My preferred medium is soft pastel because they provide the ability to layer and blend seamlessly creating a full range of values and chiaroscuro.
I use the sight-size method to draw exactly what I see in real life—careful and truthful observation of nature is my primary goal. As Rembrandt said, “Choose only one master—nature."
To set up a still life I first think about a story, experience, or emotion I want to communicate and then I arrange items and light to tell that story. The set-up can take days to finalize with value sketches of every composition along the way until the right combination comes together.
Once the still life is ready, I set up my easel at the correct distance from the tableau so that the composition fits on the paper (which has been carefully taped onto a drawing board). Next I put tape on the floor where my feet are positioned so that I can always go back to the exact same spot to observe the set up and determine where corresponding shapes and colors are on the paper.
All of my artwork is designed to be viewed from a distance of 4'-6' which is the distance I stand from the still life to observe the subject. I also stand about 2' from my easel so a great deal of time is spent observing, walking forward to the easel to make a mark, and then walking back to my observation point to determine if I put the mark in the right place on the paper. If not then I walk forward to correct the mark and then back to check from my observation point.
When working with charcoal I uses Nitram soft, medium and hard charcoal sharpened on a sandpaper pointer and use a kneaded eraser. For charcoal drawings I use Canson Mi-Teintes paper. With chalk pastels I use both Rembrandt and Sennelier brands of pastel on a variety of Sennelier pastel board.