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Cris D.K. – Painterly Black & White Portraits in Charcoal and Dry Pastel

Self-taught portrait artist Cris D.K. proves the hands of a classical pianist can also excel when holding charcoal and pastel. During the day, this multi-talented piano professor teaches at the Academia de Música in Viana do Castelo—outside of work, he’s a tremendous visual artist as well!

Take a look at a few of his portraits below, and tell me if you’d ever guess that Chris didn’t do this full-time?

First up, in Natalia, Cris depicts a young woman in profile. Her hair is loosely held to the side with a single bobby pin, while her eyes look straight forward. The contrast between her skin and the dark background is both dramatic and riveting.


Cris’s portraits are a master class on the interplay of light and shadow. . . every change in direction of Natalia’s skin has a corresponding shift in value, even the tiniest details.

It’s that range of value that makes each highlight stand out all the more—no matter how subtle. Cris likens his drawings to having a “sculptural effect” and I can absolutely see it.

In Heisenberg 2, below, the composition is a bit different from Natalia, but the technique is just as solid.


I always find three-quarter view portraits fascinating, and this one has the added interest of being cropped at the top and bottom, so our focus rests squarely on the subject’s strong forehead, wire-rim glasses, and nose.

Those barely-visible details in the shadow of the face are absolutely fantastic as well – again, making an extremely wide range of values for the bright, glowing highlights in this portrait to play off of.

And finally, let’s finish up with something a bit different. . . in Diana, below, Cris chose to combine a skeletal study and portrait drawing in a single composition, showing half the subject’s face true to life, and the other half a skull:


It’s both creepy and beautiful, perhaps even more so because of the way her hair falls equally life-like on both sides of the face. I also love the total commitment Cris had to this composition. . . even to the point of rendering two different textures on the subject’s forehead: skin on the left, bone on the right. It’s simply amazing.

If you’d like to see more of Cris’s portrait work, please visit his website today. Besides several other finished pieces like the ones featured here today, he’s also posted works-in-progress photos for many of his drawings, which are well-worth a look!

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