Graphite, Charcoal, Carbon
I recently completed a week long portrait for a good friend of mine. This piece was delivered as a 50th birthday present. As of today, I haven't heard what he thought. The four kids are the children of her new boyfriend, and probably soon to be next husband. Only time will tell. Because all four are either going to different schools or working, she had them gather for a photo, which is what I worked from. I did have some input and at least got a neutral smile for them all.
I created this piece on Strathmore bristol Plate finish paper. In hindsight, I wish I would have went with a 500 Series, vellum finish. Plate just didn't give me some of the effects I was hoping for and made the graphite "shine" even more apparent.
I used a combination of graphite pencils along with several carbon pencils from Wolff and General's. For some of the darkest values the only way to go and totally eliminate any sheen is with the Carbon Sketch or the Organic Black Elite Grande #5000 from Primo. These allow complete control and quickly build up the richest darks. You can pull out anything with a kneaded or plastic eraser.
The clothing was done with charcoal or graphite powder, rubbing it into the support with either my fingers or cotton swab. The wrinkles can be made using a chamois or kneaded eraser. In most cases, slight adjustments achieved the most life-like results.
The structured drawing and study of the human head definitely helped my drawing skills, again. Working with just black and white also helped me with creating subtle value changes. My portrait work in this medium is in the photo-realism space. My wife beats me up on every little detail, to which I reply with "is there a likeness?" Of course there is, but with photo-realism you have to take extra care to make it work.