Thursday, June 21, 2012

FRUIT: 10 Sketchbook & Color Exercises to Try

After a trip to the grocery store or farmer's market -- try a few, or all, of these exercises.  Use your sketchbook for the drawing, and use scraps of watercolor paper for the color exercises -- or a watercolor sketchbook, if you have one. . .

1)  Cherries in a Box -- With a pen, draw any fruit and whatever container you brought it home in.  Add a little color with watercolor or colored pencils.  Then, write in pen, where the fruit came from and what day it is.  Make the words part of your composition . . .

2)  Imagination/Observation/Memory -- Use three separate pages for this exercise.  One the first page, draw a few pieces of fruit, and a few other random objects, without looking at anything -- just from your imagination  Use pencil. . . 

On the next page, look at the fruit and other objects, and draw them in pencil, adding shading . . . 

Now, put away the fruit and objects -- and on the next page, draw them from memory. . . 

3)  Colorful Pear -- This exercise is more of a color study than a study of a pear, so no need to even look at a pear.  Just draw an outline of a pear with a stem.  Then draw some wavy lines that start on the edges of your page, intersecting the pear and ending on the other side of the page.  Now, paint the shapes, one at a time -- Use any color you want and try the different wet-in-wet techniques.  In some of the shapes, wet the shape first with clear water, then drop in color to the edge and let it move on its own.  In some of the other shapes, wet the shape with a color, and then drop in another color to the edge and let it mingle.  Skip around so that you're not painting right next to a shape that's still wet.  If you want, you can paint all the shapes within the pear "warm" colors, and all the background shapes "cool" colors. . . 

4)  Still Life Drawing, Two Ways -- Set up a simple still life with fruit in a bowl, on a dishcloth or tablecloth.  On one page, draw a contour drawing of the set-up in ink. . . 

On the next page, draw the same set-up in pencil, with shading . . . 

5)  Pear Triptych -- Divide a long skinny scrap of watercolor paper into thirds.  Paint a light yellow wash over the whole thing.  When that is dry, draw a big pear in each rectangle.  Now, paint each part of the triptych in a different color scheme.  The one on the left will be "complementary color", so paint the pear yellow and the background violet (or the pear orange and the background blue, or the pear red and the background green).  The one on the right with be "analogous colors", so paint the pear green and the background blue-green and blue.  The one in the middle will be "split-complements", so if you leave the pear yellow, the background will be red-violet and blue. . . 

6)  Blind Contour -- Do contour drawings of fruit, in pencil, without looking at your paper -- only look at the fruit . . . 

7)  Quick Color Study, Two Ways -- Set up a simple still life in front of a window -- an orange, two apples, and a little vase, for example.  Paint this set-up two ways:  1-"Draw" the still life with a brush and orange paint.  Then, paint it . . . 

On a separate scrap of watercolor paper, paint it a 2nd time.  This time, draw it first in pencil, quickly.  Then, paint it quickly and directly, using very bright colors.  If you want, set a timer for 15 minutes and try to finish the study within that time. . . 

8)  Bird's-Eye View -- Draw some fruit in a bowl, with pen and ink.  Add lines and cross-hatching to build up the values. . . 

9)  Strawberry -- Draw and paint one big, red strawberry.  When dry, lift out the little dots . . . 

10)  Value Pencil Studies -- Draw some fruit, in pencil or charcoal.  Add shading to build up the values and add form. . . 





  1. Hi Pat,
    Brand new to this and I wondered how do you paint the tiny details in your paintings in watercoler since it seems like the details would bleed into the paper. I love your style.

    1. Hi, Tracy -- Any details in watercolor are usually added toward the end of the painting. And, they are painted "wet-on-dry", which means wet paint onto dry paper, so that the paint doesn't bleed into the paper. The edges are then softened with a damp brush.

  2. Hi Pat
    I am returning to watercolour painting after many years. I am 67 years and semi retired living in Melbourne Australia.
    I find your lessons inspiring with all your tips and techniques. I would like some advice on watercolour brushes if possible. I have 3 mop brushes that I normally use. Namely a large 10, 4, and a 5/0. Would these be suitable
    Thanks Brian.

    1. Hi, Brian -- Glad to hear you are getting back into watercolor painting, and am happy that my lessons are helping with that! As far as brushes go -- I typically use either Rounds or Flats. I'm wondering if what you call "mop" brushes are what I call "Round". These are the brushes that come to a point, no matter how large they are. The Flats are just that -- squared off at the top. I use a 1" flat for larger paintings, or even at the beginning of smaller paintings, for wet-in-wet under paintings. The smaller the shapes you are painting, the smaller the brush. If you are happy with what you normally use, then go for it. That's more important than anything! Happy painting!

  3. Thank you Pat
    Love your tutorials. Will you be posting more in the future?
    Thanks again Brian.

  4. Hi Pat,

    I am a quilter that just started in art quilts. I have always like drawing and coloring but I just didn't know where to start. Your information is wonderful. Thank you. I am going to start something today.

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