Discover for yourself how easy & enjoyable painting can be !

..... as you come exploring ART materials and ART techniques with me.

10 March 2010


This cheeky fellow turned up in my garden as I was shooting film for my upcoming painting lesson dvd which will be titled "Welcome to My Garden".
I couldn't help but shoot some film of him even though he wasn't part of my plan for the video production.I decided however to draw a charcoal portrait of him and record the steps I went through and offer this as a FREE Art lesson for anyone who was interested to try it for themselves.

Firstly I cropped the photo down to the centre of interest. I actually turned my photo and worked on a horizontal format. I did this to make the photos landscape format which fills out your computer screen better, but I also found it more comfortable to work on the picture this way as I had my paper stuck to a wall to make it easier for photographing, and it was very good to be working at a constant height.

I worked out my initial drawing on some “scrap” (water damaged pastel paper), and transferred the image to my “good” paper.
If you are not familiar with this technique here are the steps:
Trace your outline onto tracing paper (or greaseproof lunch wrap)
Rub on the back of the tracing with a light grey pastel.
Place your tracing pastel side down onto your good paper.
Redraw the outlines over your template.
Handy hint: to keep your tracing paper in place hold it down with a few small blobs of blue tack in the corners.

I realize this image is very faint and you probably can’t see the details properly but in real life you can just make them out. This is what you want on your own drawing. Just enough to see where you are going.
The paper I'm working on is 220gsm canson pastel paper  naples yellow in colour. I'm not sure why it appears white in most of the photos. (Need more camera practice I guess)
I find it best with charcoal to work left to right to avoid smudging. If you are left handed you may find it easier to reverse the image to make life easier (or cleaner). The very first thing I did was the eye ball. I then gradually worked outwards. For the eye , nostril and smaller details I worked with the charcoal pencil for the rest I used the extra thick stick of willow charcoal.
Handy hint: if you can’t stand the feel of charcoal in your fingers like me just wrap a folded tissue around the stick .

Add the stripes in with short jagged strokes working your way around the curves rather than drawing in the lines. If you draw in outlines for your stripes it is very difficult if not impossible to stop them from showing through the finished work.

I worked my way down to the shoulder and then concentrated on the stripe pattern of the front leg.
Again, DON’T DRAW THE STRIPES HORIZONTALLY. Instead work in short jagged strokes vertically.
I use the pencil for the claws and finer shadow areas between the fingers, otherwise it is charcoal stick.

Move down the body working around the pale spots. Work mostly with short horizontal and vertical strokes to build up the dark areas.



Add on the back leg and tail and the body is complete. Now stand back and reassess the shading.

The next photo is closest to the actual paper colour

By gently dragging the charcoal across the textured paper you will gain shading with a nice “reptile” finish to it. For the darker areas where you don’t want any light paper showing through, press the charcoal into the paper by rubbing with your finger or a paper stump. (If you use your finger like I did you will need to wash it periodically to keep everything clean)
The longer you look at a picture the more details you will start to notice. I have added some more folds to the skin on the neck here.

Moving onto the tree trunks. The trunk the goanna is holding is smooth new bark. To replicate this your shading edges need to be smooth and blended. Add the shading softly and rub the charcoal into the paper with your finger or stump.

The trunk behind the goanna is also smooth bark but not quite a smooth as the thinner trunk. Allow your shading to be a little bolder on this one. .
The bark on the final trunk is obviously much rougher than the other two. There is much more contrast in the shading here. I wanted the texture to show up without competing with the goanna for attention. To achieve this I started the trunk the same way as the other two by shading and blending then added the darker strokes overtop.

To soften the effect but still maintain the rough look I then erased the highlights with an eraser, working in short strokes with the grain of the bark vertically and diagonally similar to the charcoal strokes. I used a gum eraser for this. You will need to clean your eraser after every couple of strokes. A sheet of textured paper or fine sand paper is good for this.
To add the leaves I turned the picture right way up. I found it easier to work this way as I was no longer referring so much to the photograph for placement. You will notice also that I have not drawn in the leaves as they were but strategically placed them to direct attention back to the main subject.
You will notice if you refer back to the original photo that the goanna was actually well camouflaged . That’s fine when he wants to hide but for a portrait I wanted him to stand out.
This is what Artistic Licence is all about.

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Hi there

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Gympie, QLD, Australia
I love to paint and draw and I often teach to share my passion with others. Currently I am focussing on producing some step-by-step painting lesson dvds.