Ursa is a plaster cast of a clay bust I made several years ago. I have to admit my drawing skills are feeling painfully rusty. Here is a drawing of Ursa in profile, in preparation for charcoal and white chalk. I scanned this drawing in hopes of transferring it for a variety of studies.
It's probably been 25 years since I last picked up a charcoal pencil in earnest. Oddly, the pencils labeled soft were very hard and only the one labeled medium was soft enough to be usable. As a subject I used a plaster cast of a sculpture I made some years back...perhaps a decade. There was a lot of dust on the old girl.
This was intended as a preparation for an oil painting, but I have a feeling I may be getting ahead of myself. I need to sort out some things first, so the painting may have to wait a little while.
A difficult exercise. A small white vase, at its fullest very sphere shaped and an ideal subject for this sort of thing. I made an early decision to maintain the relative value difference between the highlight and its surroundings. Its frustrating when working dark to light to run out of useful range of the paint and find, at the last, that your highlight looks dull gray. Like picking out a melody on a guitar and finding you have run out of neck on the last note.
To retain the sparkle of the highlight all the other values would have to be shifted down , or possibly compressed. Here I tried to judge them relatively - and they would be in a different key than what I was observing. Ouch. I justify the decision by knowing that with a white subject against a white background, a strong highlight will have a lot of visual impact.
Here also was the first time I premixed a range of values on the palette. I found this to be extremely useful in that it gets you thinking about values and their relationships carefully before even touching a brush.
I will occasionally tune up my observations skills with a contour drawing. In its most basic form, a blind contour, the eye traces slowly along the subjects edge and the hand follows, it's motion captured by the pencil it grips. The hand becomes sort of seismographic trace of the minds eye. The resulting drawing is not really the point, it's in fact not even necessary. You could use a dowel or stick. It simply is an exercise in observation and patience.
I sometimes will do a modified contour where I will intermittently look at the progress of the drawing to check how my navigation is proceeding. I can make mental notes regarding position and proportion. Something like a real drawing can result from this. I've included some modified contours from a notebook.