This is a half-hour charcoal drawing from a photo on the http://artists.pixelovely.com/practice-tools/figure-drawing/ Web site. My new large monitor makes it fun to draw at home. Although it's often-repeated that you shouldn't draw from photographs, I think it's helpful for practicing the basics such as proportion, layout, etc. and makes it easier to draw from a real model when I get the chance.
I've always liked drawing in charcoal and Chris Gargan at Madison College reawakened my interest when he praised a San Francisco artist and teacher, Henry Yan, who does spectacular charcoal drawings. Yan comes to the Palette and Chisel in Chicago once a year for a workshop that I'd like to take, but it's not in the budget right now, plus I have a long way to go until I'm at a level where I could profit from it
So instead I thought I'd start with the basics. I've looked at a book for a long time that I thought would be useful, and I finally decided I'd try using it. The book, Life Drawing in Charcoal, by Douglas R. Graves stresses drawing the value structure, basically the shadows, instead just the contours. It's published by Dover, so it's inexpensive, and it starts right out with beginner stuff like which tools to use and then goes on to detailed step-by-step drawings.
The author has a way of starting with basically a stick figure and refining until he has a very finished drawing. I'm hoping I can learn to break my tendency to start refining right at the start, and instead just put down large shapes that I can fine-tune as I go. I'm finding it's harder than I thought, however, to accurately see and draw shapes.