Charcoal is used by artists as a drawing medium. Charcoal is one of the oldest art materials, for as many as 100,000 years or more it has been used along with Ochre, ground up and mixed with water and painted onto stone, this can be seen in examples of rock art by Australian Aboriginal art and American Indian Art as well as many other cultures.
As a drawing material used on paper & canvas, charcoal has also been popular with fine artists for many centuries. During this time more modern methods of producing charcoal have also developed. Today, the finest willow twigs are selected and then burned extremely slowly in the absence of oxygen; willow trees are used as they produce the finest grain wood that is free from grit or imperfections. From the willow tree a fine consistent charcoal can be made, considered to be best for drawing with.
Artists Charcoal comes in various forms, Willow Charcoal, Charcoal Sticks, Compressed Charcoal or Charcoal Pencils. These can all be purchased from any from any Art Supply Store.
An Australian artist known for doing many wonderful drawings using Charcoal was Brett Whiteley. His large expressive charcoal drawings are a great example of the medium. Many artists often use charcoal when doing Figurative Drawing or Life Drawing too. When you have finished creating a charcoal drawing you should always use an environmentally friendly fixative to 'hold' the drawing intact.
Charcoal Drawing Technique: Find a large textural surface such as concrete or timber, placing a sheet of paper over the surface rub charcoal until the surface texture comes through, now using a putty rubber, draw using the eraser to reveal the white of the paper, repeat the process using various textured surfaces and rubbing out and see what you come up with.