Here are two more children's portraits for a generous patron of mine. Over the years, I have learned several methods of rendering a figure in graphite that work for me. Unfortunately, non of the methods that I find successful were taught to me during my 4 years of undergraduate study, which had a major of Fine Art.
As I mentioned not too long ago, Robert Barrett's book Life Drawing gave me some really great thoughts on drawing accurately and quickly. The most helpful tidbit from his book was the initial toning of the paper. I have therefore made it a habit to lay a thin coat of 4B or 6B graphite over the entire figure to be rendered, blending it all together using a chamois. I usually have a contour line drawing on the paper before this toning step which I have spray fixed to the paper.
I use a gum eraser to remove highlights and then add darker shadows, repeating both steps as needed. The speed at which I can complete a graphite portrait is much greater than before when I used to build values from and all white surface, using harder leads and gradually working to softer, darker leads.
I liked both of these portraits a lot, though I will confess that I thought the background behind the young man looked a little too similar to a nuclear mushroom cloud. Kinda sucks when you see things like that in a piece of art because there's no "unseeing" it. The likenesses are accurate so I guess that's the most important thing. Enjoy - Jared