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Contact Information

16926 Saticoy Street
Van Nuys, CA 91406
(818) 708-9232
(818) 474-8679 – Fax

Begin a serious exploration of drawing the portrait from life in charcoal with Nathan Fowkes. Follow step by step through the practical stages of emphasizing the structure and planes of the head, clearly rendering the values of light and shadow, designing edges and creating likeness and composition. Explore numerous drawing techniques, materials and approaches

BIO: Nathan Fowkes is a veteran entertainment and fine artist. He has taught traditional and design courses for over a decade. Nathan was a conceptual artist for top animated films with notable clients such as DreamWorks, Disney and Blue Sky. He has worked on 11 feature films including: The Prince of Egypt, Spirit, Shrek Universe, How to Train Your Dragon and The Legend of Puss in Boots. He is also a consultant for clients that include: Blizzard Entertainment, Infinity Ward, Disney Interactive, Riot Games, Ubisoft and Rovio. Nathan is currently a design lead at Paramount Feature Animation.


Course Curriculum

Free Preview
Portrait Drawing in Charcoal | Preview 00:05:00
Preview for Portrait Drawing in Charcoal with Nathan Fowkes
Section 1
Drawing the Portrait in Charcoal | Introduction 00:36:00
This class will put you squarely on the path toward creating successful portrait drawings in charcoal. Nathan will introduce the class, and take you through the process of understanding the planes and three dimensional nature of the head to create a sense of life on a two dimensional page.
Construction Drawing 00:31:00
Every line and tone must be designed to describe form. The Reilly head abstraction is a tool that can be used to help guide the placement of lines and tones. Each week the homework assignment will be to bring at least one finished portrait. The first homework assignment is to make a line drawing of a portrait using the appropriate Reilly abstraction lines.
Construction Drawing Demo 00:38:00
Demonstrations will explain how to break down the complexities of the head to achieve simple and clear statements. Drawing concave lines or lines that go against the forms can hurt the dimensionality of the drawing. Wrapping lines around forms will help achieve volume and depth in your drawings.
Section 2
Laying down the foundation 00:10:00
Last weeks lecture on foundational drawing is reviewed. The homework assignment is the same as last week, to make a construction drawing showing the three dimensional quality of the head. Working methods will be discussed to help guide inexperienced students.
Drawing the Portrait in Charcoal | Demonstration 1 00:25:00
This demo will focus on the simplest way to quickly establish the three dimensional quality of the structure of a female model. Carefully wrap the longitudinal and latitudinal lines around the figure to get a sense of form. How to use the Reilly abstraction as a tool and not a formula.
Section 3
Drawing the Portrait in Charcoal | Value 00:32:00
Value is the relative lightness and darkness of the tones being used. Keeping light and shadow value organized and distinct is key in creating the simple statement of form and volume. To avoid mindless rendering, it is important to understand the limitations of your medium. Understanding half tone and highlights is essential in turning form in light. The homework assignment will be to focus on areas in light, working halftones into highlights and reducing shadows to black. The model should be directly lit so that half of the face is in shadow.
Drawing the Portrait in Charcoal | Demonstration 2 00:28:00
The homework assignment will be demonstrated. The focus will be to develop the areas in light turning form and reducing the shadows to black. Turning the shadows black will help increase the value range thus increasing the range to work in the light areas
Section 4
Rendering the Shadow 00:22:00
Squinting will help reveal the simple value relationships between light and shadow. Students should practice squinting and comparing in order to emphasize the three dimensional statement.
Clarity of Form in the Shadows 00:23:00
A simple process will give clarity to your portraits, through turning form with shadows. Examples will be presented on how to maintain the value statement. Similar to last week, the homework assignment will be to focus on rendering form in the shadow leaving the light side white.
Section 5
Full Value Demonstration Female Model 00:33:00
Combine the principles discussed in previous lessons. The first step will be to identify the light and shadow shapes, wrapping lines around the form suggesting a three dimensional figure.
Full Value Demonstration Male Model 00:31:00
Using the same approach as the previous demo, very mark made should be designed to describe the underlying form. The homework assignment is to do a fully rendered portrait in light and shadow.
Section 6
Designing with Edges 00:42:00
The design of edges can have a profound impact on the clarity and depth of your portrait. Selective use of edges can add emphasis to a subject, or they can be lost entirely for dramatic purposes. The homework is to design edges for a full value portrait with a single light source.
Edges Demonstration 00:23:00
Use edges to create both a sense of depth and artistic emphasis in your drawing.
Section 7
Designing with Light 00:29:00
Using indirect diffused light in portraiture is a way to focus on the subtleties of the features. A diffused light source will typically cast a soft core shadow. The homework is to do a portrait of a subject with an indirect light source.
Master Copy Demonstration 00:22:00
A copy of a John Singer Sargent portrait is made from a photograph to demonstrate how to indicate an ambient light source.
Section 8
Building a Likeness 00:42:00
How to find the likeness and character of your subject without getting lost in the nuances of anatomy. We’ll also take a look at alternate materials and techniques including chalks on toned paper. The homework is to use Strathmore charcoal Paper 500 series "storm gray" for a portrait with a subject in direct light.
Portrait on Toned Paper with White Chalk 00:37:00
The homework assignment will be demonstrated using the gray paper as the half tone. The dark charcoal will expand the value range in the shadows; the white chalk will expand the value range in the light.
Costumed Portrait on Green Paper 00:12:00
A portrait of a costumed model directly lit will be done on green toned paper.
Section 9
Grouping Value 00:25:00
Lessons from previous classes are reviewed. Early photography is discussed in relation to portrait painting of the era. The importance of composition is stressed. Every line placed should indicate underlying form
Focal Area, Balance and Structure 00:22:00
A strong portrait demands that consideration be given to its composition. Even a quick classroom study can gain a sense of artistry through compositional design. The homework assignment will be to do a portrait with the principles reviewed throughout the class.
Portrait with Vine Charcoal on Toned Paper 00:35:00
Vine charcoal will be used for a portrait of a male model in direct light. This week’s lesson will show you how to put the final touches on your portrait and how compositional principles can give your portrait a greater sense of presence.
Special Thanks and Advice 00:05:00
Nathan thanks the models and reinforces the core principles to encourage you to continue your portrait drawing.

Course Reviews


3 ratings
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  1. Profile photo of Eddie

    Portrait Drawing with Charcoal

    I have just completed a 9 week online course “Portrait Drawing in Charcoal with Nathan Fowkes Nathan is a brilliant artist and teacher. I cannot express enough his ability to explain the complexity of charcoal . I had never used charcoal before and in 9 weeks he taught me skills I am keen to develop. I am sad that the course is finished . It was a memorable experience to work and laugh with Nathan , a generous and talented artist. Thanks Nathan.

  2. Profile photo of Dalton Muniz

    Drawing the Portrait in Charcoal

    I can’t express enough how happy I am for taking this course with Nathan Fowkes! Charcoal has its particular limitations and nuances and drawing Portraits with it is quite a challenge! Good luck for us to have an artist of his caliber to guide us and achieve so amazing results with it! For 9 weeks I had experimented it, and I am sad its over, but I feel his guidance is already in my work and the right direction is set! I am so thankful to him for it! Thanks Nathan!

  3. Profile photo of Izan Vázquez

    An extraordinary way to level up

    Learning to draw the portrait with Nathan Fowkes has been a truly enriching experience.
    Following the course week by week exponentially improved my technique and understanding of the medium, getting great results since the very first day. Nathan is an exceptional teacher. Even through a self-study course, his passion and knowledge are transmitted in a really encouraging way to the student. All the videos are really enjoyable and educational. Plus, every single demo works perfectly to show you in which direction to move.
    I honestly recommend this course to anyone interested in drawing the portrait and/or learning more about charcoal. Me, personally, before taking it, had to do a large commission featuring a lot of portraits, and felt a bit insecure. After the course, I could face it much more confident and it was quite a success.
    So, to conclude: an extraordinary course taught by an extraordinary teacher with a lot of experience to share.

  4. Profile photo of estevaolucas1@gmail.com

    What's in the light is light and what's in the shadow is shadow.

    Nathan really helped me about how to see. The expression that he often uses in this course “what’s in the light is light and what’s in the shadow is shadow” changed my approach to simplify values and today I use this technique to teach my own students. I’d like to thank you Nathan and LAAFA to but this course online. Estevao Chromiec.

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