Friday, 16 May 2014

Feeling fruity

What can you paint when faced with a messy week? 

Botanical art requires time, and flowers are notoriously impatient, dropping their petals like divas if you keep them waiting a moment too long. A good solution is to paint a collection of small things- subjects that can be painted in a short amount of time ... an hour here, a few hours there ... until you have filled the page.

"Fruits ... like having their portrait painted. They seem to sit there and ask your forgiveness for fading. Their thought is given off with their perfumes. They come with all their scents, they speak of the fields they have left, the rain which has nourished them, the daybreaks they have seen."  Paul C├ęzanne

Summer fruits are delicious to eat, and just as yummy to paint. They are readily available, and come in a wide variety of shapes, colours and textures.  My only problem was that I have a habit of eating them before I have finished! Although I like painting fruit, I haven’t painted any of these before (apart from a very bad strawberry a long time ago). So each little fruit was a fresh challenge. 

It was, as Winsor Churchill said, like taking ‘a joy ride in a paint box’.

I started with the blackberries- lovely little subjects but so fiddly! Here it is after the initial washes of Cerulean, Cobalt violet and teeny bit of Paynes Grey.

Colours used are: Cerulean, Cobalt violet, Paynes Grey, Permanent Blue Violet (Rembrandt)+Viridian and a tiny bit of Perylene Maroon (Note: all my colours are Winsor & Newton, unless otherwise stated)

The blueberries had a similar palette, although I added Cobalt blue to the mixes, and a tiny bit of Cobalt Teal (Daniel Smith) in the initial washes for the reflected lights. I loved painting blueberries.

I didn't enjoy the raspberries. They taste delicious but are so difficult to paint. Initially I planned to paint more, but grew so disheartened with the results that I decided to eat the rest instead. Botanical revenge!

Colours used are: Perm rose, Ruby red (Schmincke), Alizarin, Quinacridone Red, Pink Madder (Fragonard), Dark red (Schmincke), Dark Red+ Perylene Violet

I now have a new respect for those artists who paint strawberries so beautifully, because they are also not easy to paint. The palette was similar to that of the raspberries, but with the addition of Winsor Orange Red.

 Rather than paint carefully around each tiny seed, I decided to take the easier route and used masking fluid applied with the tip of a cocktail stick.

 That worked quite well- I removed the masking fluid after the first few washes of paint, although you need to make sure that the paper is completely dry first or you can damage the surface. Even so,  I still had to painstakingly paint around each blob to create the illusion of an embedded seed. Thankfully it smelled divine and tasted even better, so my grumblings were soon forgotten.

I used the same palette for the redcurrants. They have a lovely shiny surface and a wonderful translucency, just like precious stones.

The kiwi was surprisingly straightforward, once I had worked out the colours.

The fresh kiwi slices were laid onto a piece of plastic to protect the paper underneath. 

Slowly building up the colour
 I started with Naples Yellow for the center, and then settled on a mix of Winsor Yellow Deep, Cobalt and Oxide of Chromium. I know that many artists steer clear of Oxide of Chromium because of it’s opacity… but sometimes opaque colours can work really well (I can hear the shouts of protest from here!). Besides, this is a bit of fun. I’m experimenting! The seeds were done in Paynes Grey.

Funnily enough, I was most daunted by the banana slices. However once I had figured out the colours, they were fairly straightforward. I used Buff Titanium (Daniel Smith), Naples, Naples+Cobalt Violet, Raw Sienna, Cerulean+Cobalt violet.  I can see myself having another go at painting a banana, just to get it right.

Summer fruits by Shevaun Doherty 2014
So there you go… a messy week, but I still managed to get a small painting done, and had plenty of healthy snacks to keep me going along the way!

"Above all keep your colours fresh!"  Edouard Manet


  1. Gorgeous fruits Shevaun, interesting to see what colours you've chosen. I must try some one day xxx

    1. Thanks Claire. Yes, they make a nice little filler, and you don't have to travel too far to find them! Thanks for the M Graham paints...I love that cobalt!

  2. These are all beauties and such a good idea to do little studies to keep the painting muscle intact until time is freed up.

    1. Cheers Jeanette. You're a great one for keeping the momentum going...I'm always delighted to see your work, and intrigued to see what will come next!

  3. Shevaun, you did a great job again!
    Wishing you a great weekend!

    1. Thank you, Maria. If you are interested in taking up botanical art, little fruit studies like this are ideal. Hope you have a good weekend too.

  4. Wonderful Shevaun, lovely juicy looking fruits !

  5. Beautiful work! And thanks for sharing your colors with us.

  6. Your painting makes my mouth water--everything looks so juicy and perfectly ripe! I think the bananas slices are very realistic--don't know how you could possibly improve on them.

    1. Thanks,I enjoyed doing them Janene. They would perfect for vellum studies too. I think you did subjects like this with Denise Walser Kolar. I'm still sighing over her raspberries!


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