1. Pencil for markings, charcoal for tones, erasers for highlights/details.
Time was my primary concerns every week. Drawing with pencil on a board this large was infeasible for me. Hence I mainly used pencil to lay the mark for later.
Charcoal was my favourite drawing tool this class. It was quick to fill a large canvas with sticks and sketch basic tones. It allowed me to be lazy: I almost never need to draw details since it is impossible; but it also forced me to step back and look at the big shapes and tones.
To touch up fine details, I tried charcoal sticks and pencils. Not as good as pencils. During the negative drawing assignment, I discovered kneadable erasers were very effective at picking up charcoal pigments. I also tried white charcoal for highlighting in the drawing+photography assignment; it was not as effective as erasers for diffused highlights, but good for concentrated/flat highlights, found mostly on artificial objects.
2. Start from middle tone.
I always starts with a basic 3 tone sketch. It was easy on my brain to identify light and dark areas then to identify dark and darker areas. With a hard white convas glaring at me, I often under-estimated the value of shade and drew it too light. The drawback to this approach is that the whitest area needed to marked and left out in advance. I found that to be a fair trade.
3. Charcoal is better for portrait than pencil in term of effect/time.
With pencils, I can draw the finest details of each hair and eyelash. Charcoal is not good at this, but can capture the smooth transition on the forehead and cheek reasonably well in far less time than pencils. Somehow my brain can reconstruct the details as long as the tones are right on the face, but not the other way around.
4. Smudging with finger darkens, smudging with stumps lightens.
My intuition for this was that my fingers were oily, so that they do not scrape off charcoal pigments like paper stumps do.
5.The larger the canvas, the better.
It simply allows me to be flexible: a wobbly straight line was not as glaring on a large canvas. I am always willing to trade time for more room of mistakes.