I recently learned about Creatacolor charcoal leads. I've always had problems with sharpening charcoal pencils and am very happy with the Cretacolor leads. I found some lead holders on Amazon that work quite well with the leads.
This is the first portrait I've done with the Cretacolors. It is of our son-in-law's father who dies in 2018. I couldn't wait until Christmas, so I gave it to my son-in-law a week before Christmas as soon as it was ready. He was overwhelmed. He said it was like having his Dad with him again for a few minutes.
Done in medium strength Cretacolor charcoal lead on Strathmore Series 400 drawing paper.
The reference photo is beside the drawing.