Home Assignment – Techniques of Shading from the Masters

Materials: 4B pencil, eraser, sharpener, drawing pad, optional: blending stump

Shadow adds the appearance of volume, shape, and space. You have been introduced to different shading techniques. This assignment is to practice them in your drawings this week. This exercise will help you become more confident with the chosen technique by practicing it on your own, without guidance. 

Part A – The Handout with 12 Shading Styles (second page)

  1. Look at each drawing and on the line below the picture, write the shading style the artist used.

Part B

  1. Choose one of the shading styles introduced in class.
  2. Create a simple still life made of two items (example: an apple and a cup)
  3. Place the objects together on a white background, and arrange the light to shine on the setup from one side (for example, place the still life next to a window or desk lamp). 
  4. Draw the setup in pencil, using the chosen shading style for both the body shadow (shadow on the objects) and for the cast shadow (shadow on the table cast by the objects). Use your eraser as much as you need and take your time refining the technique. 

Make it look three-dimensional by squinting at your setup and at your drawing for comparison.


Rearrange the objects on the same background under the same light. On a new page, draw them from observation with the lights and shadows, but this time, use the shading technique that was not your favorite during class, but the one that you would like to master.

Please print this photo.

Email hello@primamateriainstitute.com with any questions.

Home Assignment – Negative Shape Technique, Silhouette

Materialsyou have 2 choices of paper color: white (your drawing pad) or a sheet of black cardstock; the same photo of the bouquet that you used in class, black and white oil pastels – oil pastel does not need any fixative spray. 

    • If you don’t have oil pastels, use
      • Graphite
      • Black Conte crayons
      • Charcoal and then use the eraser to “draw” the details on the background. 
      • With charcoal and Conte, you will need to spray your drawing with workable fixative

Please read through the entire assignment before starting the assignment.

Your Home Assignment is to create a drawing of the bouquet (from the same photo-reference you used in class), applying Negative Shape Technique, on white or black paper (ambitions artists can do both!). The difference from your class project is that instead of keeping the bouquet as a blank silhouette, you will add the details to both the bouquet and the background. 


Repeat the same steps as you did in class: start with drawing the “upside-down numeral 8” to “map” your composition (you don’t have to actually draw the figure “8”, but just imagine it to help yourself compose it). Draw the subject by not drawing the subject, but by looking at the spaces around it. Focus on the negative spaces around the flowers – and the silhouette of the bouquet will appear by itself. Color only the negative spaces, leaving the bouquet the color of your paper. 

  1. Draw the bouquet in your drawing pad or white cardstock paper. Use black pastel or graphite for the negative shapes, so the bouquet and vase will become a white silhouette surrounded by black background. Draw only the negative shapes and DO NOT SWITCH to drawing positive shapes. 
  2. Use black pastel on the white parts of the paper to add details on the flowers, stems, leaves, and vase, as you see in the photo.
  3. If you need to fix the silhouette or add details onto the background, use white pastel (to draw over the black background).

  1. Use white pastel to draw negative shapes around the bouquet – the black silhouette of the bouquet will appear as if by itself! Make sure to draw only negative shapes and NOT TO SWITCH to the bouquet. The white negative shapes around the flowers and vase will “produce” an elegant-looking black silhouette. 
  2. Use white pastel on the black parts of the paper to add details, to define the flowers, leaves, stems, and vase (as in the photo).
  3. If you need to fix the silhouette or add details onto the background, use black pastel (to draw over the white background).

Take a snapshot of your finished (and signed!) drawing. You will find that it is easier to appreciate it through a photo!


1-3: Albrecht Dürer, 14th-15th century

4-5: Gustave Dore, 19th century
6-7: Vincent van Gogh, 19th century

Home Assignment – Volume (Turning Tree Branches)

Materials: 4B pencil, eraser, sharpener, drawing pad, photo reference


You will be drawing a tree from a photo reference provided. Choose a logical orientation of your paper: horizontal or vertical. Using your pencil, draw the tree as you see it on the photo – as close to the image as possible. Feel free to use your eraser as needed. 

The best way to recreate this image is by drawing the negative shapes around the branches and between branches. “Negative shapes” are the spaces that you see between branches. Draw the largest areas first, to make composing more manageable, before addressing the details.

Draw the branches all the way to the edges of the page

Drawing a real tree, compared to drawing a tree from imagination, requires more thinking. Try to understand which way each branch is turning on the image, and turn it the same way in your drawing – by means of concentric circles, just as you did in class. 

In the areas of darker shadows, draw more of the ‘hugging’ concentric lines to emphasize the shading, which in turn will express the light on those branches and create the impression of roundness. Keep your “C’s” and “backward C’s” rounded, not narrow (those narrow C’s tend to “flatten” the rounded shapes).

If your drawing does not look exactly like the tree on the image, it is OK, – trees come in all shapes and sizes. The most important thing is to express the direction of the branches correctly and add shading. 

Your signature is the last touch: it indicates that the drawing is finished. 



On the completed drawing, color the negative spaces between and around branches (use either colored pencil, marker, watercolor, or tempera), leaving the tree white, the color of the paper. Adding color will turn your drawing into “mixed media”, giving it a more refined appearance. 

Take a snapshot when finished! 

Please print this photo.

Email hello@primamateriainstitute.com with any questions.

Please print this photo and keep it upside down. Do not flip it right-side up.

Email hello@primamateriainstitute.com with any questions.

Home Assignment – TONE, Refinement of Charcoal Drawings 

Materials: drawing pad (white paper), charcoal, eraser, and a blending tool such as a paper towel, paper stump, or q-tip.

Setup: white onion on a table with a dark surface, under a bright light source.


Place a white onion on a dark wooden table or dark-colored material. Arrange it so that the light illuminates the onion from above and slightly sideways (from a window or desk lamp). Face the setup so that you can see the side of the onion where the shadow is dividing it in half. 

Draw it by following the same steps as in class.

Here is how the Grayscale (tonal range) in your drawing will be distributed: 

  1. White – the highlight on the onion; 
  2. Off-white – the illuminated side of the onion; 
  3. Light-gray – the transition between light and shadow on the onion; 
  4. Medium-gray – the reflection inside the shadow on the onion and the table surface;
  5. Dark-gray – the rest of the body shadow on the onion;
  6. Black – the cast shadow on the table, and the background above the onion.  


VOCABULARY EXERCISE:  Pretend you are an art critic, and write 3-5 sentences about your drawing, using the terms: chiaroscuro, tenebroso, sfumato, silhouette, monochromatic, highlight, cast shadow, body shadow, tonal range

EXTRA CHALLENGE: The second subject for practice is a head of garlic. The challenge with garlic is due to the fact that while it has this solid “onion-like” form that’s rolling from light to shadow, it consists of smaller cloves, and each clove has its own light and shadow. Please note, that it is normal for a beginner artist to understate the darkness of shadows. Squint, and you’ll see the tonal range more clearly. Follow the same steps of the Chiaroscuro technique.


    • Charcoal drawings need to be sprayed with Workable fixative spray. Click here for the article on how to spray your drawings. 
    • There is no such thing as “too dark” – achieving intense shadows will give you a tenebroso effect, which is what we’re after anyway!
    • Try to use a paper towel, Q-tip, or blending stump to blend your drawings. Your fingers will blend, but may also lock the charcoal and graphite into your paper due to our natural oils, making it harder to erase. 
    • Send me your drawings when it’s completed and signed! Tag me @primamateriainstitute so I can see your drawing!
    • Enjoy the process of drawing!!! I can’t wait to see what you create.

Please print this photo and the chart for class. If you can’t print the chart, recreate it in your drawing pad BEFORE class. Be sure there are spaces in between each box. You can use a ruler or draw the boxes freehand.

Email hello@primamateriainstitute.com with any questions.

Home Assignment – Composition

Materials: 4B pencil, eraser, sharpener, drawing pad, still life


  1. Choose several simple objects (an apple, book, glass, bottle, pear, etc.) and place them spaced apart on your desk or kitchen counter.
  2. Use a new page for this drawing. You will be creating this drawing from observation.
  3. From all the compositional options that you have (or could have) created in class, choose one you find conceptually interesting and intriguing to a potential viewer.
  4. Make this drawing look completed and refined: add dimension to your objects by means of tonal values and shadows, and express the texture of all the surfaces.
    • Utilize any style of shading you want!
  5. Be prepared to justify your thinking behind your composition and explain what you are trying to say by composing it that particular way. It is recommended that you express your explanation in writing to help yourself clarify your idea.
  6. Title your drawing! The concept behind your drawing should be clear to you, so you can succinctly express it through your title.
  7. When done, sign it! Then, place it on the wall and view your piece from a distance.
    • Please bring your piece, title, and explanation to the next class!

Write down a list of all the things (as many as you can think of) you’ve realized from the composition exercise. There are about 50 new ideas that were built in that lesson! Can you come up with 15-20?

First and second photo: Leonardo Da Vinci
Third photo: Jeremy H., Prima Materia Portfolio Graduate

Home Assignment – One-Point Perspective

Materials: 4B pencil, eraser, drawing pad, 12-inch ruler, sharpener, camera or phone for pictures

Perspective, as a subject of study for an artist, can be defined as a “distortion of shapes and space from the viewer’s personal point of view”. Perspective is optical distortion. In art, the ability to see requires as much training as the ability to draw. 

There are hundreds of things that you see many times every day – but never truly notice. Therefore, the second part of the homework this week is to observe these visual distortions with the new eyes, allow yourself to be surprised by them, and take a snapshot with your cell phone or camera of each visual occurrence.

Part One:

  1. Create a one-point perspective rendering of your room (any room in your house) where you are facing a wall or window. Follow the same steps as you learned in class to construct an actual space, not an imaginary one.  

Part Two:

This Homework Assignment is a game. See how high you can score, it is possible to score 13. Take a photo of each occurrence below.

  • 1 Point: An intersection with four-way stop signs and “zebra crossing”. Do not do this while driving. Make sure to get out of the car at that intersection (safely!) to acknowledge the “unbelievable inconsistency” of lengths and widths of the white stripes.
  • 1 Point: Notice how the tiles and bricks on walls indoors and outdoors “reveal” the Horizon (eye level).
  • 1 Point: Inside your room, find a viewpoint where the horizontal edge of the floor appears to be a vertical line on your snapshot.
  • 1 Point: When “further away” is “up” on your snapshot, and “closer-up” is “down”. 
  • 1 Point: When “further away” is “down”, and “closer-up” is “up” (you need to really work on this one!).
  • 1 Point: Observe how the height of the Horizon changes depending on your elevation.
  • 1 Point: Circular shapes appear distorted into ellipses.
  • 1 Point for each shape: A rectangular table appears distorted into different shapes depending on the point of view: trapezoid, parallelogram, diamond shape, straight line. Bonus points if you can find more shapes!
  • 1 Point: Human figures – notice how the height of the figures varies when they are further away compared to those in the foreground (use your intentional looking* to see them in relation to each other).
  • 1 Point: Take a photo of a person holding another person on the palm of their hand.

Please take notes on each observation – to be ready to report on them in class.

*Intentional (or deliberate) looking is when you make a thoughtful effort to hold both subjects together in one gaze, seeing them at once, in relationship to each other (we call it “the hugging gaze”).

Home Assignment – Line, Correcting Mistakes in Pen & Ink

Materials: drawing pad, pen-and-ink or brush marker, colorful cardstock paper (if you don’t have cardstock: newspaper, pages from a book, brown paper bag), glue

Instead of a brush marker, you can also use black watercolor, watered-down black tempera, or a pen. You can also use a pencil (be sure not to use your eraser!) If using watered-down tempera, you will need a round pointed brush.

Important: Read the instructions to the end before you start drawing. This exercise is one of the most MOST powerful for liberating beginner artists from the constraints of perfectionism, attachment, and self-judgment. 


  1. Place an object – such as a teapot, electric fan, woven basket, bowl of fruit, etc. on an ornate background (which can be a colorful wrapping paper or a page from a magazine or newspaper with colored letters and pictures). 
  2. Draw the setup fast, with either pen-and-ink or brush-marker, trying to make as many mistakes as possible. This is a very unusual request – to make mistakes instead of avoiding them – opposite to what our ego wants us to do! Take a snapshot of that imperfect drawing.
    1. If you want to get further ahead in your ability to draw, make two drawings and compose each slightly differently, and take a snapshot of each.
  3. Place your drawing at a distance and look at these “mistakes” from far away: are they really mistakes or are you willing to keep some of them, because from a distance they may actually appear surprisingly pleasing. Determine which areas you would like to redraw. You will glue patches and redraw these areas. Every drawing can be improved with this method. 
  4. For the patches, choose colored papers other than white: gray or beige, or other subtle colors. Within one drawing, you can have patches of several colors. 
  5. Attention: the difference between this and in-class assignment, is that you’ll be making patches without scissors: tearing paper instead of cutting. Each patch can be of random shape; for example, it can be much larger than the area you want to redraw, or vice versa, in a size that barely covers the mistake.
  6. Glue these patches with Elmer’s glue. Restore the missing details. Add shading and background.
  7. Take a snapshot and place it at a distance again. You can add more corrections if you want, including the areas that you already had patches over. This is a really liberating process that will help you recognize that anything can be easily corrected!
  8. When finished (which can only be determined from a distance), sign your piece. Please bring your drawing (or both if you’ve created two) to class next week. You have created a mixed-media!

NOTE: There is no limit to the number of patches you can add to your drawing! You can overlap colored patches and redraw certain areas again and again. You can have fun exploring making more patches than necessary (even placing them intentionally over the areas of no mistakes). You be the judge, whether to play with your drawing, or to restrict it to only the necessary corrections. 

Print both photos twice in black and white.

Homework Assignment – Proportions, Rewiring Your Brain to Seeing the Face Newly (Associative Technique)

Materials: drawing pad, dark-colored marker, 4B graphite pencil or charcoal, eraser, paper towel, fixative. 

This homework assignment will test your ability to shift to the “Right Brain mode”. If while drawing you find it difficult instead of fun and effortless, it means that you are expecting to produce a nice portrait and trying to avoid making mistakes.

The goals of the exercise are: 1) to use this method to learn to see shapes, and 2) learn to enter the R-brain mode any time. 

The Yin-and-Yang of Drawing: When you draw things as distorted as they seem to be, they turn out perfect; if you try to “improve” them and draw them undistorted, the drawing will appear awkward and naive.

No one is born with this perfect ability to see, it has to be trained in everyone. 


  1. Find a photograph of yourself as a child (choose an image where you are looking into the camera so that the face is straight on). Print it in black-and-white twice: a low rez image and a high-quality image.
  2. Before starting to draw, please read all the instructions to the very end. 
  3. You will be drawing your face as if it is not a face but a combination of shapes in a puzzle, as if you are not describing the human features, but copying a map.
  4. Before drawing, outline the shapes on the lo-rez print with a marker or pen.
  5. Look at these shapes with new eyes – not as parts of the face, but as strange, random, out-of-place, specific objects. Take a deliberate look at each shape by itself and see which object or creature it resembles and inscribe that word directly on each shape.
  6. Take a good look at your photograph: you’ll be drawing only from observation. Start off by drawing the negative shapes of the background. Now you can draw other shapes, seeing them in context with one another – and how they fit into each other. Follow the same steps as you learned in class, but keep in mind that those shapes are different with each face*. Copy these shapes exactly as you see them.
  7. Make sure to copy the tonality of these shapes and their silhouettes in relation to each other: start by noticing the lightest shape, and then – the darkest shape. Resist switching to drawing facial features – which is what your brain will constantly be tempting you to do! Don’t listen to your brain.

*Note: Proportions of a child’s face are different from adults, so the shapes discussed in class will be different. 

Bring your drawings to the next class to share!

Please print this photo and the chart. If you can’t print the chart, recreate it in your drawing pad. Be sure there are spaces in between each square.

Email hello@primamateriainstitute.com with any questions.

Homework Assignment – Texture, Expressing Texture in a Landscape

Materials: black soft pastel (options: black conté or charcoal), eraser, drawing pad, fixative, blending tool such as blending stump, q-tip, chamois, or paper towel 


  1. Complete your classroom landscape drawing. Take it to the doneness that clearly shows:
    • the areas of the foreground with a variety of textures and high degree of detail
    • depth of shadows
    • softness of distant planes 
    • luminosity of lit areas 
  1. Spray your drawing and Texture Chart with Workable Fixative. I recommend putting your Texture Chart in a clear protective sleeve and keep it beside you as you draw.
  2. To create a conscious awareness of the mind’s shift, in writing describe in a couple of paragraphs your experience with this drawing. Analyzing may feel like re-living the process which helps you wrap your brain around it. Verbalizing the process of drawing helps your mind seal the new skills. Use these questions as prompts: 
  • Analyze your experience of both the struggles and effortlessness with the project
  • Have you noticed a moment where your brain wants you to do something and you argue by saying, “I don’t think so”
  • Which thoughts caused the resistance and during what moment in the project?
  • What awakened the feeling of ease and playfulness?
  • Which tools and tips helped you attain that feeling and maintain that effortlessness (R-brain mode)? 


Super bonus

This assignment may require some travel! Have fun with it!

  1. Take a few photographs of an area in nature that has a lot of texture which makes the image cluttered, complex, and even a little confusing
    • a creek with reeds, reflections, weeping willows, and bushes, etc 
    • a mountainous area with textured rocks and vegetation
    • a garden with entwined tree branches, flowers, and climbing vines, etc
  2. Print your image, then follow the same steps we took in class to make a drawing from it.

Please print this photo and keep it upside down. Do not flip it right-side up.

Email hello@primamateriainstitute.com with any questions.

Home Assignment – Right Brain Technique, The Technique That Helps Draw Any Subject with Ease.

Materials: black pastel, charcoal, or black conté, eraser, sharpener, drawing pad, upside-down photo reference


If you did not finish your piece from class, continue drawing until you are completely done. Only then can you flip it right-side-up to see it. Read the home assignment for helpful reminders.

If you finished your piece from class, find an image of an exquisite and complex interior. Turn it upside down, and don’t look at it right-side-up anymore. Keep both the image and your drawing upside down for the entire time. This is a psychological game – to win it, you must follow the rules.

During the entire process, draw shapes, not things. It may sound counterintuitive, but if you switch to drawing the furniture in the room and all the recognizable details, you’d lose the magic touch. 

Resist the temptation to turn the photograph “to see it”, and resist turning your drawing “to check if your shapes are working”.

The exercise is very easy, but the brain will make it feel challenging – not because the task is hard, but because the brain does not like the uncertainty: in an upside-down drawing, it is impossible to assess quality. The brain craves “confirmation” and “encouragement”. Do not give in to it – it would ruin your focus on shapes! The ego (the conscious brain) should remain in the state of “being unsure” during drawing

Your attention should be on the concept: “positive and negative shapes as equally important”. Try to get into the state of not-understanding what all these shapes are. Do not turn both your photo and your drawing around even mentally


  1. Start with the “big picture” – with the major divisions (the first line may be between the floor and the wall). Draw all the largest areas first. This will make the beginning more manageable: easier to locate the smaller shapes within the big shapes. Notice that when you focus on shapes, the image does not look like an interior, but rather like a puzzle. This is how you should view both your drawing and the image – as an abstract puzzle made of dark and light shapes
  2. Inside these larger areas, observe and draw the smaller shapes. Pay attention to whether they are dark or light, and shade them accordingly.
  3. Make these shapes as exact as possible – in terms of their position, configuration and their tone.
  4. Focus more on the negative shapes than positive shapes. If you do this exercise right, you would not know the difference.
  5. Squinting helps seeing shapes.
  6. To make the process of tricking your brain into not-knowing more effortless, take turns seeing only all the black shapes and coloring just those shapes; then – seeing only all the white shapes and drawing just them. 
  7. What helps to hold all these nonsensical upside-down abstract shapes in your attention, is naming them as things that they resemble (you will begin to see a lot of Dr. Seuss characters). 
  8. The only areas that should remain white on your drawing (where you keep the white paper) are the lightest areas on the photo (the ones that look the lightest when you squint). 
  9. How do you know if you’re doing it right? If you are having fun. If you are complaining, it means that you are not looking at shapes, but have been trying to draw objects. Switch to shapes!
  10. Sign it. Place it at a distance right side up – and you’ll be surprised!

Home Assignment – Sketching in Quick Hand

Materials: Pen and ink OR black brush marker OR black diluted tempera and a brush, and a drawing pad  


  1. Place several objects from around the house (plus some edible items?) on a table. Kitchen is a good source for inspirational subject-matter. 
    • You can change the angle of an object – to make it look different, or lay it down, or turn it around, and sketch it again from that angle. 
  1. Set your cell phone timer to ring every 30 seconds.
  2. In your sketch pad, using a black pen or brush-marker, sketch all these objects on the same page in much smaller size than you did in class, one by one. Draw each object twice or three times in quick-hand, in 30 second per item. Sketch them not as one “still life”, but each separately. It will look like your objects are floating in white space. You can fit 10 (maybe 20) small sketches on the same page. It’s OK if some of them overlap. 
  3. Practice makes perfect! Fill two or three pages of your sketch pad with these sketches, drawing the same objects more than once as practice, trying not to worry about mistakes, allowing imperfections, creating pentimenti (“regrets” in Italian, or unwanted lines). Remember about making your sketches fast and loose, and do not exceed 30 seconds per drawing. Do not go back to fix them! Take a snapshot of each finished page!
  4. Choose one page with sketches and carefully and slowly add a background color to the entire page around each item, mindful about keeping your black outlines intact. Do not color inside the objects – the idea is not to doctor the sketches but to preserve their “naivety” and spontaneity.

Options: for the background, you can use a colored pencil, pale-colored tempera, or colored markers. If you don’t have tempera, watercolors, or markers, use freshly-brewed strong black tea, or red wine, or strong coffee, and a brush. Don’t have a brush? Use Q-tips!

Quick and optional for your sketches

  1. Add a colored background around them, preserving the black line of the drawings. Do not color inside the shapes, keep them white. For the colored background, you can use tempera (by adding a small amount of color to white, to make a very pale mixture), or a highlighter, or colored pencil. You’ll see how by adding the background, your sketches (even the very “imperfect” ones) begin to look completed, intentional, and substantial. The difference between a drawing that appears sketchy and a drawing that appears finished can be created by an added background. 

Please print this photo.

Email hello@primamateriainstitute.com with any questions.

Home Assignment – Relationships

MATERIALS: Drawing pad, pencil (or charcoal and Workable fixative spray), eraser, paper towel.


  1. Look at your reference image and draw the outline 
  2. Look at every pair of the neighboring shapes – to see which is darker and which is lighter. When you see that one of them is darker, add some shading there – just to that edge – to create the “push”. 
    1. “Pushing” means darkening
    2. “Pulling” means making it lighter
  3. Pay attention to the difference in tonality and express these differences with the greyscale.
    1. Compare the colors you use to push and pull to black and white to see how dark or light it is (how it relates to the greyscale)
  4. Continue shading your drawing until done.
  5. Sign it!
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