Vestal Virgin (Graphite)

This is a graphite and white charcoal drawing on toned paper (~6”x8”). The subject is one of the vestal virgins in the Roman Forum.

I’d love some critique on the composition and the shading of the tree. In particular, I’ve had a hard time settling on the shading of the left side of the tree. I feel like I’m on the verge of overworking it with too many layers, but I’m also not entirely happy with the areas of shadow and highlights.

I didn’t spend much time on the building in the lower right—should I work that a bit more? Get rid of it?

Thanks for having a look!


hi Becky; I do mostly graphite so im always anxious to see another’s work.
Looking at the tree i love the work you did here. The lighter shading i think is nicely placed giving the appearance of depth. Just the area above the left shoulder appears less defined.
The statue is nicely done. The texture tells me this is a statue. the shadows are rendered just like the real statue (i peaked) .
Composition ,the statue is all the way to the left and i travel to the right and there is too much there. Im reminded of the pastel critique Matt did this week of the child on the beach and he placed a bucket in the empty sand. Thus my observation.
Just remember now that i am pretty much a beginner who is always going back to revisit my work .
anyway thanks for posting a graphite. tom

here’s my thoughts;

you saw a building when you composed the pic; but now that the picture is done it looks too small and disconnected /distracting.

I don’t think though I would just Give up on the building (or at least if you Do- don’t do so without some study and thought)

instead experiment a little, what happens if you bring it into the scene; perhaps Behind the statue/tree. is that something you can envision and draw?

its ultimately what kind of statement you are making; are you seeking to just highlight the vestal virgin or do you want to provide her with a context?

i’m not sure what works and what doesn’t. but analyze the reference photos, and do some thumbnail sketches seems the right process to exploring these thoughts.

I too am a beginner.

and as such I think for myself something that plagues these kinds of changes for me is confidence.

confidence that I could redraw the statue as well; and confidence that I could move things about and not be so enslaved to my reference photos.

I know I need to get over this.

so I’m giving both of us (what I think as) good advise for the future…

BTW; its a beautiful drawing. ty for sharing it.

Thank you, Tom! Everything you say makes sense, especially the reference to last week’s pastel critique.

This is such helpful feedback, thank you. I agree about the building and you targeted exactly what happened during the composition process: it was in the photo so I just copied it.

Re: thumbnails. I’ve always avoided them out of impatience, but the deeper I get into drawing the more I realize that they are necessary.

Thanks so much for offering this detailed feedback!