Apples and Oranges

I had intended to explore the history of still lifes in yesterday’s post, but after thumbing through some of my old art catalogs, came upon some hands that I couldn’t resist sketching. I am interested in gestures and their power to convey emotion. My older brother is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal and holds his hands in odd positions. His gestural repertoire has meaning to me, since I have been exposed to it while I was growing up and during my visits to his group home.  Part of my quest in exploring hand gestures is to see if some of his idiosyncratic hand gestures have emotional meaning to others.

However, I have drawn so many hands in the past month or so (i.e., More About Gestures, When Mike was In Hospital, Gone Fishing – Again, Looking for a Vein, Holding Hand, Hands Full), I decided that I needed a change of pace.  Today I drew fruit: apples and oranges, to be specific.

Today’s experiment

There is nothing special about the arrangement of the fruit. Two oranges in front of two apples, with a paper towel as background.

Here is my sketch:

Still life of Apples and Oranges

Apples and Oranges – First Attempt
5″x7″ 140# Hot Pressed Watercolor Block


The first task, after arranging and sketching the fruit, is to decide upon the appropriate watercolors. This is difficult for me, even though I made my own color strip compendium, consisting of swatches of all the watercolor paints I have.

Color Strip Book - Open from Reds to Yellows

Color Strip Book

There are different shades of red, even on the same apple. Are they different colors, or different shades of the same color? It depends.

After choosing the colors, I attempt to replicate the patches of color I see on the fruit, with the appropriate shade. I started with the darker reds. After the first pass, the apples look like a map of some strange globe, with dark continents. Lighter colors of the same shade are next. I have to make sure that the areas reflecting glare from the lamp remain white.

The more I look at my apples and oranges, the more I see.

As I stare at my arrangement of fruit, I realize that the oranges in the foreground are reflected in the apple, complete with shading and shadows. The white of the paper towel that extends forward beyond the oranges is also reflected. How does one paint an orange orange on a red apple? Is the color really orange or does is it actually a shade of red? It is hard to tell, perhaps because I know what color it should be. I’d really like to train myself to see actual colors.

There are other issues as well. For instance, one of my apples has green and yellowish striations. Do I need to preserve these areas as white and paint them in later or do I paint them and hope that the colors don’t run together after I apply a wash?  I opted to paint the yellows and greens after the red was completely dry.


Today’s sketch does not have the range of values that I wanted.  For example the apple on the right is more or less the same tone. I need to darken the bottom part without obscuring the reflected oranges.

I could have darkened the background to deepen the contrast between background and foreground.

I wanted a stopping point for my experimentation so that I would at least have something presentable to show for today’s post. Often too much image manipulation results in a big mess.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: