Lady Cynthia Charteris

Pencil master copy of John Singer Sargent’s charcoal portrait of Lady Cynthia Charteris.
7.5”x7.5”, master copy drawn in a Moleskine Art Cahier Sketch Album
with Blackwing Natural and Matte pencils.

Working on developing my skill at getting a likeness in a face, I attempted a pencil master copy of a John Singer Sargent charcoal portrait. When it comes to drawing, sketching, painting or sculpting, the holy grail is getting a likeness in a human face. I will say that drawing at a larger scale definitely helps. This one is tiny compared to the original size drawing by John Singer Sargent. His charcoal portraits were typically 18”x24”. So I learned the hard way that errors of even half a millimeter can greatly affect getting a likeness at this scale. The face here is about 2”x2-1/2”, which makes the eyes about 5/8”x3/8”. For me, this translated to a lot of trial and error in feature placement and line making.

That was actually a good thing because I was forced to pay really close attention to angles, distances and feature details as landmarks. Even so, while much better than previous attempts, I was still off here and there. But improvement is good and I feel good about what I learned in this drawing. By the way, a master of small format portraits I follow on Instagram is Gary Rubin (@garyrubinart). I now appreciate his drawings even more, knowing the challenges of small portrait drawing.

Lady Cynthia Charteris, charcoal drawing by John Singer Sargent
John Singer Sargent’s charcoal portrait of Lady Cynthia Charteris, 1908.