Charcoal Self Portrait {Learning the Art Basics}

Charcoal self portrait

This lesson Lillie had to draw a charcoal self portrait.  Charcoal is a tricky medium to use because detail is fairly hard to achieve.  Lil did lots of preparatory work and created a lovely self portrait.  She received 95% for the lesson, along with lots of ideas for her to try out.  The self portrait was based on the self-portrait photo she took for her last lesson.  As always I will let her note book do the talking.  If you click on the photos they should come up bigger.

Charcoal Self Portrait

Lillie began by studying her self portrait photos she had taken in her last lesson:

She did a blind contour drawing, a continuous contour drawing and a cross-contour drawing as preparation for her final sketch:

Charcoal self portrait
Charcoal self portrait
Charcoal self portrait

Next she did lots of sketches of facial features:

Charcoal self portrait
Charcoal self portrait
Charcoal self portrait

And finally creating her charcoal self portrait:

Charcoal self portrait
Charcoal self portrait

She didn’t get the proportions spot on but she was really pleased by how it came out and just how far she has come in just seven lessons.

Artist Study: John Stezaker

Next she did a quick artist study, although this time it was a photographer study, John Stezaker. She chose him because his ‘Marriage Series’, ‘She Series’ and ‘He Series’ where he took two photos of two different people, cut them in half and stuck them together.

And created some of her own Stezaker inspired art, using photos of herself and her twin. She called these her ‘Twin Series’:

They were not quite as striking as Stezaker’s on account of them looking so similar:

It was a fun study though, especially given how much she enjoys photography.
Next lesson is all about colour theory, the colour wheel and I believe she also needs to draw a bowl of fruit using coloured pencils or pastels.
For more lessons click on the links below:


  1. That’s a fantastic portrait! And the eyes and lips, those were quite good. I can’t wait to show my oldest daughter. She’s very into art as well, and has spent the last year perfecting eyes- particularly animal eyes- in charcoal and now chalk. Lately, it’s been chalk drawings outside on the driveway of our house. I love that she’s working so to perfect it, but to strangers coming up the drive, it probably looks like we’re in some sort of cult with a giant eye as our logo. 🙂

  2. She did great! I always found self- portraits to be so difficult. I think, in general, it’s hard to draw/paint people but a self- portrait was even more so since it’s hard to draw just what we see and not project what we know or think about ourselves onto our picture.

  3. It is interesting that although she did a fantastic job with drawing a self-portrait in charcoal (and I, too have found charcoal a difficult medium to work with ), I think she is much prettier than her portrait. Wonder why that is so? I would not be surprised to see her become a famous artist!

  4. The twin series was very interesting, but having looked at the artist’s work that inspired it, I don’t think I like HIS stuff.

    I find working in charcoal somewhat interesting, it can get you all sorts of interesting depth lines.

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