A brief history:

Traditionally charcoal was the medium used for producing a cartoon which is derived from the Italian “cartone” meaning strong or heavy paper. It is a full-size drawing typically used in the production of frescoes. 
It was used to work out the composition before being transferred to the damp plaster. In modern art charcoal drawings are very popular as a medium for portraits in their own right. In the renaissance Charcoal was widely used but few works of art survived due to charcoal particles flaking off the canvas. At the end of the 15th century a process of submerging the drawings in a gum bath was implemented to prevent the charcoal from flaking away. Charcoal paintings date as far back as ca.23,000 BCE. One of the oldest painting is a picture of a zebra found at the Apollo cave in Namibia. Since then many cultures utilized charcoal for art, camouflage, and in rites of passage. Many indigenous people from Australia, parts of Africa, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, parts of Asia, and others still practice body painting for rites of passage including child birth, weddings, spiritual rituals, war, hunting, and funerary rites. Many artists use charcoal because of its unique dark black strokes.

The Charcoal drawing process:

Because of the softness of its drawing edge, charcoal tends to favour broad, vigorous draftsmanship, with an emphasis on mass and movement rather than on linear precision. Charcoals demand a more planned and meticulous approach and usually you would work from light to dark rather than dark to light. There are various types and uses of charcoal as an art medium, but the commonly used types are: Compressed, Vine, and Pencil. Compressed charcoal is shaped into a block or form of a stick. Intensity of the shade is determined by hardiness. The amount of gum or wax binders used during the production process affects the hardiness. Soft hardiness leaves intensely black markings while Hard hardiness leave light markings. Vine charcoal is a long and thin piece of charcoal stick that is the result of burning sticks or vines in a kiln without air. The removable properties of vine charcoal from dusting and erasing is favored by artists for making preliminary sketches or basic composition. This also makes vine charcoal less suitable for creating detailed images. Charcoal pencils are compressed charcoals that are wrapped with a layer of wood. The design of charcoal pencils are similar to that of graphite pencils while keeping intact with the properties of charcoal. Often used for fine and crisp detailed drawings while keeping the user’s hand from being marked during its use.

Commissioning a Charcoal drawing:

For Charcoal drawing portrait I like to meet the sitter for an informal preliminary discussion on what is required. You will need to consider the size and the position your charcoal drawing will hang. For charcoal drawings I require just one sitting either at my art studio or on location for approximately 1 hour. During this time I will take reference photographs and create preliminary sketches and drawings. I will then begin work on your final charcoal drawing which can take from 1 to 3 weeks to create. If you would like to discuss commissioning a painting with me please get in contact.