, and I'll demonstrate how they can convey a great sense of purpose and likeness to your subject as well.

Some professional portrait artists prefer to use ambient light or skylight for their portraits. For week 7, we'll look at which qualities of light work best for a variety of portrait settings, as well as the pros and cons of each.

For this lesson, I'll demonstrate the key principle for creating a likeness. We often believe that if we can render the tiny subtleties of the features just right, we'll achieve a likeness and spend hours rendering with poor results. The way to actually achieve a likeness will be surprisingly simple!

Portrait Drawing requires a firm commitment but also great enthusiasm and fun. My final lecture and demonstrations will show you how four simple principles of composition can make the difficulties of portrait drawing cease to be a frustration and turn into a great joy!


Nathan Fowkes

Nathan Fowkes is a veteran entertainment industry artist with credits on 12 animated feature films including DreamWorks Animation’s The Prince of Egypt, Spirit, several projects within the Shrek Universe, How to Train Your Dragon, Blue Sky’s Rio 2, Ferdinand and Wonder Park from Paramount Animation and development art for Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon.

Additionally, Nathan has been sought after as a consultant for game studios to enhance the quality of their theatrical presentation. He has worked with numerous clients including Riot Games, Ubisoft, Blizzard Entertainment, King, Disney Interactive, Rovio, Supercell and many others.

Nathan is also well known as a teacher of color, light, design and traditional drawing and painting. He is a regular guest lecturer at Art Center College of Design and has taught at The Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art and the Laguna College of Art and Design. He's the author of the bestselling How to Draw Portraits in Charcoal and How to Paint Landscapes in Watercolor and Gouache. His work can be seen at nathanfowkes.com