Design Process of: A Charcoal Drawing, Rey
DESIGN PROCESS OF: A CHARCOAL DRAWING, REY
This is a charcoal drawing of Rey from Star Wars The Force Awakens which I drew in 2017 and I’m still quite proud of it. These photos are 4 development images that I took during the process of the drawing over 3 days. I took a few process photos of all my charcoals for my own reference and I’m happy to share this set with you today.
When starting a charcoal drawing I begin by choosing my photo (which can take days with me) and breaking it down into key lines, shapes and tonal areas. I then sketch these onto my page to make up an often quite terrifying face-like mess. From there it’s a long process of many, many hours, carefully drawing in the detail, getting the shading just right for each element of the face. I love getting all the slight variations in tone right that make up a face, using just what the black of the charcoal and the white of the page can provide.
As an artist, both digital and by hand, I don’t draw features in any particular order but like to skip around to whichever part of the face I feel like drawing in the moment. I personally think this is the best way to stay excited about the piece of art you’re working on. I draw best while I have radio shows or tv series I’ve seen so many times I know them off by heart playing in the background.
For my paperstock I use “Daler Rowney, 220gsm, Heavy Weight” cartridge as it’s a strong and robust weight to draw on, it takes fixing spray well and most crucially, it’s beautifully smooth. The uncoated but slick surface is like nothing else I’ve drawn on. It allows the charcoal to glide across the page creating lovely lines and means I can smudge and blend the charcoal with my fingers easily, making a single, flowing image. All this and being uncoated cartridge means it has a natural feel too. I like to use A3 size stock as this allows me to draw lots of detail.
I use “Winsor & Newton, willow” size charcoal sticks which are very thin and I prefer these as I want to get in as much detail in as I can. I occasionally use the odd large piece for filling in dense areas of black though. For rubbing out and tidying up the picture, I use fairly new rubbers with sharp corners which are very useful for delicately sculpting eyes and fine hair. I often buy big rubbers and cut them into about 3 or 4 smaller ones. One small rubber will do a few pictures then I just use it for other general rubbing purposes after that.
To fix my final drawings and stop them from smudging, I use a much cheaper but just as effective alternative to professional fixing spray, which can range from £10 – £20 a can! I use off the shelf hair spray and it’s amazing, a £1 can from the co-op contains 300ml which is enough for about 10, A3 pictures.
If you would like to see a speed art of this Rey charcoal actually being drawn, you’re in luck as on my Youtube channel, there is such a video. The last few charcoals I drew from this period, about 3 years ago, I filmed, edited and uploaded and I wish I’d done more of them but I’m glad this one was recorded as it’s amazing and weird seeing yourself constructing art and especially art your proud of. Something which made this drawing more special was that soon after the video went up my Mum and I showed it to my Grandpa who was an artist by trade and he thought it was really good which was lovely to hear.
While drawing Rey, I had particular trouble drawing her right eye, I went back to it again and again but I take joy in getting my drawing as perfect as possible and being an artist doesn’t mean getting it right first time. Personally, I like to draw faces and I’m fascinated by people, that’s why I choose them for my charcoals. I like art featuring people as I feel I can connect so much more to a person though their facial expressions and I find much more meaning and interest in that than landscapes or still life.
I drew a few dozen charcoals from 2016 – 2018 of people I respect and admire including friends, youtubers, singers and actors. Most people I’ve drawn, I’ve actually met since and given copies of the drawings to. Heart-warming ones include dodie, who I met in 2017 and said “it’s like I’m looking in a mirror. I can just see myself brushing my hair!” Hannah Witton who thought it was so good she tweeted it from her living room the night I gave it to her and Alyson Hannigan who smiled so much when I handed her a copy and said “Did you draw this!?” in amazement as she couldn’t believe someone could draw something that good by hand.
I know there are many people out there who can do a better job with charcoal than me but I’m not too bad of a draughtsman. I’ve learned a lot about human faces through doing these drawings and I’m sure at some point, I’ll do some more. I find it so rewarding bringing a person to life. Without me it would just be a blank sheet of paper and a stick of charcoal. I find it a fun and challenging but most of all cathartic. As someone who’s always struggled to do everything, I’m quite proud of them.
Charcoals on website: