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Charcoal Portrait

Portraiture!  I never thought I would EVER do a portrait!  I do not consider myself a portrait artist, but have lately been drawn to working on facial features.

Here are some examples of the practice I have been doing.



I am still working out what materials I prefer for portraits.  I love working with vine charcoal because it’s so forgiving and easy to correct mistakes, but I also like going in with charcoal pencils on top.

My expectation is to move into pastel portraits using my Terry Ludwig portrait set; however, who knows when I will feel inspired to actually DO that!

Here are a few more practice features….

I find myself very much in the experimental phase.  Trying out new paper, brands of vine and compressed charcoal, charcoal pencils, etc, has been frustrating and a little daunting.  

There are A LOT of opinions out there about what materials to use in every situation, but in the end, it comes down to 1) what I can afford, 2) what I can find, and 3) what I end up liking!  I have had to learn to be patient with this whole process….(sigh).

As I began experimenting, I knew immediately if a paper didn’t suit me, which was helpful.

It became more difficult when a paper let me get farther into the process, but then fought me.  This happened if it stopped grabbing the charcoal because of lack of tooth.

What compounds things even more is that my “process” isn’t really clear yet…. I am NOT an all pencil kind of person–don’t have the desire or patience for that.  However, for feature work as in the above photos, pencils got me where I was going.  

But discovery is what this blog is about, so…..

The following portrait was done in almost all soft vine charcoal, with highlighting in a white Nupastel.  It was done on  Canson XL Recycled Bristol 14 x 17 in paper (right side).  I will probably experiment next by using the other side of the paper, as this paper has a smooth side and a textured side.

This is a portrait of my beautiful daughter.  Wish I could’ve done better, but hopefully that will come with time and practice.

Incidentally, I also tried out Strathmore Bristol vellum paper.  I didn’t like it at all.


I hope to be doing more with my art as the school year comes to a close, and I hope you are all doing well and staying creative!

Till next time,





Rhonda is an artist, violinist, mountain dulcimer player, composer/arranger, homeschool mom, and chicken/goat farmer. To purchase her fine art, visit

13 thoughts on “Charcoal Portrait

    1. Thanks so much for your encouraging words and advice! I will definitely keep trying. Now if I only could fine more time….


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