From The Womb I Have Known Thee – charcaol on bristol board

I would like to first extend a great big “THANK YOU” to Samantha Key, who lives over across the pond in the U.K. (England, I believe) for granting me permission to use one of her photos as a reference for this drawing.  You’ll see her work simply by clicking here.  I’m going to post the finished result first and then follow it with a written description and some close up images of the completed piece. Enjoy! 


Ain’t he the cutest darn thing you ever saw?!  You just want to reach in there and cuddle him really close to you and smooch all over him!

MATERIALS USED: Strathmore 500 Bristolbaord Ultra-smooth Plate (100% cotton); NITRAM H, HB, and B charcoals; kneaded eraser; soft paint brush.

I first began by simply applying a layer of H charcoal as a base and then began putting layers of the necessary grades in order to achieve the tones and shades I needed. Bristolboard plate is EXTREMELY smooth and the absolute WORST thing one could do is apply the charcoal media straight from the baton.  If you were to use compressed charcoal pencils, you would most likely discover that the harder grades of charcoal simply scratch the surface and the strokes would be almost impossible to blend out unless you used a very soft grade of charcoal.

The reason I began with a layer of H charcoal was to preserve a lighter shade for the natural skin tone. This would allow me to simply put down the darker values where needed in order to establish depth caused by the cast shadows, wrinkles, and folds of the skin.  Working in this manner is a bit more tedious than a hotpress water-color paper because when blending on bristolboard, it is VERY easy to push the media off the surface simply because there is little to no tooth.


If you look at the image above, you will see where I have some lines laid down that give me the outline I need to follow in order to place the shadows and wrinkles. These lines were rendered in B graphite using a very light touch, so as to easily pull them out or blend them away if necessary.

Oh!  Before I forget…I need to thank Ruth McFarland for the use of her hand, which she has no idea I took a photograph of because I never asked her (grin).  She was reaching for water glasses and the shape of her hand was PERFECT for what I wanted, so I took a quick photograph using the iphone and then went home…..shhhhhhhhh…..

Once the images were completed, I used the pouncing bag and started to pounce charcoal randomly around the baby and then proceeded to fan the powder out in an arching fashion using a soft, tapered paint brush. I wanted to create the illusion the child was nestled down, or sunken into something. I then hit it with some acetone spray.

Babies are very difficult to draw in that they have so many little wrinkles, creases, lines, and folds, so there are lots of highlights, and cast shadows.  I would say that drawing smooth skin portraiture is much easier than drawing children because if you miss the shading on a infant, you’ll end up with a very flat looking image that just won’t look good.

Here are some closeups.


Isn’t this kid adorable!!!????

Until next time….stay frosty!




10 thoughts on “From The Womb I Have Known Thee – charcaol on bristol board

  1. The premise of this drawing is impressive – am sure expectant mothers can relate to the expectation and anticipation you have so wonderfully depicted in this rendition – What a blessing for all mothers!

    God Bless You!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Duchess!
      Now to let you in on a little “incident” regarding this drawing.
      I sent Samantha the image via email to get approval BEFORE posting to this blog. She was stroking her son’s head with her hand just as she opened the email.
      Talk about a surprise.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Alison!
      You and I share a common bond: hating bristol board. When I first tried it, I thought ‘Who in their right mind would ever want to use this?!”
      Well, after working with it and using up about half the pad via trial and error, I finally figured out how it worked. Only, I should have went to youtube and watched videos because it would have saved me a TON of time and some extra bristol paper 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well Mark as I am trying to type this the little cutie you drew is also trying to join in 😄 love reading the step by step process you went through to complete the picture. Another small spooky point is you used Bristol board and I live very close to Bristol! It’s getting freaky now 😁

    Liked by 1 person

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