Charcoal Portrait Workshop

2 Day Workshop

Saturday and Sunday
Cost = £160

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Course Outline

Use of Charcoal

Learn how to use different types of charcoal to achieve a broad range of value and subtle detail.  Each type of charcoal has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s about knowing where and when to use it.  We will also be discussing brands and the problem with inferior products.

You will be shown how to use;

  • Willow Charcoal Initial construction and lay in of the masses.
  • Nitram Charcoal For the rendering stages subtle tones and details in the light areas.
  • Compressed Charcoal To extend the value range of natural charcoal in the shadow areas.
  • Sharpener How to Sharpen Nitram and Compressed Charcoal correctly and why it is so important to keep these materials sharp.

Use of Erasers

Charcoal is a very delicate medium; the dust sits on the fibers of the paper and can be easily removed by the slightest touch. Ordinary erasers are to cumbersome, resulting in heavy-handed looking work.  To remove the charcoal a variety of erasers are used ranging in sensitivity, depending on how much or how little charcoal needs to be removed.  We will also be discussing which brands to avoid that can make dirty marks or cause smudging which can be critical while rendering the light areas.

You will be shown how to use;

  • Craft knife The strongest eraser I use is a craft knife to score the paper revealing the highlight.
  • Pencil Eraser Useful for picking out highlights and sharp edges.
  • Kneadable Eraser This eraser can be manipulated into a variety of shapes for picking out detail or softening tones.
  • Brushes The softest eraser.  What brushes to use to remove the minimum amount of dust from the surface of the paper.
  • Paper The pros and cons of choosing textured or smooth papers.

Portrait Subject

For this workshop we will be using a reference photo of Maddie.

Unfortunately some purists insist on working from life but there are advantages to learning the process using a photo reference.

  • Same page, everybody will work from the same reference Louis when he demonstrates each step of the process for the class to follow.
  • Binoculars, the image is three times the size as it would be working from life when the model is some distance away which makes it easier to measure and see details.
  • Reliability, models are notoriously unreliable, so you can be assured that you will be able to work from the same model for the whole of the workshop.

Click to view students work>>>

Click below for a free download of the Charcoal Portrait Steps.

Free Download

Aim of Course

The workshop originated due to demand from readers of the “Charcoal Portrait” article featured in the May edition of Artists & Illustrators magazine 2015

This workshop will teach you how to use the materials involved in making a short charcoal study as discussed in the magazine article. Most people avoid using Charcoal because it makes such a mess but with the right knowledge and experience you can achieve some beautiful results!


Teaching Style

Beginners and experienced people are welcome. Understanding is key and nobody gets left behind. Each student will be helped until they grasp the principles of the lesson. Louis believes in leading from the front, demonstrating each step in front of the group and on students’ work if needed. Louis Smith studied Classical Art in Florence and has exhibited his work in the BP Portrait Award and Royal Society of Portrait Painters.

Registration and Materials Deal

Materials Deal =£20
“A poor workman always blames his tools” true but not always the case. Don’t use substandard materials while your learning because you won’t know whether to blame yourself or your tools for bad results. As the process is so dependant on using the right materials to get the most out of the workshop the materials deal is advisory if you want to get the most out of the workshop.

Materials provided for the class will include;

  • Willow charcoal
  • Nitram Charcoal
  • Conte compressed charcoal pencil
  • Sanding paddle
  • Craft knife
  • Pencil eraser
  • Kneadable eraser
  • Stomp
  • Brushes
  • Paper

Workshop =£160
Total cost of the 2 day Charcoal Workshop including the materials =  £180. To register for the course, fill in your details and pay a deposit below. Then pay the balance on the day. An email will be sent to confirm your attendance the week before the start date.


Charcoal Workshop plus Materials Deal

£180002 Day Workshop
  • £160 Cost plus £20 Materials

Charcoal Workshop Only

£160002 Day Workshop
  • £160 Cost