If you have ever tried to draw using charcoal you will have noticed a few things: how easy it is to cover large areas with black, compared to pencil, how great it is for portraiture and also how messy it can be.
There are three main types of charcoal, willow, compressed charcoal and charcoal pencils. The first, willow, is the most effective as it goes down on to the page easily and can be broken into different sizes and lengths. Compressed charcoal is less likely to break but good for getting a texture and a darker black. Charcoal pencils are good for sharp lines and details.
If you are an artist and have tried it and given up because you feel it is just too messy, I urge you to try again. Use the charcoal pencils if you are OCD and don’t like having dirty hands. As mentioned before they will also give you greater precision when drawing details, eyes for example. You can always use a putty eraser or a pencil eraser to add highlights and make corrections. A blending stump makes an effective alternative to blending with your fingers. Then, if you need to, there is always soap and water to clean your hands afterwards.
So bring out your charcoals and don’t be afraid to get messy!