Home assignment:




Photo Reference

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SET-UP: 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.
  • 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.

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