Sometimes when you’re considering taking a course, you want to hear from someone who’s already done it. What was it really like? What did they get out of it? Did their work improve because of it? Did they enjoy the experience? Would they recommend it?

So today I’m delighted to share a little Q&A with student Esther de Boer, from the Netherlands. Esther took the Expressive Charcoal course last year, having never really used charcoal before. She threw herself into the lessons with enthusiasm, discovered a new found love for this magical material, and now takes commissions for portraits!

I asked her a few questions about her experience, and I swear no bribery was involved. 😉

Read on to hear her story…


What was your experience of charcoal before you took the course?

I had no experience with charcoal at all. No other classes or real trying before. I think I had the willow charcoal already but didn’t do much with it. The only thing I can think of I made before the course was “Lukkie” in my art journal.




Did you have any concerns or doubts before taking the course?

Not at all!!! Of course you never know if it is well worth the money, but my experience with other courses from Tara [is] they are all very interesting, instructive and easy to follow! Expressive Charcoal was a real eye-opener and I love to get messy!


Some of Esther’s work from the various lessons of the course


What did the course reveal to you about using charcoal in your art? Did you make any surprising discoveries?

My revelation was that I can draw much better than I [realised]. I made a real portrait. Before, I told people that portraits are not my thing, but now I’ve tried perhaps there will follow more. Actually I made this boy and I have to start [next] with his little sister (commissioned – woohooo!).


Esther de Boer


What did you enjoy most about the course?

That you can log in any time. So that you can use it or look into it even after months and practice lessons again. And the included videos are great! The lesson “Portrait in Greys” was the best for me! Since then I made animal portraits. Most of them were dogs and also commissioned! So the course has already paid for itself.



How have you felt about using charcoal in your art since completing the course?

My acrylic paint has been drying out since the course haha. I am far from finished experimenting with charcoal. So if there is a sequel to this course then I am the first to register. And YES I got more assignments since I’ve shown people my charcoal drawings. I cannot thank you enough for this great course!!!


Some of Esther’s gorgeous dog portraits


To see more of Esther’s work or contact her about a commission, visit her on Facebook or Instagram.


Expressive Charcoal


Registration is now open for the Expressive Charcoal course, so if you’d like to learn more and join us, click HERE!