Charcoal Portrait Sketch Demonstration | Chris Petrocchi | Skillshare

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Charcoal Portrait Sketch Demonstration

teacher avatar Chris Petrocchi, I help artists grow on their journey

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

6 Lessons (45m)
    • 1. Introduction to the ocurse

    • 2. Block In with Rhythms

    • 3. Values

    • 4. Edges pass

    • 5. Finishing touches

    • 6. Outro

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About This Class

In this professional tutorial I demonstrate a quick charcoal portrait in 4 time saving steps. 

Inside you'll discover:

• the techniques professional portrait artists use to get great results

• use Reilly rhythms to do an accurate quick block-in

• apply a simple value structure

• make an edge pass that pushes the illusion of volume

• add simple details in key areas to make your portrait come alive

Join me on YouTube live every Wednesday morning @ 8am PST 

Join the Draw Juice DISCORD community to get support and level up your art skills:

I want you to be the best artist you can be. I help artists of all levels crush obstacles, become dominant in their fundamentals, and overcome their fears to become the visionary fine artist or commercial industry professional they dream to be. For my 1 on 1 mentorships please visit

I look forward to seeing you in the course!


Visit More Classes To Improve Your Drawing

Draw Portraits Better Than Anyone Else

Draw The Head Fast With One Simple Shape

Draw The Front Planes of the Head Made Easy

Easy Way To Draw The Face Using Shapes

10 Minutes To Better Portrait Painting

Thanks for your support! If you want to know more please visit/follow me online here:

Chris Petrocchi | Draw Jucie Studio

P.S. I want to share with YOU my personal favorite tools that I love drawing with to help you get started. Links for each tool online included! Find the FREE LIST here: (Affiliate links included)

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Chris Petrocchi

I help artists grow on their journey


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1. Introduction to the ocurse: Hey there and welcome back to my portrait drawing mini series. I hope you enjoyed the first video on the three-sided head. If you missed it, definitely go back and check it out because it's so powerful and I don't want you to miss that. In this video, I'll take you through a clear four-step process using the Reilly rhythms to complete a portrait and charcoal. It'll make you look like you're an ACE with anatomy when there's no anatomy at all, it's just good tried and true design basics and foundations. Are you ready? Okay, Let's jump in. 2. Block In with Rhythms: Let's get into this. First, I'm going to just go with the big block in finding the rhythms of the head. So I'm looking, thinking of this as i'm, I'm about 20 feet away and I just see the big shapes. No detail. I'll find the average angle of the brow. The average angle from middle of the brown to the bottom of the chin. Angle of the chin. Yeah, I'm looking for for the planes. Basically, a big plane changes the big architecture, the big angles, the big overall impression of the thing. And I'm staying away from, from details. And looking for the plane change of the nose where it stops being the top of the nose and starts becoming an under. Those sort of descriptions are really important. So basically I'm hunting around. When I get the big shapes in. Then I refine it to a little bit smaller. The ER comes off the brow and the bottom of the nose, it sits inside that that general vicinity. Sits on an angle. Jaw comes right off the front of that. Here. At this stage I can be really loose. This is the funnest part really, because after this you really got to tighten down. More and more becomes a little more intense in terms of your concentration. Okay, so now I'm looking for this big plane, coming off the top of the ear, coming over the cheek, It's the zygomatic arch. There. I can find the placement of the mouth. There's a second plane. This is actually a rhythm coming off the bottom part of the helix of the ear, sweeping around, separating the muscles of them. A setter, the back of the face from the front of the face. I'm looking for anything that's going to help me give a good description of structure. We also have a cheek plane coming off the ER, right into the mouth. The great thing about knowing the planes and the rhythms is that the head basically draws itself. I don't have to think. And the less I have to think, the better. Oftentimes when you're working, working on a job, you just have to go, there's all kinds of time pressure and scheduled pressure. And you need to just be able to produce and sell a lot of these tools. Help that. So again, I'm looking where this is a front plane of the forehead, stops becoming a front and starts becoming an under plane. It starts turning vertical line from the wing of the nose up. I can place the tear duct of the eye and the angle of the eyes. It sits in the orbital cavity. They're going to hint here at the hair line. Trying to stay away from details and stay out of this block in stage and make sure that the big relationships are right. I'm looking for, again, the big architecture stuff that I can build off of. Once I get into it. Even more. Drawing through and around is really important. Drawing behind the neck, connecting the lines, see what they come out the other side. That's going to really help your piece have a sense of congruity between the parts. You don't want to just have a bunch of parts if you want this thing to really come together as a whole. So drawing through the object really helps bring those things together, creates a sense of volume and depth in your drawing. Block in a little bit of the ear. The ear is quite like a question mark and a letter Y put together. The letter y is inside that question mark. So that is blocking. We will go to laying in some values now. 3. Values: Now we're going to maybe step in a little closer like 15 feet were just the idea is to stay out of the details. We just want the big shapes. So now I'm going to go into the values and really delineate darks from the lights. And I'm going to look at this reference as if I'm just a Xerox, I'm a camera. I'm not thinking this is hair or a nose or material. I'm just thinking, is it a dark thing or a light thing? So I'm going to just use one part of my brain for a while just to assess the value. Okay. And do my best to push everything into the lights or the darks, That's it. So let's get into that. I'm going to use a piece of compressed charcoal that's sharpened to a point. And that will help me to both block in big areas, but also get down to a chisel fine line. If I need to. I'm going to keep the values hopefully within a kind of a key, like give myself a key, 50 percent, something like this, and sort of stay within that range because that'll help me keep my values on a control. And if my values get out of control, that's the quickest way for my drawing. They get out of control because I won't be able to really see what it is that the shapes are doing. So I just need to see the flat 2D shapes mostly. So another way to help me check my drawing, because as these shapes start to become dark and separate it into either the lighter, the dark family. They become like puzzle pieces between the light shapes and the dark shapes. And they can help me see the relationships better than if I just have a line work. Now it's one step, even more defined. And that's going to help me here. A really important thing in this step is to squint down. And when I squint down, That's a step that I'm taking. That will help me reduce complexity. So when I look at the model, it's all kinds of things going on there. And what I'm just looking for now as an assessment of the value. And I squint down almost all the way. I can simplify a lot of the things that's going on up there. When I squint down, all of this goes away into the dark. So it's not intuitive, doesn't feel right to do that because there's detail in there. But I'm just going to go ahead and trust that if I can't see anything in there, I'm not going to draw it. Once I squint my eyes, if it goes away. All right, it's not going to draw it. I'm going to resist getting in there and noodling around because I'm still in the block in phase and not in the detail. Another great tool for this kinda thing is the vine charcoal. And it's really good for it's so forgiving, you can really take it right back off if you don't like what you put down. And in that way it really is like, like paint. And so I can really kinda move this around and let the tool make texture for me. It's really good for making organic texture hair. And then I can, I can really take it right back out. And if I'm not happy with what's gone down. Okay. As I block this in and I'm squinting, I'm also looking for on the light side now we've kinda blocked in the dark side. I'm looking for on the light side. The lightest light. When I squint all the way down, just before I close my eyes and look for the lightest light and that's really on the tip of his nose. And a little bit here on his forehead. So I'm going to really keep that for the icing on the cake at the end, my focal point, when I squint down again on the dark side, it's the dark is dark. So I'm looking for really kind of here in a little bit in here and behind the ear. And coming in with the kneaded rubber eraser, you can kinda or your finger, you can separate out some values. So that is the basic blocking values. The next thing we're gonna do is assess edges. I'm going to be looking to pull architecture from these 2D shapes more or less. Where can I make things rounder? Where can I make edges harder or chiseled? So we're looking for hard and soft things, opportunities to pull architecture, pull dimension, or make it more 3D from these shapes. And that's our next task. So we'll be back. Now. We're going to do an edge pass where we assess the edges and this ask myself, is it a soft edge or a hard edge? At this point? We're trying to create more structure, pull some architecture out of the flatness of it. And it's time to tighten down a little bit more. We've been having a good time being kind of free and big about things. Now we're going to refine it down to the smaller and smaller facets as we go. So let's get into that. 4. Edges pass: When I squint my eyes, I look for hard and soft edges. When I squint my eyes down, I really see some hard edges pop out right under here, under the eye. And so I just make a statement boldly, really. That that's a hard edge. It's pretty simple and students really have a hard time with this. I find that they don't see the hard edges then all the edges on the picture look the same, which is middle of the road, kind of soft. And so that idea of pushing the edges really is a little bit of a mystery for some people. And I think that's part of the issue is some let's see. This is where I'm getting a little bit smaller refining piece down in here. What's happening on that lip? Are there any hard edges in there? And I'm trying to describe it, letting it emerged from that tone there. There is a under the eye, some fold of skin there that I want to make a notation of. And here under the eye, you've got a hard edge here and then it comes out and you can see the eyelashes being reflected onto the cheek. So they're a little soft and then it goes a hard again. And so now inside the eye itself, when I squint down, I don't really see an I I'm just holding back and I'm restricting myself to draw what I see. And I really just see the light on the eyelid. So I'm going to take that rubber eraser and just pick it out. Just look at that shape and the placement of it in the value of it. And see if I can just hint at the I in there. The less I do really, the better. So here we have soft edges. Very soft. Same thing in the nose. There is a hint of the nostril in there and only want to draw, get in there and draw the nose hole because it's going to really suddenly pop out. And I don't want to be really concerned with that. I want to be concerned with the plane change from the side of the nostril to where it turns under. That's really the structure. And I want to keep it at that level. Some of his hair, we can work the edge with the tip of the charcoal. Really a combination of the tip and the edge as I drag it along here, it's going to make some really lend itself well to hair-like strokes. And when I use the tool in that way, I don't have to work too hard. It just really happens because the tool is shaped it right? I know where the tip is, I know where the edges and it gives me some nice organic shapes that have hard and soft edges in them and they look like hair, which is really fun. And again, it's a little bit holding back. I'm not going to draw every hair, but the impression of hair is enough. Also edges here. Here it's very soft. Here we've got a bit of a hard edge of the shadow of the moustache coming over the lip and then pulling some hair out of that here, some hair coming out of there. The beard, I will just treat it like any other object. Really. It has a front, it has a side, it has an under turn that thing just like I turn a ball. And, you know, it has a highlight half-life core shadow, reflected light. And so I'm going to treat it as just a big shape, not going to get into the hairs. What matters is, is it reading is the big shape and does it have depth and volume to it? So nice crisp edge here around the color. This shape here. We're going to keep this simple because it's not going to be my focus, but I'd like to try and make a design out of it if I can sort of resolve this area, but not call attention to itself by being either unresolved or having too much details in it. But still kind of shape it off and say, that's his collar. He's wearing a shirt. Back here, gets bit dark and values. So now we've got the cheek really turning pretty well because we've got a core shadow here and we've got reflected light. And now we've got a cast shadow really, so it starts to turn better. Now after having really kind of done an edge pass, I'm going to go into the light side and work the half-tones. And also I'll be working the edges back and forth as well. So I'm doing two things at once. And let's see how when I use my finger and I think to just go ahead and do that. I'm hoping to again, describe the form and value. Squint. It's just pretty blurry. I can also work the edges so as to incorporate something called Lost and Found so that I have the edge here. Then I lose the edge into the background, becomes soft, and then it becomes hard again, I find it. That creates variety in the line, creates visual interests. And so we're after that as well. And this can knock back, It's a little dirty, we can just smooth it out a little bit. This is the fun thing about charcoals that it is like paint. I like to think of it as like oil paint that I'm putting on. That I'm able to push it and pull it as I push in and as I put darks down, I'm really pushing things in and making the go recede away. As I take charcoal off. For example, like that, things start to pop and come forward. So I'm pushing and pulling with the medium. And that's really fun. And we have some opportunity to lose the edge here. As part of the mustache blends in with the background. And we can play around with that until, you know, We get it how we want it. Rounding off the edge of the nose. It's not one of the hard edge things, It's one of the soft edge things. It's a core shadow right here and then a little reflected light underneath, bounce light. See if we can create a bit of a cheek here. So I don't want anything to compete really with the highlight that I'm going to put on there. So everything else, I just want to really knock back as far as value in the light side. As I drag this eraser through the charcoal, I don't know if you can see it, but it tends to smear it around and it becomes very much like hair. So if I know a little bit about this, I can use that tool to do a lot of work for me that I don't have to get in there and draw every hair, which is a really good say in here. I can come through and pick out hopefully some some hair. If it doesn't work with the big tool. I've got another tool which is a rubber basically a rubber eraser, but it's hard edged of cut it with an exacto blade. So the edges are very hard. And I can come in and really take out some detail if I need to. It's like a small brush, smaller oil paint brush. And that'll be enough hopefully to say here. So what I'm Wanting to pick out, here's this highlight. On the tip of the nose. A little bit of light right there against the hard edge of the cast shadow of the nose onto that mouth plane. It's a very tight line there. I could sculpt this out a little bit more. Rounding this out by trying to turn that back of the eye underneath. And that's getting a little dark, but it's okay, I can go darker in here. And here we really don't have much detail. We can hint in the shadows. You really just want a hint because it's in the shadow. So you don't want to really make too much of a bold statement in there as far as too many darks are too many lights. If I need to, I can get in there and sculpted out a little bit more as far as the lid wrapping around. And that might just say Enough, I'm looking to just really sneak up on it and stop when before I go too far. Now here we have some very interesting things we can play with as far as the wrinkles in his forehead. And again, we'll try to do that without overstating it. We have a little bit of shadow here going over the bottom of his lip. Kind of describing that form. Little bit of a hard edge there. This really just becoming part of the background and value. We can give that a bit of a design there. So always good to have two or three of the tool that you're using, especially if it's pencils because you're going to break them and break one. You've got another one ready and you just keep going. And then the other thing that we neglect as artists all the time is just sitting down and thinking we're just going to draw without really caring about our equipment. So looking for big shapes, just try to keep it simple. Now, in these creases, going back to the creases in his forehead. These are great and I wanted these are things that you love to do, but, you know, it's details. So it's almost like if I put down a line, is it really going to be too much? Is it going to be in the right place? Because a doubt there in the open and it's like cheese. Now I got to really show them. I can draw, you know, it's not hidden in shadow. I don't want to overdraw, overstate those things as well. And he's got a nice little eyelash here. I can, as an artist, I can pull that out and I can make a decision to highlight that, which I can edit myself. I can pull things back, I can call things out. And that's the choices that you have as an artist to do that is different, a little different from photography because you can really pull back and edit out and make the statement. You want to make this a bit of a highlight on that top of that eyelid. Everything that I add, every little bit of detail how to add now gives it more and more levels of reality. 5. Finishing touches: So far, we've been working this whole thing and we've been refining it down to smaller and smaller pieces. I'm going to take a step back. It's always a good thing to really see if the whole thing maintains the big impression. The big shapes works together as a whole. So let me do that and I'll be back. I will be working just on certain, certain edges and certain shapes, maybe even some line work. And you know, we're, we've got it all nice and blocked in and it's looking good. So I don't want to really make any new statements. I just want to continue to refine it so that nothing is popping out in the wrong place. And I'm calling bringing things out that need to be brought out as far as a focus, I think my focus now is right around in here, which is where I want it. This stuff is just all supporting it. So I'm going to look at that highlight right there. And just like a big paintbrush stroke, I'm just going to take it out as if I put white paint on and just leave it through here. I think this area is still needs to be knocked back, so I'm going to take that buying charcoals, knock it back a bit. And value term or I said that's going around so it's lighter here, darker as it gets back. And we can maybe chop out the ear a little bit. Carbon out. The year is really something that I just had to go ahead and memorize the shape of it. I had to draw a lot of ears over the years In my work and it just became something that I needed to commit to memory. So that helps a lot because it's a little complicated. We'll just kinda place it in there. We'll get to detail with it. It's a little too dark line. So let's see if we can indicate a little bit of hair here and their forehead. And come through with the kneaded rubber eraser and start to paint a little bit more. That effect of painting where if I drag it through, it's just going to pull the charcoal across the page and a very organic way. And I want to use that to create some hair. So let's see if we can do that. And this is a little experimental. It's kinda push and pull to wear. It doesn't always happen right the first time, but it sure is fun to kinda drag through and create those organic kinda mistakes. No trusting that you're going to see a mistake and say, that's a cool accident. Really. Some kinda trying to get that hair feeling. And again, I can work in and out of this fall day long, really. Which is fine. If you have the right kind of paper, then it'll really hold up to a beating. And you can have really fun doing this. Trying to turn a little bit the hair. Finding a little more opportunity here to just say where the hair moustache turns away from the light. It's creating some edges there. Here I can take some hair opportunities for some hair here. Sometimes you just gotta know when to quit. Just like give a little too far and then you're like, why did I just leave it? So kinda conscious of that and not overdoing it. But not wanting to stop, right? Don't want to stop. We're going to keep going. But you have to stop at some point and edit yourself. And that's really a skill is knowing when to stop is part of being an artist. Let's continue and continue refining. So I think we're ready to wrap it up. It's been great to be here. And I wish you good luck. I hope this was helpful and happy painting. 6. Outro: Okay, I hope this video helped you see one of the ways I approach portrait drawing. And there are many more. But once you understand, a drawing can be built up step-by-step using a few key ideas like the Reilly rhythms, shapes, values, and edges than your portrait drawings are really going to improve dramatically. Make sure to leave a comment down below about what you learned so we can improve as an artistic community together. All right, We'll talk to you then. Bye-bye.