I recently received the new instructional book How to Draw Portraits in Charcoal by Nathan Fowkes. I have long been an admirer of his skills, and he has such a gentle and generous teaching manner, as seen in this youtube demo/discussion of light and temperature, and so I have been awaiting the release of his new drawing book for some months now. It arrived just before I had to take a trip to Tennessee, so I haven't had much time to enjoy it yet. Skimming through the book, I see there is still a lot I need to learn, and with luck and practice, I hope to make some progress. The above sketch was not done following his instructions, but just to dip my toes back into charcoal drawing, and I left it at just a sketch without trying to fill in the tones and blend and express a broader range of values, because when I got to this point I was happy enough that it caught an expression and I ran out of time anyway and got called off to other duties.
The next study (nearly all of my studies are from photographs, having no live models to work from) was intended to explore a little more the depth that can be achieved with a little more attention, but I found myself struggling with the medium, either the charcoal I was using or the paper, I couldn't get past smearing and losing the value range. But it is another head to add to the collection, working toward the goal of 10,000 heads (I really have no idea how far along on that path I am - at least 300 or 400, but barely started.)
Oddly, after spending so much time the past few months working in oils and not drawing much, other than to work out thumbnail sketches for painting compositions, I find that even the portrait sketch is easier for me in oil now, faster, more confident. I find I don't need to resort to measurement to get resemblance, unless I somehow get the eyes off initially, and then I have to stop and figure out where I went wrong. The above portrait was satisfying in that I feet a bit of the elegance of the model, but since I was working in a paper sketchbook I didn't worry to much about making it a "painting" and I think a little more attention to the overall look might have helped, such as carrying the background red down a little more and away from just the frame of the profile. I was using left-over colors on my pallette from a landscape; normally I don't think I would use Prussian Blue in a skin color.