Sometimes I like to get out my charcoal sticks, some large sheets of cartridge on a drawing board, a few magazines and draw. Its very relaxing and keeps my hand and eye coordination up todate. Its good to keep improving your skills. I've learnt not to criticize what I do, as its more fun to do it than to give up. I might try again and again, each time learning and becoming more adept. With these drawings I want to really enjoy the charcoal, how its so soft and black. It can be very messy, but I love the thick rich dark scribbley areas contrasting with fine delicate lines. I try to be as bold as I can, and am pleased if I have captured a characteristic look on the face. The pictures I used for these, were from an 80's fashion magazine where the models wore massive eye make up, which I could accentuate. You could use any images to draw from.
Keep the lines simple, I use a smudge to suggest some shading and form. I don't spend a lot of time on each one, maybe half an hour. If you overwork it and keep correcting it, it may lose its freshness. Often I will faintly draw in the main shapes with pencil, roughly placing features, using a rubber to correct bits that don't look right, then I'll go in with the charcoal. Dont tell yourself you cant draw, who cares if its not perfect. Do it for yourself and to gain a skill. There are loads of things I can't do but it dosen't stop me trying new challenges 
You'd want to find a cheap source for Willow Charcoal as it wears down very quickly. Also I'm lucky to have an end of roll cartridge paper from a printers, (they cant use it and you may get it free) This will give you unlimited supply of large sheets to work on. The paper with a surface like cartridge is best, not the glossy type. Its better to work quite large with charcoal, fine details can be awkward. These drawings are about 12x12 ins approx. You can stop the finished piece smudging with a pastel fixative or as in my case a large cheap lacquer hairspray. Think free, draw free, don't get bogged down with details. Do one, toss aside do another then another, its the only way to improve. Just like a pianist who will go over and over a set of notes to get them right, practise is the only way. Don't think of the end product, enjoy  being in the now and letting the lines flow from you. More about charcoal can be found with a Google.
The skin for the slide show of my drawings was collaged with print out papers found on the web, B&Q wallpaper samples and stencil leftover paper and charcaol. Slide show made in iphoto with the frame over movie created in Photoshop.    Gillian Allen 0608
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