Early in my career I tried using charcoal and I found it very messy. I had also tried soft pastels and found them very messy as well. Charcoal had the depth of colour but not the finesse and control that I enjoyed. I tried graphite pencil but this did not give me the results I was looking for. When I discovered the pastel pencil medium, I finally had the control and depth of colour that satisfied me. Fast forward 30 years and in 2013 I realised that by using just 1 pastel pencil (Faber Castell’s 181 Payne’s Grey) I could produce a similar effect to charcoal on good quality cartridge paper.
I then tested the limits of this new discovery by producing a second picture (Hopalong Cassidy) which you can see here. For this I used five pastel pencils – numbers 230, 233, 181, 199 and 101 (white). These are greys and black and white and I used them on white sketching paper. To start I covered the whole paper area in the light grey in order to create a cushion on which to use the other pencils, enabling them to be blended. The black and white gives you a dimension and teaches a lot about tonal values. It is also possible to put white over the greys to blend. I did use the colour shaper but most of the blending was done with the pencils, not with the finger. This gives control over the tonal values.
I recommend you give this new idea a try as you can the results are stunning. Have you tried this charcoal effect? How did you get on? Let us know in the comments below.