charcoal portrait

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While fresh from a David Kassan drawing workshop, I thought I’d try to sketch a small 6×6 inch portrait of my maternal grandmother using charcoal and the methods David demonstrated.

Artist Dabid Kassan Drawing a Figure
David Kassan Drawing a portrait – from his instructional DVD on drawing
the beginnings of a charcoal portrait sketch of an elderly woman
My drawing above was blocked in using Pan Pastels and a Sofft tool. with David Kassan’s block in method – detailed below.
David Kassan self Portrait in pencil
Self Portrait by David Kassan (image courtesy of

After a David Kassan Drawing Workshop

I’m spinning around my studio this week – on fire – after a three day drawing workshop with New York artist David Kassan at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art. I signed up for it spontaneously the moment I saw his post about it on facebook.

David’s methods are steeped in the best foundations of traditional draftsmanship; know your anatomy, know your tools, work from life, and really, really look at the nuance of your subject.

Make changes as you discover room to improve along the way, even if it means blotting out something you worked hard to build. Always shoot for better, and stay away from feeling attached or precious about a part of your drawing just because you struggled, or put a lot of time into it.

Take your time to get it absolutely right. He is very, very good, and watching him work made my fingers itch to grab a pencil and try his approach to drawing.

It didn’t take long before I realized that he’s good because he’s worked hard at his art, and all that focused practice has sharpened his skill over years of studying and drawing for hours and hours.

David blocked in the portrait of Toni on gray paper using Pan Pastels and a #4 Sofft tool. After blocking it in, he rubbed down the entire drawing with a paper towel. (There were a lit of gasps)

Drawing Tips and Tricks from David Kassan

David shared tips and tricks and treasures freely in his workshop. We all got a good sense for how he makes his art.

He’s generous to describe as he’s working, so after three days of intake, I was ready to burst. But my own artistic execution was another matter.

We don’t get to leap frog onto that level of mastery after 72 hours of listening to verbal instructions, and watching great skill demonstrated.

Producing amazing art is earned with time and practice (work), and that was so clear in this workshop. There was a good lesson in humility here. It made me appreciate that David applied himself to his art with so much steady conviction at a young age. He deserves to be as skilled as he is, because he earned it.

I came away from the weekend with a renewed commitment to practice harder, study more, and keep trying. Even on crappy days when I don’t think I have a molecule of skill. Just suck it up, and draw.

David Kassan, working on the demo of our lovely model, Toni Czechorosky.
David’s demo of Toni, with features alternately modeled with General’s charcoal pencils, and then wiped away & softened with erasers and paper towels, and then re-drawn again.
The second day of the workshop, David decided to re-draw Toni’s eyes. He didn’t say anything, but shortly after the photo above was taken, he picked up the Sofft tool, loaded it with black Pan Pastel and simply blacked out both eye sockets. The whole room gasped, and he explained the importance of repair, adjustment, and the artists’ investment in harvesting the essence of your subject, over protecting the amount of time you’ve already put into the drawing.
Lovely cross hatching and modeling of chin and mouth, and the shadow cast by the nose.
Subtle value changes and shifts in contour and line around the eyes, brow and nose.
David’s demo drawing on the last day of the workshop; luminous and sculptural, life sized & drawn from life with General’s charcoal pencils in black and white.

Watching Masterful Drawing Demos

Everyone was excited to see the results of David’s guidance immediately in their drawings; we all got better at looking, and rendering what we saw.

Each one of us sat in awe to watch him work in the mornings on a portrait of our lovely model Toni Czechorosky, while he was alternately describing what he was doing, and answering our questions.

David had no remorse about wiping away a beautifully rendered eye, or a perfect nose or an achingly lovely mouth if it wasn’t placed just right to record the essence of the model, which was a lesson in itself. He continuously draws and wipes, draws and wipes. We were frequently gasping in the room behind him.

David Kassan is young and skilled and articulately generous about what he does, and he’s a nice guy. What a lovely combination in an art instructor.

If you get a chance to study with him, do it.

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you in the next post,


Art Quote

Face your challenges head on and make them your strengths.

David Kassan

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6 thoughts on “David Kassan Workshop – Thoughts and Appreciation”

  1. Belinda, thanks for showing us your portrait of your Gran. It’s so full of life and energy. Also the process shots of David Kassan’s work are amazing. I have really enjoyed studying them. I’m off on holiday today and just taking a sketch book and charcoal/felt tips with me so they came at just the right time for motivation!

  2. Love this post, Belinda.
    Hey and you captured some nice progress shots. I”m with you on all counts. It takes consistent practice and execution. Cannot get wise without experience and….error.

    Thanks for posting pics and your comprehensive detailed log of the workshop.


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