Zebra – Charcoal Drawing
May 16, 2016 by Diane Marcotte
A way to add some fun to your charcoal drawings is to start with medium charcoal-toned paper. The lighter values are achieved by erasure and the addition of charcoal creates the darker values.
Strathmore Bristol Vellum paper ( use the smoother reverse side)
Stick of charcoal
TUFF STUFF™ Eraser Stick
Charcoal Pencils (a hard and a soft one)
I began by rubbing the charcoal stick gently against sandpaper so that tiny bits of charcoal fell to the paper surface. I tried to distribute the bits as evenly as possible over the entire page. Then I rubbed a paper towel in a circular motion over the sheet of paper trying to make the colour as smooth and even as possible. Rubbing it lengthwise and then vertically also helped to make the colour uniform.
It is easier, when producing a charcoal drawing, to have your reference photo in black & white. I traced mine onto the toned sheet of paper by first rubbing the back of the photo will a 2B pencil and then taping the photo onto the paper. Going over the lines will a blue ballpoint pen helps to keep track of the lines you have traced. As the traced outline wasn’t clear enough I darken it by going over it lightly with the pencil.
Now the fun begins! First I removed the charcoal from the white stripes using the eraser. To protect the background as I worked I rested my hand on a piece of clean computer paper. As I wanted to get back to the white of the paper – or as close as possible – I needed an eraser that I could scrub with and one that also has a fairly fine point to it. The TUFF STUFF™ was perfect for the job!
Once the white stripes were done it was time to add charcoal for the black stripes. Using a sharpened hard charcoal pencil I outlined the stripes as I wanted hard edges where the black met the white stripes. The hard charcoal pencil is also ideal for the very narrow stripes. Then, using the soft charcoal pencil, I “coloured” in the black stripes. At this point I was not concerned with any shading. This is the messy part! The charcoal flies about and I found I constantly had to sweep it away with a mop brush. Unfortunately the sweeping caused the charcoal dust to land in the white areas as well as the background. So I had to be quite gentle while sweeping the charcoal dust away.
Once the filling in of the black areas was done I went over the white areas again with the eraser to clean them from the dust. Now came the shading. It was quite noticeable in the photograph that areas of the white stripes were actually grey so I spent quite some time comparing the photograph to my drawing. It was also important that I show the roundness of the head against the body and the roundness of the body itself so that the zebra did not look flat and one-dimensional.
Here’s the final drawing and the reference photo…
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