Many thanks for enouraging and also taking time for giving feedback. You are right the above work lacks contrast and the portrait and background are having same shades. I will ensure that I will use these points for next attempt. I had also tried pirate (almost completed... except hair and few bits & pieces). Please can you see and suggest changes for improvement.
Thank u for ur comments on my artwork. Not bad for an attempt after a 10 year gap. Your shading is pretty smooth and good. Try using more contrast. I usually use really dark graphite (ie 8B/10B) to create more contrast. More contrast makes it easier to achieve more realistic pencil drawings. The portrait and the background is almost the same shade. A lighter background would be more suitable and would help ur portrait stand out better.
I have a gallery in [link]. This is the link to my gallery [link] I have more of my drawings displayed there.