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The Protector

During our COVID-19 french lockdown, I used the time to work on drawing black and white portraits. The Protector was only a quarter of the way finished when I transported him and the rest of my apartment from France to Luxembourg in a risky decision to flee the country.



My boyfriend had just moved into his newly built apartment and was in desperate need of some art on the walls. Knowing that I could draw, he asked me to create a piece for his place! We brainstormed a loose idea of a stoic black and white portrait, perhaps a warrior of some kind, exuding ultimate strength.

Considering that I hadn't drawn a black and white piece since college, I was excited to pick up a charcoal again and see where my current level was at.

The concept of a muscular physique just so happened to be right up my ally. I love drawing men because they tend to have harsh features = details on details! I prefer working with dark shadows and sharp lines because they create an awesome level of contrast.

I got online and looked up pictures of men with strong jaw lines and powerful demeanors.

I wanted to keep the intensity consistent throughout the entire drawing. I pulled inspiration from profiles of Idris Elba, Hugh Jackman, Denzel Washington, Chris Hemsworth, Terry Crews and Taye Diggs. These actors all had physical features or played a roll one time or another exuding the type of strength that I wanted to emulate. I was able to use their visuals as a guide to create my character's own physical identity.

If I'm being honest, it really was just the perfect excuse to watch more Marvel and action movies👌🏽 ... I mean for research purposes😉

It was kind of funny because since I use pictures as templates, at one point the entire photo library on my phone was filled with screenshots of these shirtless actors and bicep close-ups. While sharing a different video on my phone to a teammate, she saw the photo dump of bicep guides...I had some explaining to do.



Along with every profile piece that I draw, I wanted to uncover the story laying within the drawing.

This piece in particular was special because I knew that it was going to be hung up in a home, watching over a space of comfort and safety. As I believe in honoring our spiritual world, it was important to me that this drawing brought a peaceful and protective energy along with it.

It was a big priority of mine to create this piece the right way. Out of respect, I chose to form a character that was based off of credible sources.

I knew that this warrior was going to have some type of armer, and I wanted to make sure that the items displayed were accurately depicted. I did a fair amount of research on Native American tribes and traditions, and was heavily drawn towards the Pawnee Tribe.


I originally thought of drawing a metal shield, but that changed when I thought it'd be cool to imitate that of a true tribal warrior's weapon. The Pawnee tribe used shields covered in rawhide (animal skin that has been tanned) material of the buffalo. As rawhide skin was a bit difficult to capture through black and white charcoal, I figured that if I showed it stretched over the shield onto the back, then I'd succeed in the look.

Fun Fact:

With all the detail that went into this piece, it was actually the shield that took me the longest to finish. Throughout the process, each line of the body belonged to its specific destination. The abs matched up in an asymmetric line, the shoulder was overlapped by the tricep and the clavicle laid beneath the necklace; it was like finishing a puzzle.

But the shield was just one big compound of space. The subtleties in highlights really pushed my skills- and patience- to the brim. Once I came up with the idea of stretching the fabric over the shield, it started to come together. To push the detail even further, I added some thin lines of highlights and shadows to the shield representing cracks from battle.

The spear was a lot of fun to draw as it added an additional component of movement to the piece. Similar to the skirt piece, this look was created through a loose wrist and the the mixture of harsh charcoal strokes with a white highlight beneath it.


In addition to the tribal weapons, I drew inspiration from the Pawnee tribe to give "The Protector" the historical Bear Claw Necklace. In Native culture, the bear is a highly regarded animal. The bear claw was put on a necklace and worn out of respect to connect the tribe with the animal. As the necklace represented courage and protection, it was often worn by leaders of the tribe. Beneath the claws laid hide from an otter. The strength of the bear combined with the fur of the otter signified power over land and water. To pay homage to the Pawnee Tribe leaders, "The Protector" proudly wears the Bear Claw Necklace with respect and honor.

Detail in the Eyes:

Though his face stands without expression, I wanted the eyes to tell a story.

The head and face were the very first sections that I started on. My intention was to simply map out the facial features and mark their locations, but you know what, sometimes the zone just takes over. Before I knew it, a completed face of a warrior was staring right back at me.

I love when this happens.

Sometimes I can see what's supposed to go down on paper before I ever pick up the charcoal. The vision is so clear to me, that I feel as if I'm tracing the imprint of my vision.

My biggest goal was to make sure that I included depth in the formation of his head. The 3-d effect is achieved by adding highlights to show the sides of the face. Even though he's facing straight ahead, I made sure to capture his temples, cheek bones, and the tops of his ears to get a realistic effect.


Let's be honest, "The Protector" could use a carb or two (sarcastic nervous laugh).

The outline of the body was giving me some serious difficulty. For some time, I had put off chiseling out the body in charcoal because I didn't have the clearest direction for it. I really didn't want to mess up.


Drawing on a white background means that once you touch the paper with the jet black charcoal, it's not comin' off

(at least not all of it).

I wanted to make sure that the body was proportionate to the head and neck. But just how strong did I want this guy to be? If he's too big then the profile becomes an unrealistic overshoot, but if he's too small then it's just a good idea with an underwhelming delivery.

Using your Resources:

After looking at a floating head with multiple game- plans ending in a flawed body structure, my eyes started to wave the white flag. The idea of free handing a proportionate body was just off the table.

In times where I find myself getting overwhelmed, I try to simplify my head by going back to the basics. In this case, it brought me back to the most basic of all basics: a memory of a collaborative chalk drawing on the sidewalk with my sweet four year old nephew. We would chalk up the driveway learning letters and numbers while tracing our hands and feet.

wait a second, "tracing."


IDEA! Following my series of failed attempts, I decided that the only way to find a somewhat accurate body proportion was to lay down on the paper itself and trace my own body. Now, knowing that this warrior was supposed to be one of the strongest and gnarliest warriors in his day, I used my outline only as a template to go off of and amplified Every aspect of the body to 5x the volume.

This technique actually went rather smoothly! I broadened the shoulders to epic proportion, expanded the Chest to fit brick-like muscles, added a bulge of Lats and a field of Abs...endless abs...all the abs.

Once I had the outline of the body, I went in with the shading. Making sure that "The Protector's" strength was blasting through, I added a lot more highlight than usual. The dark shadows only went into the crevices between the muscle to amplify the physical power of this character.

Dowd Creatives Signature:

As part of my signature, I include coordinates of the location where that specific piece was created.

The idea came as I was traveling so much and had painted and drawn in multiple parts of the world. I wanted this nomad component to be a part of the piece's story. As "The Protector" was created in Luxembourg, its respective coordinates act as a footprint in its creation.











The Protector" was the Catalyst for Dowd Creatives

It's true. This piece is where it all started. I had always felt it'd be fun to have my own art shop one day. But volleyball really took over my focus, and life just keeps you busy. When I was in lockdown however, we were no longer playing, our matches were getting postponed weekly and we weren't even allowed to go further than 1 km from the house. So, I opened up the art box and said "Alright, let's use this time and have a little bit of fun."

By the time I finished "The Protector," I realized that not only did it turn out not-too-shabby, but I loved creating every second of it. From there, I kept drawing and kept creating. The more pieces I did, the stronger the passion grew. Then I started to get some awesome feedback from others and realized hey, now's the time. Let's just go for it.

And here we are🤗

*Custom pieces are available upon request*

Customized handcrafted frames and glass covers are also available upon request for additional purchase. Please visit the Contact page to reach out to the artist for inquiries.


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