A Coven of Dragonfruit

Just in time! 

I have been struggling, trying to figure out the artistry of Paul Klee. He taught at the Bauhaus, carefully categorized his work, published a sketchbook that outlined his approach to art, wrote notebooks in which he outlined his philosophy, and yet I can’t seem to crack the code.  I do know the following: 1) he characterized lines as if they had a life of their own, pointing out lines that were ‘out for a walk’; 2) his motivation for creating the line did NOT come from his unconscious, as was the basis of Surrealist automatic writing; 3) Klee’s view of abstraction was to realize on canvas, ideas in his imagination, as opposed to extracting the essence of a physical subject.  Klee had a philosophy of creation, which merits looking into. Perhaps there are more clues that would be key to understanding him and, in effect, enable me to follow the same methodology to express my own imagination.  However, I can’t seem to make any headway.

Then I found the dragon fruit!

I came across an entire carton of Dragonfruit at the fruit stand whose proprietor told me only last week that they were out of season.  I was in a hurry so took a photo of the box and rushed home to see what I could do by way of a sketch. I am going to buy one tomorrow to use as the subject of a still life portrait.

Today’s experiment

I don’t know what the designation is for a group of dragon fruits. I know that a collection of geese is a  ‘gaggle’, a group whales is a ‘pod’, a bunch of crows is a ‘murder’ (how did they come up with that, I wonder?). I think the appropriate term for a herd of dragons is a ‘coven’. So that’s what I’m calling my picture of a collection of dragon fruits.

Watercolor Sketch - Dragonfruit in box at Fruitstore

A Coven of Dragonfruit
9″x12″ 140# Hot Pressed Watercolor Block

I had some trouble with this sketch. First of all, I’m used to drawing a small number of fruits, so getting the appropriate sizes is not that hard. Of course I had all kinds of trouble when I was drawing a pair of hands. After sketching in the first one, I could not seem to scale the other appropriately. It took me three tries (with erasures in between), to get a more or less satisfactory pencil sketch.

I started the watercolor with lemon yellow as the base color for the green leaves, with the idea of layering Prussian blue on top. This worked, more or less, in other sketches. Then I painted the darker red areas of the body of the fruit. What puzzled me was how I was to approach further washes. Since red and green are complementary colors, the potential for a brown mess seemed high. I tried wetting only the red areas, so I could unify the reds and each dragon fruit would appear as its own entity. This didn’t work fully. I ended up outlining the contours of each dragon fruit in pencil.

Overall, I would say that there is not adequate value changes in this sketch. With more time, I could have improved the range of reds from very dark to the white highlights. I would also probably use a thalo yellow green for the leaves instead of mixing the yellow and blue. As for glazing, I am not sure how to approach an overall glaze of the picture, or even if that is advisable.

3 thoughts on “A Coven of Dragonfruit

  1. What unexpected delight is this! After believing there would be no dragon fruit you give us a whole box of them! I love collective nouns and sometimes need these for my poetry. I’ve just looked at my book of them and while there are some fairly esoteric entries there are no dragons. I will let you have coven although it turns all your dragons female doesn’t it? A flame of dragons? Hhmm. Anyway. I am looking forward to your singular df. Your summary of Klee, by the way, was marvellous and just what I needed – especially the headline on abstraction which was helpful. Have a good day, Liz


    • Thanks, Liz. There was an interesting series of books about the use of dragons used to fight wars in 18th ?century England (fiction of course). I can’t remember the name of the author, but there was an entire hierarchy of dragon species, pilot and crew duties, etc. (one of the main dragons was called Temeraire, I think). I may have gotten ‘coven’ from that. I’ll try to think of it. Wait, let me look it up now… Aha! Temeraire was the name of one of the books – don’t know if it was the first one – by Naomi Novik – about the Napoleonic Wars. I think you’d like them.


      • I don’t know those books – but I know the name Temeraire from that marvellous Turner painting, The Fighting Temeraire. I think the subject of the painting was the Napoleonic blockade so that fits in with your remembered books. I haven’t managed to find the bowl of fruit in the D’Orsay I had in mind but I’m pretty sure it was by Henri Fantin-Latour.


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