Got that loose style? Not yet, but I’m working on it

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

  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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