“Vine charcoal is a terrific tool for sketching. I recommend using soft vine charcoal. Hard vine charcoal can sometimes be too stiff and inconsistent.
Make sure that you have thin sticks and also thick sticks. The thick sticks are especially useful when you want to cover a very large area in your drawing. Vine charcoal is super easy to erase, you don’t even need an eraser. In fact, just a quick wipe of your hand will get rid of it. This is great because you can relax and feel like you can make tons of mistakes on the paper.
A lot of people really like vine charcoal because it’s such a forgiving medium, but I actually think that vine charcoal is a little bit two faced. You’ll think it’s your best friend until it betrays you with its shortcomings.
For example, one big disadvantage is that a vine charcoal drawing is really fragile. Just the slightest nudge of your hand can ruin an area of your drawing that you’ve worked so hard on.
Another problem with vine charcoal is that it’s inherently gray, so no matter how hard you push down with that vine charcoal, it’s never going to compete with the deep rich blacks that you can get with compressed charcoal.
The trick to using vine charcoal is to not use it for too long. Once you have the initial sketch of the beginning part of your drawing finished, you want to leave the vine charcoal behind and move on to the compressed charcoal. Vine charcoal definitely has its own special talents, but beware of its limitations as well.”