feeling like an old dog trying to learn a new trick

I admit it, I’m envious of artists that are able to create expressive works of art.  The type of art that convinces the viewer that the lines, shapes, & colors just bled straight out of the artist soul and onto the canvas.

Now, I realize, from the artist point of view, that just doesn’t happen.  It takes a lot of time and work to develop the required skills.  I am trying to get there.  Half the battle for me is just letting go and allowing myself to relax and go with the flow.

Perhaps it’s just me, but, I think some of my work comes across a little rigid.  I really work at trying to produce the most realistic drawings that my current skill set will allow.  Sometimes that hyper-focused, narrow-minded, mindset can take over and crush any creative expression that may be lying just below the surface, waiting to spring forth.

So, for the last couple of weeks, I have been trying to loosen up, and to be honest, it’s freakishly difficult.  I will work towards rendering a realistic drawing.  I will get certain areas rendered to a level that is acceptable to me.  Then I think “Ok, that’s great, now what?”  Then comes the hard part.  Trying to figure out how to blend or fade the realistic portions into a loose, seemingly unplanned, somewhat chaotic background.  That’s when I become really unsure of myself and how to proceed.

But, I am working on it.  I seem to feel a little freer each time I attempt this. I think if I continue in this direction I will eventually discover a more confident and expressive artist.  Which, of course, is the goal.

Thanks for putting up with my rambling words.  Now, I will get on with showing you my latest portrait.


This is Vera, from Sktchy

I have been moving back towards toned paper lately, so, I was searching for a reference image with a lot of strong contrast. I like using toned paper so I can bring out the highlights, as well as, the shadows.

This image on Sktchy checked all the boxes. The image had a strong amount of contrast and harsh lighting.

I focused most of my effort on her face and hand and then let the drawing become more sketch-like as I worked my way out.

I used a charcoal pencil and brush applied charcoal powder for the background. I think there may be too much contrast between charcoal and graphite. In the future, I may try to stay with graphite for the background.

I have also been considering other mediums altogether but, really haven’t zeroed in on anything yet.

As always, a sincere thank you for viewing my work, I hope you have a great day. – Mike

12 thoughts on “ Got that loose style? Not yet, but I’m working on it ”

  1. Instead of using the point of the pencil, use the side of the pencil. This will require you to expose more of the pencil’s lead shaft and a different form of sharpening technique, but you can lay down tones and half tones very fast and and they look very loose. It also creates a soft edge, that if smeared with any kind of object (finger, chamois, blending stump, etc) becomes a disappearing edge and can create “life” or motion in a drawing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Impressive !!

    I too found that graphite and charcoal sometimes don’t make for good partners, I tend to stick to one or the other on a single piece of work these days.

    As an idea for a lighter, maybe more expressive touch with the charcoal stick, have you tried holding it at the far end – i.e. the furthest end away from the paper rather than the traditional pen-like grip? Can get some relatively light tones even with the darkest charcoal.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I like your setup! This may help you loosen up your drawing style a bit: If you are right-handed, try sketching with your left hand, or vice-versa, for an extended period of time. Then switch back to your right/left hand and notice the difference.

    Liked by 1 person

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