I suddenly feel like beating around the bush a little here. So please bear with me.
Picture this: You graduated from high school, went to college, left your high school's sweetheart behind, found a new girl, then another one, then yet another... (I could go on and on), graduated from college, got a job, and (with any luck) married one of the girls you dated in college. Twenty years had gone by, you suddenly found yourself at the high school reunion party. A glance at your old-time highschool sweetheart all of sudden brought back a world of love and hope. Whew! What gives?! You suddenly found how attractive and desirable your highschool sweetheart was! (And if fate played tricks on you, beside her was a 300-pound hairy-chested, bald-headed husband of hers...)
So what does all that have anything to do with this book, you ask?
Well, it has EVERYTHING to do with this book. As you WILL agree with me, to become an artist in any "respectable" medium (oil, watercolor, pastel, and the likes), one has to start with drawing. The most highly-disciplined practice is figure drawing. Usually, one would start with drawing the likeness, USING LINES. Then comes positive, negative spaces, mass, tone, then colors, etc.
In this book, however, the author presents an approach of drawing figures using charcoal as medium and using mass (rather than LINES) to achieve the effects.
The book is well-written and very readable. I finished the book from cover to cover at one sitting of several hours. To keep it brief and helpful, the following are what covered in the book:
2) Values, tonal masses
3) Figure proportions; male and female distinctions
5) Movement and muscles
6) Different modes of charcoal rendering
In my opinion, painters at intermediate and advanced levels may enjoy the book more than beginners. The reason is mainly because "traditional" training usually have beginners learn to achieve likeness using lines (which, by the way, is already hard for a majority of beginners). In this case, the author presents seeing masses, tones, and values as a way to achieve likeness and gesture. Needless to say, this approach is rather familiar to folks who have done some painting in oil.
Now back to my "love affair": as an oil painter myself, I rarely use charcoal for "serious" work. It is a nice medium to achieve shadow, light, and dark. However, I think (and so do you), work in other mediums (oil, acrylics, watercolor, pastel, etc.) shows the maturity of the artist. After all, the boy has become "the man", college graduated, married and all.
But you could be dead wrong after reading this book. Figure drawing using charcoal presented by the author is one of the reasons that I love figure drawing (although I may use different approaches - including using lines, masses, or both). The beauty and nobleness of the female figures are breathtakingly rendered in this book. It is a 5.5-star sweet love affair; and I am glad I am involved in it.
Need I say more? Now you know why looking at your old-time highschool's sweetheart at the highschool reunion party just makes you want to be a boy of teenage age again.