|Andrea in Shadow
by Robert C. Dacey, charcoal drawing on Bristol board, 20 x 30.
This piece is a great figure drawing study in light and dark contrasts. It has a strong mood—mysterious and unique, like a film noir—and exhibits a strong richness. This study was done on a sheet of kid-finish (vellum) Bristol board that was attached to a slightly larger piece of Masonite using packing tape. The artist soaked the surface with water and toned it with powdered charcoal using a broad, inexpensive house-painting brush. This established a texture with subtle interest rather than a smooth, lifeless surface.
Note how Dacey split the page with a strong diagonal composition, giving action to an otherwise subdued, reclining pose. In this life drawing, the artist set up the pose with a single, strong light source that he adjusted several times until the shapes became interesting. He worked vertically, removing charcoal from the dried panel with paper towels, tissues, and rough bristle brushes to establish the middle tones. The lighter areas were created by lifting off the charcoal with a kneaded eraser. At some point, the artist decided the drawing had become "a little too slick," so he sprayed it with water until streaks ran down it, which reintroduced some interesting texture but did not disturb the heavier darks. Dacey points out that adding additional darks at this point can be difficult, because the charcoal may simply be "pushed around," compromising the distinctive texture. He advocates spraying workable fixative in three or four light coats onto the drawing before going back into the piece with more charcoal. The artist also warns that too much layering would make the image lifeless and dull.
Read more features from the Looking at Drawings series.