The Assassin's Creed drawing is complete! This post is about the process I use to make drawings of this size and detail. The process is certainly different than doing smaller pieces or pieces with less detail. My Fallout and Halo drawings were done similarly except neither of them contained the number of textures this drawing does: leather, different fabrics, wood grain, relief metal, and shiny metal. The point of photo-realism to make a piece appear as if it is a photograph. The texture of the paper can cause that to be difficult because it can have visible white spots, which are not present in photography and makes shades not quite right. Using white charcoal on black paper makes photo-realism easier, but allows a fewer number of shades than black charcoal on white paper with white charcoal highlights.
The next picture shows the tools I use to create a piece like this:
Extra large rice paper tortillion
Medium rice paper tortillion
Extra small rolled tortillion
Pocket knife for sharpening charcoal
White charcoal pencil
Large charcoal stick
6B charcoal pencil
4B charcoal pencil
2B charcoal pencil
2H charcoal pencil
I tape the edges of my paper to a board. That allows me to keep very clean edges; move the piece on a stable, unchanging surface; keep the paper flat; and to put the piece against the wall when I am not working on it. It also allows me to use my work table for something else if I need it and keeps the cat from sitting on it.
My phone corrupted the photo of the initial layout sketch. This is a photo of at least a day's work after the initial sketch. I don't often fill in a full background of black before finishing the subject of the sketch to avoid smearing, but because of the character's triangle shape I did fill the background first. So much of this piece fades into the background and has no firm definition. I almost had to fill in the background just to see where I was working without lines. I always work left to right from the top to the bottom because I am right handed. That way my hand never crosses an already shaded area. If it is unavoidable for some reason I carefully put a piece of paper under my hand and am careful to not rub the paper, but to move my hand on top of it instead.
This next picture shows another day and a half of work. I have completed the most difficult part: the details on the relief sculpted gun barrels and the wood grain. I am particularly proud of the wood grain. I think it came across well. You can also see where I have used white charcoal on top of the thick black background charcoal fill under the character's right arm. When smeared together they make the lovely pure shade gray, which is necessary for achieving photo-realism. When completed with the correct highlights, this "light" in the background makes the character look like he is glowing from a light behind him.
Because so much charcoal must be used to cover a piece like this, it leaves a lot of charcoal dust as shown in the picture of the arm. I must be very careful to not breathe on it or move the paper because the dust will slide and irreversibly shade the paper. It might not be very much, but it can be enough to ruin a necessary truly white highlight. I wash my hands every half hour or so to eliminate any residual dust and reduce any oil or sweat my palm might rub on the paper because that too will stain paper. I always vacuum every inch of the paper as I go. The dust cannot be blown off as it will collect on every surface of my table and work area and it will get everywhere. In this picture you can see how bland a section looks as it is being added. It is roughly outlined and then I filled in the base shade. Afterward, I fill in lighter shades leaving space for the absolute white highlights. Then I smear it altogether as necessary. Once a piece has been entirely covered in shading, I look at the entire piece as a whole seeing if the intended visually bright areas are as bright as they are supposed to be in comparison to the darkest areas. Then I smooth, detail, and adjust as necessary. I look at the piece for a couple of days before I spray with charcoal fixative. I usually find something that needs changed.