Some good friends of mine recently got married, so I decided to make this portrait of their son, River, as a wedding gift. I already had some photo reference of River playing chess that I had shot for another project.

I made this drawing using a technique that combines graphite pencil and charcoal powder. First, I draw the head and features in pencil without any tone. I use a hard pencil at first and then go over the lines with a 2B pencil to darken them. After I have a linear drawing established, I apply the charcoal powder to darken in the shadows. (this is where it can get a little messy.) I use a large bristle brush to scrub the charcoal powder onto the paper. It’s important to keep the drawing horizontal on a flat, hard surface. I go back to using graphite once the shadows are blocked in to add more detail and refine the image. Much of the original drawing is usually wiped out by the charcoal. I like this technique for drawing portraits because it’s very painterly and fast. You can get nice effects with the charcoal powder that would take much longer to achieve with just graphite alone.

My friends loved the drawing, which made me really happy. I think River liked it, too.