Friday, November 11, 2011


I have been fortunate to have so many friends who are superior photographers. Joseph “Joey” Viles is one of those guys; one I have known since kindergarten and whose work always impresses me. While perusing his website I came across a black and white image of his brother Sonny with his wife Pam. It is a great shot so I called and asked for a good print so I could do a charcoal drawing from it and he obliged right away. The picture was taken with a 4X5 Polaroid and has such a rich texture, very much like the fine grain Tri-X film that I loved. I’m not much for shots taken with a flash as they are usually washed out with too much light; but in the hands of a professional, a controlled flash can be an effective tool, like here.

So I dug out my old charcoal pencils from the 70s and started laying out ovals and blocking in values. I use a knife and sandpaper pad to sharpen the pencils and sometimes fill a 1” brush with charcoal dust from the sandpaper to block in big areas. Then I start to map out the geography of the face. There are simple mathematic formulas for this and I follow them as far as they’ll take me. Then I jump off the bandwagon and draw what I see, making adjustments as necessary. I keep going until it looks right.

I did use the computer a couple times here in an attempt to be contemporary. I posterized the original, letting me know big areas of value, and this was amusing. When we were kids, Scott and I did a lot of silk screen work and we had to make all those posterizing value decisions with only our teenage brains, so the computer did little to improve on those years of good training. At one point I took a digital picture of my drawing, put it in the computer and printed it. Then printed a copy of Joey’s original on top, the same size, but a different color. This told me where my drawing deviated from the original and I fixed what needed to be fixed, which was minimal.