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Drawing a bison using charcoal.

Materials needed:

Line and wash board or charcoal paper. If the latter I prefer Bristol Smooth by Strathmore

Vine or Willow charcoal stick (small or medium)

Compressed charcoal block

Mono eraser by Tombow

Dark, soft Charcoal pencil

Standard eraser

Putty eraser



I started out by desaturating the colour in the photo and adding a grid. I then drew the piece out, like for like using the grid to help me with placement.

Blocking In

I then blocked in the major shapes and tones using a dark charcoal pencil for the face. I alternated the pressure of the pencil according to how much charcoal I wanted to get on the paper.

I then blended the charcoal by rubbing my fingers into it.

For the lighter areas such as the back I used the paler natural willow stick. This meant it could be blended and lifted with ease at a later stage.


Once all of the tones have been blocked in, this is when the fun begins.

Working a section at a time I use the willow stick and charcoal block to create the longer fur and foliage and the 3 erasers to pull out the lighter sections of tight curls in the face, the softer wool on the back and the lighter section of foliage.

It's important to enjoy the process. You are not trying to recreate a photo realistic version of each curl, each strand. Rather, try to create a movement and flow that generally replicates the textures. It makes the process a lot more fun and you see results quicker!

Here are some close up photos to demonstrate where I used these tools.

A mono eraser is great to pull out the twirly little bits of fur above the nose.

A willow stick was used on its side to create the flyaway strands of hair. Some of them were smudged at random and then sliced through with erasers to recreate the windswept look!

I then rolled up a putty eraser and lightly lifted some sections of the willow charcoal to recreate the texture of wool.

The foliage was created with free flowing hand movements using the mono eraser, standard eraser and all three charcoal tools . Creating squiggles, lost and found lines and imagined shapes were all part of the process. It was a lot of fun.

Importantly, keep checking those larger tones and shapes throughout because as you lift and dissipate the charcoal you may need to reapply it in sections. Charcoal is very much about the push and pull of the lights and darks!

I hope you've enjoyed this blog! 🦬

428 views7 comments


The process is very clear. Thank you Sarah!


Amazing! Thank you for sharing Sarah

Replying to

You are very welcome Sandy! I’m glad that you found it helpful!


Edit K M
Edit K M
Jan 08

Thank you I will try out those tricks. Thanks to show it to us. It look gorgeous.

Replying to

Thanks Edit! I’m glad you found it useful! :)


The Bison is just superb. Thank you for sharing,

Replying to

Thank you so much, that’s very kind! :)

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