For this drawing I used vine charcoal and compressed charcoal on a 12″ x 16″ sheet of Strathmore 400 series 80 lb. drawing paper. My source photo is one I took of my wife, Sarah, wandering out in the snow.
I decided to start this drawing by toning the sky area with vine charcoal and a chamois cloth to achieve a soft look but still have some interesting marks. By starting with the sky I can work from the background to the foreground and not have to draw the sky “around” the foreground objects later in the drawing.
I tend to look for my biggest shapes to start my block-in and begin measuring to get the shapes correct. In this case, I started with the tree first since it is the largest object in the composition.
Using the measurements of the tree, I can accurately place my focal point (the figure). I make sure to spend as much time as necessary getting the measurements correct so I can avoid having to make major drawing adjustments as I continue through the drawing. I also look at my drawing in the mirror to further check for any drawing errors. It’s definitely easiest to make corrections in this early stage.
I try to develop my focal point early because it will set the value range for the rest of the drawing. My darkest areas will be in the figure and I intend to make the other elements secondary by keeping their values a little lighter in comparison. I’m using compressed charcoal for these darkest darks in order to get a dark enough value. I’m also thinking about edges in this stage since sharper edges will help direct the viewer’s eye to the figure and then throughout the piece.
The figure is now mostly finished so I move on to the tree but am careful to keep comparing values and edges to my focal point so I can keep it predominant. Again, I check the drawing in the mirror to see if anything is distracting from the focal point.
As I near completion, I continue developing the tree and also start adding the foreground snow. I keep the foreground simple enough so that it will lead the viewer into the scene without competing with the other elements in the drawing.
One last look at the drawing in the mirror helps me see if there is anything else that I need to adjust. If not, then I’m finished!