ONSITE: The Noir Portrait: Drawing with Charcoal

Learn how to make realistic portraits using the beautiful, painterly medium of charcoal on toned paper. This class teaches traditional academic concepts, but in an encouraging open environment conducive to learning. In this class, we will examine how to successfully represent form and capture a likeness from life. This class teaches Realist techniques that were taught in the academies and ateliers in 19th Century Europe. French ateliers and academies started their students off with charcoal drawing before painting, and we will take the same approach. This approach begins with a few lines forming a simple abstraction and eventually evolves to a tonal drawing. This method is a step in a natural progression towards realist portrait painting in oils.

Special Notes

  • Anyone can learn to draw this way, but just like music or sports, practice and repetition is essential. Please also consider signing up for the Master Drawing Saturday workshop - as the technique taught in the workshop is a key to this type of drawing. This class is an intermediate level class, so students should already have drawing skills. Students can expect the need to come to every class, to do homework, and to practice outside of class time by signing up for and attending open session figure drawing sessions at VisArts.

    This class does not meet on 6/19.

    Instructor speaks Spanish, but the class is held in English.

    Classes are confirmed one week prior to the start date. In order to help us confirm classes, please register as early as possible.

    This is an On-site course. Students must follow current Covid-19 protocols, as outlined on our website. For more info visit On-site courses do not come with studio access outside of class time. Paid open studio access is available through our Studio Access Program: if interested please visit

Materials List

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About the Instructor

Salis Dembling

Salis was raised in New York City and Massachusetts and spent formative years in L.A. and South America. She's mixed/Black and the daughter of Black Historian Sterling Stuckey and granddaughter of poet Elma Stuckey
She studied drawing and sculpture at Columbia University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree.
She studied painting and illustration at The School of Visual Arts and in the studio of portrait painter John Murray, both in New York as well.
She completed the professional four year artists program and teacher training program at Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia.
She is a triple threat - as well as being a visual artist she is a musician/composer and activist.
She co-founded art and activism collectives and a radical community center. She's played with many bands, and opened for and/or collaborated with artists including Beck, the Buzzcocks, April March, Ward Dodson from L.A.'s The Gun Club, Bo Diddley, Elliott Smith, and Johnny Cash.


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ONSITE: The Noir Portrait: Drawing with Charcoal

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Class Details
June 12 - July 246 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Day: Mon
Tuition: $205.00
Member Tuition: $184.50
Additional fees apply
Instructor: Salis Dembling
Level: Intermediate