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  • Hélène Planquelle

One Way to Improve the Realism of your Drawings

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

Thanks for joining me on my artistic journey!  In my last newsletter, I brought you behind the scene of the first charcoal drawing of a new series I have been working on (entitled "In the confines of fear"). Although I was happy about the composition and the play between negative and positive space, the rendering wasn't as fine as what I wished for. I was getting frustrated with this medium, as I find it very difficult to manipulate for detailed works on medium formats. 

Today's topic: the importance of ongoing learning... 

Being a self-taught artist, I learned most of my skills by myself, through repetition, observation, trial and error processes, as well as collecting technical tips from other artists. Although there are tutorials just about everything those days, I actually watched my first painting tutorial on YouTube probably less than a year ago!  And when doing so, I realized how proud and silly I had been all along... as watching 10 minutes of videos helped me to overcome technical obstacles I had struggled with for months if not years! Now recently, I have discovered this great online platform named Domestika and took several classes on it. Among them -and critical to my charcoal series- was the "Realistic portrait with graphite pencil" class given by Spanish artist Diego Catalan Amilivia: 9 hours going through all the basics of facial anatomy, the science of volume, light and shadow... up to the detail of how to draw skin pores! (Not that I aspire to this level of photorealism, but it's still interesting to know!)

I applied Diego's process to my drawing, although my format and medium didn't allow me to reach the same level of realism (Diego sharpens his graphite pencils like needles, and it's hardly possible to do that with charcoal pencils, as they are too crumbly).  In this step-by-step collage, you can see how the drawing slowly comes to life and acquires depth and volume. 

Here is the final piece, which is way closer to my vision in terms of realism. As I said, I have no ambition to draw pores or skin hairs, but the finesse of the rendering, especially of crucial parts like face features and hands highly contribute to the expressivity of the drawing. So realism serves a purpose and is not mere technical show off. 

When was the last time you learned something that changed your life?


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