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This was one of those kinds of works of art that you get deep into and don't want to be finished with the work quickly because you are enjoying the process so much.  I love pieces like that!  For this piece I took several reference images and merged them together. I started off with charcoal, keeping it loose as I then went in with some gesso, picking up the layer of charcoal to create different values as I worked on the painting.  As each layer dried the charcoal would become fixed and I could add more where needed, darkening the darkest areas, then adding gesso to lighten the lightest areas.   Other options would be to use tinted or clear charcoal or to use a colored acrylic paint with the charcoal to see what kind of results you get.  I worked on Acrylic paper by Strathmore, which has a canvas-like texture to it.