I've done a studies of fragments of master works with graphite and charcoal before, and I find few things much more difficult to achieve using a digital medium: base blocking and edges being the main ones. I actually just begin working with the values straight away, and loose accuracy..
These first studies are from some great photos:
Something about that big round shape caught my eye. The staircase is there really just to give that dark tone in the back, to create stronger emphasis.
The hats - one black and the other white - they're like a game, my eye just gets attracted to it.
The second image has a lot of opportunities to look for negative spaces and shapes which if paid close attention to, will be helpful in getting your piece more accurate. The first image is quite well done and I encourage you to keep it up. Keep focused on accuracy.
Thank you Jason, unfortunately I think the thing I lacked most in this one is accuracy... The proportions are totally off and the edges are so soft everywhere..
Should I do a line sketch first in this kind of study? To keep things as much in place as I can?
i think you can do some line sketching sure...you can also use your brushes to carve into the shapes. start with the big positive and negative shapes and work your way down, that way the little bits fall into the right places. this is a nice start actually...just needs more time. it would have taken vermeer at least a week to do this piece so don't let it get to you that its a challenge match it in an hour or two...or even ten.