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Charcoal portraits and drawings from your own photos

charcoal drawings

As with all dog paintings, there is a little story to go with them!

Behind the Scenes

This little chap is a very clever boy indeed. Named Twas, as the story goes, ‘Twas the night before Christmas’ when he arrived on the doorstep looking for a manger for the night. He was taken in and being recent empty nesters, he was welcomed into the fold and instantly made himself at home. Being good people though, Twas was duly returned to his original owners with heavy hearts and a request that should he ever be looking for a new home, they would be given first refusal.

As always in good stories, fate intervened and only several weeks later, Twas found himself back at his Christmas lodgings and has remained there ever since. It would seem this little boy (a westie cross jack russell) has found doggie heaven and now takes part in 10km runs with his Mum! The lady who actually commissioned this portrait as a birthday gift for Twas’ Mum has said he always gets her in trouble. His relentless staring at her gives the game away that she gives him treats so she is very often told off! Who could resist though!

I was sent many photos of this beautiful boy and this one is his Mum’s favourite, although it wasn’t as hi-res as some of the others, it just had to be. I took a while to decide to use it, in fact choosing another image to begin with but after hearing the others didn’t really represent Twas as he really was I gave it a go, and thank heavens I did as it worked out a treat!

westie pet portrait in charcoal

About the making of a charcoal portrait

It did seem very strange not to be using colour but I loved it! I got so carried away I got almost half done of this piece of dog art in one sitting! This is my first time of adding a blurry charcoal background and I think it gives the portrait a much more of a scenic feel. I found the charcoal (Derwent Pencils) a bit more difficult to blend smoothly than pastels but I think they are well worth the effort. As you can see I worked away for sometime before I remembered to take some work in progress shots! This one is 8×10 inches and I used white Pastelmat as at the start I wasn’t too sure about adding any sort of background so there was a possibility of leaving it plain white. I sketched out the outlines with a graphite pencil but very lightly so it would all be covered by the charcoal as I worked on it.

custom charcoal portrait

I used Derwent charcoals which come in light, medium, dark and white pencils. As with the pastel pencils they are a joy to use, soft and crumbly and a pain to sharpen but with the aid of a very sharp stanley knife I got there! I used a selection of colour shapers to work away the charcoal strokes and create smooth lines.

dog artwork

You can see how well I was getting along, this was the first stage I sent to the client, I got so carried away and then worried she may want changes after I’d got so far! Anyway, all was well and she was over the moon with the progress at this stage.

dog drawing work in progress

So this is how far I got in one day, with the Olympics on tv to distract me too! I think that shows how much I was enjoying myself creating this custom charcoal portrait. Once I’d got into the groove of how to apply the charcoal nothing could stop me! Due to the smaller range of pencils used (just four) it took no time at all to cover the Pastelmat, plus Twas is a black/grey dog so I didn’t really even need to work from colour into black and white making my job so easy.

dog portrait

My next update was a disappointment. I had hoped to have finished Twas by this stage, however after a day out and I duly nodded off on the sofa watching the Olympics and I was soon too short of time to get it done. I think fate this day was also not on my side when my ‘trusty’ tablet gave up the ghost and I had to make do with a rather small phone to work the reference from. It’s my birthday soon so all is not lost! It does make me realise how poor my eyesight is though and I think I”ll be going for a much larger tablet to save me from squinting quite so much! At this point, my client had wondered if the background needed lightening up as Twas is such a cheerful little chap, she thought maybe the moody setting didn’t quite fit with his persona. The problem is all of the updates have been taken indoors with a flash so don’t represent the portrait as it really is. My best advice at this point was to leave the change until the actual superstar himself was completed and a re-shoot outside with no flash (hoping for no sudden downpours!) to show it as it really is. The wonderful thing about pastels is they can be changed at the drop of a hat and I’m pretty sure charcoal will prove the same.

charcoal pencil portrait

So here the lovely little Twas all done before framing and collection. I so enjoyed using charcoals that I had in mind to create an original of my own choosing and went in search of supplies, Hobbycraft had an amazing deal and I picked up 10 sets for £30! Bargain of the year, now I just need to use lots of charcoal!

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